A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
Polydor / Interscope · November 30, 2018
On their third album, The 1975 soars to new heights that cements them as the most interesting band making music right now. The album appropriately titled for a 2018 audience, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, examines frontman Matty Healy’s heroin recovery and life in the digital age. The band’s relationship with genre has expanded in this record as they experiment with everything from jazz to Kanye-esque autotune. The layered, complex production all done solely by Healy and drummer George Daniel is the tightest yet in their career. But what inevitably shines through are the lyrics from an intelligent, introspective recovering drug addict. The band has been criticized for being pretentious, as Healy recently called them the “best pop band of this decade,” but when you’re right, aren’t you allowed to be a little pretentious?
Like their last two records, the album begins with the same lyrics on a song titled ‘The 1975.’ This tradition has come to define the new sound the band is experimenting with and begins as a starting point to the rest of the record. Although cohesion has never been something the band has excelled at, the connecting point in this record seems to be the lack of connection and all the necessary tangents Healy takes in an age of Netflix binge-watching and information overload.
The real opening to the record, ‘Give Yourself a Try,’ lays out the only semi connecting message: just try however you can. What makes Healy’s references to his drug addiction less cliché than one would fear is the bluntness and lack of romanticizing he delivers it with. On the first single he sings, “and it’s funny cause you’ll make a lot of money and move somewhere sunny and get addicted to drugs.” He isn’t asking for the audiences’ pity; instead, he’s acknowledging where the band’s newfound fame took him. Later, Healy slyly exposes himself on ‘It’s Not Living If It’s Not With You’ where the song may initially seem like an ode to a lost love but quickly reveals that lost love to be heroin. Its sunshine-like pop beats drastically differ from the solemn lyrical theme, a common premise throughout the band’s discography. Healy faces his brutal honesty on the album’s most stripped down song, ‘Be My Mistake.’ The sole acoustic guitar somehow still seems just as radically different than most other music today as it is contrasted with an album of almost overbearing production.
During other moments throughout the record, the band delves deeper into the meaning behind society in a digital age. On ‘Sincerity is Scary’ Healy questions why it is easier to be sarcastic and ironic rather than sincere and kind. Healy calls on himself and all of us to find the courage to be sincere. Similarly, on the Backstreet Boys reminiscent ‘I Couldn’t Be More In Love,’ Healy again dares us to be genuine. He challenges the notion of being “too cool to care” by scream-singing over the chorus “but what about these feelings I have?”
The stand out moment on the record comes from likely the song of the year, ‘Love It If We Made It,’ a seemingly endless scroll through of Twitter headlines from one of the strangest political times in recent history. Healy makes broad, sweeping claims like “modernity has failed us” while also specifically calling out particularly heartbreaking moments like “a beach of drowning three-year-olds.” It’s a song that will define this generation.
The record closer is especially important as the song seems like an instant classic, reminiscent of 90’s and early-2000’s rock ballads. On ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’ the band creates an atmospheric quality that quite literally takes you out of your body. Healy lets himself feel forlorn about the world he is living in but ultimately brings it back to the original point he made at the beginning of the album by singing “if you can’t survive, just try.” With a false ending, the song goes into something that seems like a new song, a quality that suggests even when all might seem lost there’s always a new beginning right around the corner.