“A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships” is the third studio album from British band The 1975 and is the follow up to I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It from 2016 which I absoutley loved and converted me into a fan of The 1975.
Perhaps I went into this wanting to like it considering how much the previous project resonated with me but the singles that were put out prior to the release of the album had me excited and after listening to the full thing a few times I am absoutley delighted with what Matty Healy and the boys have produced.
I don’t expect everyone to love The 1975 as on the surface it may seem as if there is little substance to what may just look like any other Rock/Indie band but I assure you that if you give it a little bit of time and delve into what is underneath you will find one of the most progressive and forward thinking bands of the last decade.
The term I would use is “thinking mans pop music” which may sound a little syrypy but what I have always enjoyed in pop music is quite uplifting and bright instrumentation with lyrics that are more serious and mindful. I am not suggesting this is like a Smiths album but you get the point I am trying to make.
What this album has is a plethora of themes and styles to get your teeth stuck into. It doesn’t always work fully but in the main this effort has delivered a deliberate cacophony of musical forms that one may think makes it a ‘messy’ listen but I believe there is a careful method to the way the album ebbs and flows.
The beginning of every one of the bands albums thus far begin with the track “The 1975” where the same lyrics are sung but the song is always slightly altered.
The first track that was released online was “Give Yourself A Try” and this is what opens the album up.
It’s certainly a track that will wake you up with the high pitched tone of the electric guitar piercing it’s way into your brain. This track lyrically is what seems like a light hearted mini Theseus on life and growing up. It’s introspective as clearly the things mentioned have happened to Healy (the chief song writer and lead singer).
I found a grey hair in one of my suits
Like context in a modern debate I just took it out
The only apparatus required for happiness
Is your pain and fucking going outside
And getting STD’s at 27 really isn’t the vibe
Whilst the guitar can become a little grating given it’s repetitiveness I still like this song and it’s a perfect choice to begin the album as whilst there are levels of humor throughout the tracks lyrics the themes on this song will be dissected further throughout other tracks as Healy attempts to make sense of his own life and the wider world.
The most divisive song on the album is the 3rd track “TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME”. Yes that is the title and I haven’t allowed the cat to walk across the keyboard.
Having heard “Give Yourself A Try” last summer I was excited about the next album yet when “TOOTIME” surfaced I couldn’t help thinking that maybe my initial confidence was misplaced as without a doubt this is the worst song on the album.
I don’t wish to just jump on the “TOOTIME” hate that I have seen branded about but really, unless you are a die hard 1975 fan who would enjoy the sound of Healy flushing a toilet I cannot believe that either in or out of the context of this album you would think this song is good.
It is even more annoying than the cat like sounds on “A Change Of Heart” from the previous album.
Lyrically it’s about someone being unfaithful to someone and trying to apologies in what seems like a disingenuous and silly way. But the basic beat of the song and the terrible overdose of auto tune make this song difficult to sit through. I know it’s just meant to be a bit of fun but I just plainly don’t understand it.
“How To Draw / Petrichor” is an atmospheric journey which the former of these two merged together tracks would have fit nicely on the previous album. In fact this type of ethereal spacey sound is dialed down some way on this set but there are moments like this that allow The 1975 to delve into something other than their usual brand of Indie Pop.
The electronic two step beat that the latter moves into is a gorgeous sounds as as a fan of old school UK garage this serves as a pleasant surprise that we get a little glimpse of this on a 1975 album.
“Love It If We Made It” is my favourite track on the album. The more I have listened to it the more I have feel in love with it. It is song layered full of power, beauty and cultural significance. The song has reached a part of me that songs rarely do and has caused an emotional stir that was unexpected to say the least.
The lyrics, the tone, the relentless nature of the verses and the vocal all merge together into a cacophony of magnificence.
The song talks about the world today and how society has fallen so far away from where it should be.
