The 1975 switches lanes on their listeners

The Brit-pop power quartet experiments with genres and themes in ‘A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships’


"A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships," the latest album from Brit-pop sensations The 1975, is another example of a successful group conducting forgettable experiments. 

Courtesy Dirty Hit and Polydor Records

The 1975’s most recent album is a discontinuous work of post-modern art which encompasses diatribes alluding to the quirks of Generation Z, desperate pleads to a problematic lover and the crooning vocals reminiscent of countless other feel-good, pop hits. “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships” is likely to be lost in the currently overwhelming flow of experimental instrumentation by other artists but prevails as unique in its apparent influence from a wide range of opposing genres. 

Front-man and lead singer Matthew Healy uses the album as an outlet for his recent victorious battle against heroin use and a forum for poking cynical fun at the lives of the typical. This renders the project a serious personal statement and timely inside account of what it means to experience 2018. Music fanatics have awarded it critical acclaim and dubbed the album The 1975’s most prolific work to date. “A Brief Inquiry’s” value will also not be underappreciated by the self-proclaimed indie teens of the 21st century, who will undoubtedly be listening with oversized rips in their mom jeans and stars in their eyes.

Prior to its Nov. 30 release, the album was prefaced with a third of its 15 tracks, many of which seem to be a continuation of their past work. The vast majority of them include the familiar, accent-driven vocals of Healy, along with his powerfully exclamatory choruses. The arguable breakout song, “Love It If We Made It,” is the second of these five singles. Its opening instrumentals climb to the great, angst-filled release of the chorus, which is a passionate restating of the title. The track’s most unique quality happens to be present in the bridge. It is essentially a stream of consciousness denoted by timely terminology, such as “immigration” and “fossil fueling.” Possibly the most unparalleled song of this sonic quintet is “TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME.” Electronic pulsating and faraway mumbling introduce its heavily auto-tuned vocals. Its lyrics detail the tribulations of a complicated relationship, supporting incessant calls to a jilted love interest. “I only called her one time/Maybe it was two times?/Don’t think it was three times.”

Two of the album’s other tracks, “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)” and “Sincerity Is Scary,” touch upon similar content. However, the latter is a surprisingly jazzy number with shimmering percussion and an R&B-esque choir that gives it a ‘70s “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” kind of vibe. Ironically, it seems to be the sincerest and most emotionally raw song in comparison to the others. The former could be better categorized as ‘80s on account of its synthetic instrumentation and cheesy sentiments about love. The protagonist is quite shamelessly sporting rose-colored glasses for the lover mentioned in some of the previous releases, drinking away their sorrows as the bleak reality of their lost relationship sets in. But what more can a listener expect with a title that represents the age-old cliché of, “I can’t survive without you”?

The rest of the album ranges from glittering dance tunes to heartfelt tributes to SoundCloud rap. On the track “I Like America & America Likes Me,” Bon Iver and James Blake fans might even experience a sense of familiarity in hearing Healy’s computerized mic techniques as he croons, “I’m scared of dying/Is that on fire?” In short, there is truly no facet of the sonic realm which isn’t explored in “A Brief Inquiry.”

In stark contrast to their previous albums, the entirety of “A Brief Inquiry” lacks a continuous anything and remains disjointed in its instrumentation, thematic content and vocal style. However, it does so in a way which reframes disjointedness as artistically provocative. Their last album, “I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful but so unaware of it,” was released in 2016 and contains a distinct ‘80s sound in regards to all of its sonic elements. Their 2013 self-titled debut album is similar in its continuous nature. It is representative of the band’s initial rock sound, as they later delved further into the genre of pop. 

“A Brief Inquiry,” however, does not mark the end of The 1975’s recent musical recordings. There will be a follow-up album titled “Notes On A Conditional Form” released in 2019, and this project will perhaps serve to once again dazzle listeners and critics alike with their progressive divergence from their current identity as a band.

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