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Album Review: The 1975’s “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships”

The 1975 is overly pretentious in every single way. The band’s persona made me actively avoid them for the longest time. Yet, somehow I have been roped in.

It started slowly. I enjoyed two singles from their last album, an album with the so bad it’s kind of good title, I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It. Those songs were the insanely catchy “The Sound”and the dark breakup song to end all breakup songs, “Somebody Else.” I attempted to get more into the album, yet was unable to find anything close to those songs on it.

A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships Album Cover

When the singles for this album began pouring out earlier this year, I listened but expected very little. I was surprised to find myself utterly infatuated with them.

Many of those singles rank among my favorites of the year. “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)” is remarkable with its throwback 80’s synths mixed with the 1975’s more traditional alternative sound. The song also slowly reveals itself overtime, at first seeming like a traditional love song before revealing itself to be an ode to heroin. The line “collapse my veins, wearing beautiful shoes” indicates this double meaning, which is pretty well hidden with the bubbly pop melody and background chorus singing as well.

The most talked about (rightfully so) song on the album is “Love It If We Made It.” The state of our world anthem that rattles the speakers. With lyrics referencing Kanye, Lil Peep, Trump, heroin (again) and much more, the song is a true overview of the times. It feels as if it could be kitschy and teeters on the edge of ironic and aggravating.

However, front man Matt Healy’s lyrics stand up to scrutiny. They demand to be screamed and his delivery, along with the throbbing guitars and synths, achieve the perfect balance. This song truly feels like a song to blast out of your care while thinking about impeachment.

Matt Healy of The 1975 in the TOOTIME video (via Youtube)

Finally, “TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME” is the most straight up pop song on here, and it’s gloriously infectious. Check this song out if you want to have a catchy counting rhyme stuck in your head all day. I’ve had it trapped in my skull for weeks and I’m not even mad. It’s a strong spin on modern pop stylings while also feeling deeper than traditional radio fare with its ties the albums themes of internet relationships.

Matt Healy in the “Sincerity is Scary” video (via Youtube)

For me, nothing else comes quite as close to those songs yet there are a lot of strong ones on this album. “Give Yourself A Try” is a fun, inspiring anthem for young people.

Sincerity is Scary” shows some great range from the band with its jazz-indebted arrangement and gospel choir. I also enjoy the auto-tune freak out “I Like America and America Likes Me” which is gloriously over the top in its lyrics and electronic trappings.

This album still has a few pitfalls for me, with the ballads not getting much mileage. The late album stretch of slow love songs is a little boring. They definitely could have been pared down and made the album stronger.

But, The 1975 is not a band that pares down their albums. They are always over the top, something I hadn’t been able to reconcile with before. Somehow though, that persona is working for me on this album.

Healy (image via Luc Coiffait)

Matt Healy is the ultimate provocative millennial and he has tightened that viewpoint on this album, with his lyrics the best they’ve ever been. I would compare him to a modern-day Morrissey, a songwriter with strong imagery, provocative interviews, and a strong political bent.

I’m also eager to crown him the “King of the Millennials” a title he would likely take with ironic pride. It’s also a title he seems to be gunning for, as evidenced by the dramatic and classic album closer, “I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)

Morrissey in 1984, tell me they’re not the same (image via Tom Sheehan)

I’ve always had a soft spot for concept albums,whether they’re about mid western states, fake bands, or straight up narratives,and this album works well with its vague concept. The themes of online relationships show up again and again on the album, with cellphones crumbling a relationship in “TOOTIME” and (somewhat hilariously) on the Her-esque Siri spoken word “The Man Who Married A Robot.” This album has obviously involved a lot of care and thematic forethought, which pushes me to delve deeper into it.

A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships is not brief, which is ultimately its main flaw. But, it demonstrates the growth of the 1975, as it contains their best songs and strong experimentations.  It honestly made me into a fan, no matter how hard I pushed against it. You just need to let Healy’s persona slowly wash over you. Soon, you’ll be screaming “Love It If We Made It” along with their mostly teenage girl fan base. And you’ll hate that you love it.