Oh Fuck your feelings
Truth is only hearsay
We’re just left to decay
Modernity has failed us
“Love It If We Made It” is in the top 10 songs I have heard in 2018.
I am not as enthralled with the sixth track “Be My Mistake” which at the start sounds as if it could be an engaging pretty acoustic ballad but ultimately is all a bit boring as the song never really get’s out of its Ed Sheeran-esq box.
But the next song is just outstanding.
“Sincerity Is Scary” is such a lovely addition to this album. The production on this track is so beautiful I find it difficult to believe anyone could really hate on a song such as this.
The off kilter horns and scattered drums give the track this jazzy feel and the big chorus brings in the gospel chorus which again adds such a diversity to this gorgeous sounding album.
“I Like America / America Likes Me” is an ode to the auto-tuned trap music currently the rage in the charts. I say it is an ‘ode’ but realistically I know this is really just an attempt by the 1975 to do something out of their comfort zone.
I don’t really enjoy this track. I can’t understand the lyrics with the auto tune turned up to the max. I get what they are trying to achieve here but it doesn’t work for me.
“The Man Who Married A Robot / Love Theme”. This is the UK version of Siri telling a story about how a man has just one friend which is the internet. This is a strange moment on the album and it will take a few listens for you to take it seriously but with the beautiful backing arrangement the story does take on a more serious nature than it initially appears. There is a cautionary tale within the lyrics but the songs strength for me is within the production which on a pop album is like nothing you will ever hear.
The string arrangements are simple but stunning and the piano gives the song a sense of introspection into the life of our character who has allowed his social interactions to be that of machine and not real human interaction.
“Inside Your Mind” is a piano ballad which features some dark lyrics about cracking someones head open to see what is inside their mind. The guitar riff on this song sounds like a slowed down clip from the opening song “Give Yourself A Try”.
Having listened to this song a few times I feel that like “Be My Mistake” the song just lacks a direction as it doesn’t move into anything particularly interesting and the distorted guitars later in the song don’t do much for me.
“It’s Not Living (if it’s not with you)” is the 11th track and it is one of the strongest.
Again it’s one of those songs I can’t imagine people hating. I mean, what is there to hate? It’s like an 80’s pop anthem in the modern day!
If you are not singing the chorus to this after a couple of listens then you must be immune to pop music and it’s catchy elements.
I adore this song.
“Surrounded By Heads and Bodies” is a song about a woman who was in rehab with Matty Healey as he attempted to get over his drug issues. The lyrics do not complete the story as he states that when he left she stayed an extra week and it leaves us wondering the woman in question Angela made it out the other side.
It’s a simple and very personal song.
“Mine” transports us to the 30’s or 40’s to a smokey jazz bar where the 1975 are all in suits and playing mellow jazz music to the masses. It’s such a jolt out of the feel of the album it could alienate some listeners but I think it is a great little change of direction.
I think the instrumental on this song is quite beautiful. I have seen some reviews that think it is generic and boring but I cannot disagree more. There is a softness and introspectiveness about the mood created on this song that adds so much texture to this already full album.
Our penultimate track is “I Couldn’t Be More In Love”. This track is set out as an 80’s soul/r&b ballad. There is so much emotion on this album and it is all wrapped up so perfectly on this stunning song. It grabbed me from the moment I first heard it and has become a firm favourite of mine over the last week I have been listening to this album so intensely. A dreamy song and I think it is outstanding.
This leads us to the final song on this magnificent album – “I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)”. This is yet again a firm departure from anything else we have heard on the album and especially the previous track as we now turn our attention to a more UK Indie Rock sound as if it had come out of the 90’s Britpop era.
But it works. The theme of the song works with the essence of the entire project and this is such a clever and alluring way to finish the album off. It’s production is so on point with the vocal being just as splendid.
I do not think I have been taken as much by an album in what seems like forever. I connected with “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships” that is has consumed me in the time leading up to this review.
There are songs here that will stay with me for a long time.
This is exceptional.