Album Review: The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships (2018 LP)

Manchester pop stars The 1975 have divided critics and music lovers since their self titled debut album back in 2013. Lead singer Matthew Healy has been at the forefront of most of the distaste for the band, glorifying the drugs, sex and money culture to his adoring and impressionable teenage girl fanbase. Despite falling captive to drug addiction a few years ago, Matthew Healy has successfully completed your steryotypical Hollywood rehab in The Bahamas. On 30 November The 1975 will be unveiling A Brief Inquiry into Online relationships, the first of two albums released within six months of eachother.

I doubt this album will go down in history as iconic, but regardless of your preconceived ideas about The 1975, its quirky pop, profound lyrics and intricate production are worthy of a listen.

Unlike the previous albums born out of middle class boredom, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships quite directly documents the flaws of modern society through the highly unrelatable but insightful experiences of the band. The album is cleverly crafted and almost every track is layered with a surface concept, covering a deeper story of struggle and ultimately love. Healy toes the line between trying not to glorify or romanticise drug addiction while feeling responsibility to tell his story honestly. His undisturbed colloquialism and complex observations of reality make for an honest but gripping story and reflection of society.

If nothing else, the album should be a reminder that creating pop music which huge mainstream audiences can enjoy doesn’t require sticking to one formulaic song composition hundreds of artists have already mastered.

The 1975 aren’t shy of sharing their self-importance and fittingly each album opens with a self titled track. Crisp and bare, at only 1.25 seconds long, “The 1975” ignites a flame for the rest of the album with a piano backing Healy’s signature auto-tuned voice. It cruises into “Give Yourself A Try,” the first taste of the jagged electronica explored on this album. It’s light and fuzzy but bluntly addresses the dangerous rockstar lifestyle with lyrics like “you’ll make a lot of money, and it’s funny ’cause you’ll move somewhere sunny and get addicted to drugs.”  It acts as a context base of the album and the strong electronic base makes this one of my favourite songs.

“TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME” follows this electro summery house vibe. its comfortable and reminiscent and has already racked up over 28 million streams on Spotify alone. My favourite song on the record and probably my all time favourite 1975 song “How To Draw/Petrichor” is split in two clear parts crafting a delicate euphoria, similar to creative genius Bon Iver. It builds to more of a groove with computer game sounds incorporated in to the hazy production, assumably alluding to the online world the album name refers to. Although the track stands on it’s own Matthew Healy’s vocals come in at the perfect time adding a warmth to the track.

Back to the usual vocal focus of The 1975 “Love It If We Made It” is an anthemic and bold stadium sing along. From the first unequivocal line “we’re fucking in a car, shooting heroin, saying controversial things just for the hell of it,” the energy of the track remains.

The thing that continues to be so endearing about Matthew Healy is his self confidence which can flick at any moment in to all consuming self doubt. The predominately acoustic track, “Be My Mistake” pays tribute to this confusion in lyrics “I shouldn’t have called ‘cause we shouldn’t speak, you do make me hard but she makes me weak.” It’s sweet and soothing but is easily lost in such a chaotic and explosive album.

“Sincerity is Scary” and “I Like America and America Likes Me” have a jazzy feel to them but remain soft and contemplative like “Be My Mistake.” Itchy and unforgettable pop,  “I Like America and America Likes Me” is backed by a hip hop beat with a 1975 twist which is yet to be seen on the album. If you aren’t a fan of auto tune it’s best you skip quickly. Although it’s their signature sound which often works well, in this instance it is a bit overpowering in what could be a lullaby like track.

“The Man Who Married A Robot/Love Theme,” is the eccentricity The 1975 ensures is never forgotten in their albums.  The entire song is told through Siri’s annoying voice and I’m sure this is no ones favourite song on the album. Nevertheless it tells a powerful story about our reliance on the internet for self validation and breaks up the album nicely.

“It’s Not Worth Living If It’s not With You,” is what I originally expected when I heard they were releasing a third album. It’s guitar based, with a predictable but likeable chorus that ends up sounding remotely like a Christmas carol or jingle. Although this track is somewhat bland amongst the other charismatic tracks, they have again perfected their storytelling. Alluding to drug addiction in the lyrics, it contrasts the bubbly highs of the tracks with this ongoing struggle of having an unhealthy relationship whether it be with another person or a certain drug.

The album continues with more typically 1975 acoustic tracks. These tracks are wavy and dreamy, injected with a sense of loneliness or nostalgia. Closing off the album with “I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)” is climactic while remaining lethargic and predominately acoustic. A refreshing take on their strong 80s influence it’s catchy and heart wrenching chorus is going to be soundtracking new romances and breakups all 2019.

All songs on the album are nice on first listen and I’m sure anyone with ears could appreciate the precision and thought that has gone in to each song. Saying this though, I don’t think any song has the timeless beauty The 1975 have been striving to achieve since their debut album five years ago.

Matthew Healy’s constant urge to crystallise the way he sees the world in music and in conversation lines the album with a stunning authenticity. it’s poetic without being pretentious and this songwriting ability and the fresh electronic foundation of the album is a great new side of The 1975, that hopefully continues in to the follow up album next year.

THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships is out everywhere on 30th November, and next year you can catch it live as The 1975 return to Australia.

For more information click HERE.

The 1975 Australian tour dates:

20 September Margaret Court Arena  Melbourne

21 September ICC Sydney Theatre.     Sydney

22 September Riverstage                      Brisbane

 

Like it? Share it!