Album of the Week: 'A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships' - The 1975

7th December 2018

The 1975 have come storming back into the musical stratosphere with their new release 'A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships'! It's clear from their singles that this release has come a very, very long way from the indie-rock sensibilities of their eponymous debut. Over the years, frontman Matty Healy has been determined to show his breadth of musical knowledge, which culminated to a middling extent in their sophomore release 'I like it when you sleep...'.

If there's one thing Healy enjoys, it's intertextuality. The album starts with 'The 1975', a constant in every album they've released. The principle is simple - same lyrics, different souds. The opening track is thus a good way to measure exactly what has changed across albums. This track has evolved from its rock-tinged origins to a lush, ambient opener in their last release - and here, it manifests as a very sparse and robotic track. 

This is quite fitting considering a lot of the issues dealt with in the album are to do with the harsh realities of life, and the jagged oppositions that often come with it. The opening track sonically connects with tracks such as 'TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME' and 'I Like America & America Likes Me', which are some of the most blatantly pandering tracks on the album. 'TOOTIME' is a bland, uninspired reconfiguration of a typical dancehall beat. Healy claims that 'as long as songs are about something, it doesn’t matter', and I find this highly ironic considering this song is amongst the emptiest that he's created. 'I Like America', on the other hand, attempts a Lil Peep, trap-infused tack, which holds an unfortunate mirror to the standard of popular music in America. 

That's not to say that there aren't good moments on this album, however. I enjoyed 'How to Draw/Petrichor'; whilst not a particularly suspenseful cut from the band, its aesthetics were a lot more appealing to me than 'I Like America'. It mixes the same hazy background chords with complex drum patterns - except the chords work as a pillow contrasting against the glitchy, raspy breakbeats reminiscent of garage music. The elements don't obscure each other, they work in harmony. It's an excellent tribute to a genre that Healy and the band members would most likely have been familiar with as sprightly Mancunians. 

The fabulously political 'Love It If We Made It' is a better demonstration of Healy's songwriting abilities, and keen insight into modern culture. Healy more often than not runs the risk of being too obtuse and waffly, but 'Love It' is a good combination of political snapshots crossed with Healy's shout-singing. It functions as a literal cry for hope, fueling the power of the song even more. 'It's Not Living (If It's Not With You)' returns back to the 1975's love for 80s music to deliver a song exploring Healy's previous relationship with heroin. Healy does an excellent job shrouding the darkness of the topic matter with the upbeat, slick production of the track (in the vein of something like Paramore's 'After Laughter').

Healy seems to have made more of a concentrated effort to provide commentary to this album. Followers interested in learning more should head over to Genius' YouTube Channel; several cuts from the album have been deconstructed by Healy (try their most recent single, 'I Couldn't Be More In Love'). Pitchfork has also released a more extensive interview with a track-by-track dissection with Healy as well. The 1975 clearly want you to hear what they're saying - and if you can excuse their musical foibles once in a while, you may find yourself enjoying listening. 

Why don't you start with 'Give Yourself A Try'? Listen below!:

 

- Image courtesy of Pitchfork

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