Album Review: The 1975's A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
Manchester indie-pop group The 1975 has dropped their third studio album A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships.
The November 30th drop included 15-tracks by the highly-opinioned men that accompany controversial, eye-opening lyrics over pop synths and rock anthems. The album has already earned the No. 4 spot on Billboard 200 chart, and is The 1975 in their rawest form, touching on subjects of the use of the internet, Healy’s addiction and recovery of heroin, and personal feelings of love and hate.
Never afraid to speak his mind, frontman Matty Healy has always been one to question the band’s sound and continuously experiments to evolve the band's music over time. You could’ve classified the band as an alternative, punk-rock band just a short five years ago, but have since flipped 180 degrees of a new sound over their last two albums. Their first self-titled 2013 album The 1975 still has a steady slot in my six-slot CD changer in my car that gets played when I’m channeling my past teenage alternative-punk phase, while their 2016 release I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it, gained the band notable “mainstream” hype with a more pop sound for younger audiences.
The band’s newest release continues with the band’s evolution of experimentation into the indie-pop scene. Like their other two albums, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships starts with their self-titled track “The 1975.” This track shows the primary sound of the rest of the album, including lot of auto-tuned and mashed-over singing, something the band has started to use more to appeal to a wider array of audiences.
Tracks like “Give Yourself A Try” and “TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME” highlight the band’s classic indie-rock with splashes of pop overlays and catchy lyrics. Even though they’re out of their teenage-angst, these songs still reference the growing pains of growing older, learning lessons through different relationships, yet still having the constant feeling of how things don’t ever really change too much as you grow older. Same as it ever was, Matty Healy?
“Love It If We Made It” is the album’s staple ballad. Healy’s strong voice references pop-culture’s Lil Peep, Kanye West, Donald Trump and Brett Kavanaugh. It’s basically the band’s emotions and opinions on the world and our current state of society mixed into a four-minute pop ballad with soulful female choir undertones.
“Be My Mistake” is The 1975 stripped down. I’m curious to see how much they’ll play this on tour. It’s basically just Matty Healy singing over acoustic guitar. Similar to the band’s “Nana” and “She Lays Down” on their second album, this slow song gives the band a different dimension to their usual lyrical pop anthems.
“I Like America & America Likes Me” is the worst song I’ve ever heard from this band. Imagine a wannabe Soundcloud rapper cranking up the auto-tune and singing about how he’s scared of dying. Healy states in an interview with Pitchfork, “If everybody did what I did for a job, there would be less of a divide…we’re all worried about the same shit. Everyone’s just scared of dying…It’s the sound of America to me at the moment.” Good message, yet terrible, terrible outcome.
The 1975 has never been shy of questioning the norm, which shows through in their track, “The Man Who Married A Robot / Love Theme.” This spoken-word song features Siri as the lead singer who tells the story of a lonely man who falls in love with the internet. It’s very eerie and peculiar, yet makes you question society’s current obsession with their phones and the use of the internet every day.
The band’s traditional dash of jazz into every album shines through in “Sincerity Is Scary,” which features passed trumpet player Roy Hargrove adding spices of hornful riffs throughout the song. “Mine” stands as an incredible jazz standard on the album, opening with a powerful three-note flute expression. Playing emphasis on piano, abstract sounds and Healy’s slow voice, this places a great weight on the album in terms of must-listens.
Healy acknowledges his past addiction and struggle with heroin in the song “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You),” singing about a character named Danny living in a “simulation of reality.” The music video really shows Healy's losing grip with reality, and also ties into the music video in the above "Sincerity is Scary." The following track, “Surrounded by Heads and Bodies,” tells Healy’s story of meeting a girl named Angela in rehab who became his good friend. The title of the song was inspired by David Foster Wallace’s novel, Infinite Jest. “I Couldn’t Be More in Love” adds some pop R&B to the album, highlighting a little Marvin Gaye and Eric Clapton influence. Healy’s powerful vocals and guitar solo in the middle of the track put his his feelings out on the table before going to rehab, with the studio track being recorded the day before Healy left to go.
Concluding the album, “I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)” has turned into a Britpop classic tune. Having David Campbell who did the strings for the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris,” Healy states, “It really makes sense, right? I don’t know why I didn’t write that earlier.” Healy sings a little higher than normal in this song, with a cinematic ending as the overall theme to this song. Picture two high school lovebirds getting together at the end of the movie after some awkward screenplay scenes thinking they don’t belong together. This is when this song would cue. It’ll for sure be a great encore.
A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships is The 1975 raw and unfiltered. It’s the band at their most vulnerable yet, not afraid to put true music out to their fans noting on their opinions of society and their everyday thoughts and struggles. I give props to the band on musical content and experimenting with a new sound. I’m still in love with the old The 1975 more than the current one, however, you can’t deny the band’s impressive increased influence over the global indie-pop scene, inspiring fans of all ages to live life fearlessly and fully to yourself with no fucks given.
The band is already planning a follow-up album titled, Notes on a Conditional Form, for next year. You can see The 1975 on their 2019 North American tour starting in April in Phoenix, Arizona after a global tour hitting Ireland, England and Mexico. You can stream A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships here.
*A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships album cover from Headline Planet.