Album Review - The 1975 - A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
It’s here, it’s here! The wait is over for the third studio album from UK sweethearts The 1975. “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships” is comprised of 15 of the most honest, self-referential, emotional songs to come out of the band yet. Many of the songs deal with frontman Matty Healy’s rehabilitation from hard drug use, and that is what makes the album so pure and vulnerable for them. To begin with, the album leads with yet another version of the song “The 1975” which has appeared on all three albums in different forms. This time around, the song manifests with Healy’s vocals layered, sounding robotic, over soft piano. It sets a tone for the rest of the album, which is chalk full of references to youth culture and our lives online. The album is eclectic in sound, with nods to jazz, soundcloud rappers, and a whole lot of synth. The album has only been out for a day, but its previously released singles have already put it the running for Album of the Year, at least for me. It really encompasses the way twenty-something’s have been feeling all of 2018. “Give Yourself a Try” was the first single from the new album we had all be patiently waiting a year for, as the album began recording before Healy stole himself away to rehabilitation, and finished after he returned. I love this song so much because it’s a song pleading for the listeners to love themselves. It’s self-referential and sarcastic, as are most of the songs on the album, with a verse that reads “And what would you say to your younger self/ Growing a beard's quite hard/ And whiskey never starts to taste nice/ And you'll make a lot of money, and it's funny/ 'Cause you'll move somewhere sunny and get addicted to drugs/ And spend obscene amounts on fucking seeds and beans online.” This is a clear reference to Healy’s four-year battle with a heroine addiction that he has (hopefully) kicked for good. It’s amazing and important that Healy is using this lesson he has learned to try to give hope to anyone in the same shoes, and that he can be so honest and open about it. A music video to accompany the song was released June 1st, an important day for The 1975 fandom; the band got its name from a beat-up copy of Kerouac’s “On The Road” that was scribbled with an entry dated “1st June, The 1975” which stuck with Healy. The next single to be released was “Love It If We Made It” which is the most 2018 song I’ve ever heard. Just to grab attention with the first lines, Healy shouts “We’re fucking in a car, shooting heroin” which is kind of out of pocket, but necessary in a song about an era of saying controversial things just for the hell of it. It continues to talk about topics like police brutality and the prison system, Donald Trump, drug use and the untimely death of rapper Lil Peep, Colin Kaepernick’s kneel-heard-round-the-world, and many other social and political controversies. But the point of the song is to generate hope. Its saying though bad things are happening and things are getting out of hand, we could turn it all around and make the world a better place. The song “TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME” reminds me of the movie “Her” starring Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson. I wont spoil it for you, but it’s an amazing, emotional tale about non-physical relationships. In the song, Healy sings about a long distance relationship that is unraveling due to infidelity by both partners. The song sounds upbeat and playful, but it’s hard to miss the point with a chorus of “I only called her one time, maybe it was two times/ Don't think it was three times, can't be more than four times/ Think we need to rewind, you text that boy sometimes/ Must be more than three times/ Didn't mean to two-time ya.” “Sincerity Is Scary” and “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)” were the last two singles to be released before the actual album release. “Sincerity Is Scary” is a soulful piece featuring horns and a carefree tone while Healy sings of facades and illusions we generate to try to control how others perceive us, because, well, sincerity can be scary. “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)” sounds like it must be a love song, and it is in a way, but more of an ironic love song to addiction. “And all I do is sit and think about you/ If I knew what you'd do/ Collapse my veins wearing beautiful shoes/ It's not living if it's not with you/ All I do is sit and drink without you/ If I choose then I lose/ Distract my brain from the terrible news/ It's not living if it's not with you.” My two favorite songs off the album are “The Man Who Married a Robot/ Love Theme” and “Be My Mistake.” The former is reminiscent of that song “Fitter Happier” by Radiohead; both feature a computer generated voice speaking the lyrics. The Radiohead song is menacing as it is, but I think The 1975’s attempt at it is creepier due to it’s use of a familiar computer generated voice: Siri, British Male version. The latter caught my attention because it is a sad, acoustic song that pops up right after five very electronic-heavy songs. It’s one of the more literal songs on the album, as it tells a story of the narrator’s infidelity and guilt. Another honorable mention song is “Surrounded by Heads and Bodies.” I picked up the reference immediately before even hearing the song; the opening sentence to David Foster Wallace’s magnum opus “Infinite Jest” reads, “I am seated in an office, surrounded by heads and bodies.” I’ve started reading that book roughly a million times, and I can currently see my copy, shelved and only partially read, from where I’m typing this right now. Healy has said he began reading the book while isolated in rehab. The song is short and sweet, a song about the only other patient at the rehabilitation facility with Healy, a woman named Angela. They were not romantic in any way, in fact he says he hardly spoke to her or saw her, but they were kindred spirits nonetheless. I’m giving “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships” a 5/5 because of how sincere and honest it is, and how transparent the band tries to be with their fans. I believe this album was not forced, and that a lot of time, love, and patience went into it, which shows. I’ve been an on again off again fan of The 1975 for some time, and I would say this is my favorite album thus far.