THE 1975 – A BRIEF ENQUIRY INTO ONLINE RELATIONSHIPS
There is nothing brief about the third album from The 1975. In fact, A Brief Enquiry Into Online Relationships offers pop synths, jazz, auto-tune, and even the voice of Siri in an album that feels both expansive and cinematic.
Opening with ‘The 1975’, the album quickly moves into the ultra-pop singles ‘Give Yourself A Try’ and ‘TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME’. Written with both live shows and radio in mind, it’s hard not to walk to the beat whilst mimicking Matty Healy’s music video facial expressions. So far, the band’s new sound is familiar, but updated. Identifiable, but fresh.
The fourth song, ‘How To Draw / Petrichor’, suspends expectation. Lullaby percussion opens the song before Healy’s auto-tuned vocals interrupt, offering a sonic portal between the early section and the latter half: a dance breakdown with glitchy beats and an erratic, fit-for-a-basement-at-2am, pace. Healy offers the first of many contradictory lyrics: ‘don’t take any of my advice… don’t let the internet ruin your time.’ We suspect it’s already too late.
‘Love It If We Made It’ kicks off the next segment of the album, harking back to guitar favourites like ‘Robbers’ and ‘Sex’. With effortless ‘-tion’ rhyme, heavy cymbals and political statements, Healy moves from rockstar romanticism (‘we’re fucking in a car’) to Colin Kaepernick (‘kneeling on a pitch’). Anthemic beats overshadow heavy content. We barely register when Healy sings ‘I moved on her like a bitch’, a lyric quoted verbatim from Donald Trump, and one that would be censored on the radio (which says a lot about how western hierarchy works.)
At an hour long, A Brief Enquiry affords a few skips. For me, these are ‘Be My Mistake’ and ‘The Man Who Married A Robot / Love Theme’, the latter of which is a shame, because the ‘Love Theme’ section is great, but not enough to warrant listening to the Siri love story more than once or twice.
“Healy pleads, ‘kids don’t want rifles, they want Supreme’ in a refreshing reframing of the oft-criticised brand-idolatry of Gen Z.”
Between these two songs are the neo-jazz ‘Sincerity is Scary’ and auto-tune heaven ‘I Like America & America Likes Me’. On ‘Sincerity’, Healy denounces the modern tendency to avoid sincere expression, and the gospel choir offers warmth. ‘I Like America’ calls for authorities to listen to the youth. Healy pleads, ‘kids don’t want rifles, they want Supreme’ in a refreshing reframing of the oft-criticised brand-idolatry of Gen Z.
The latter half of the album has some delightful highlights: the opening piano of ‘Inside Your Mind’ and the distracting euphoria of ‘It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)’, which sounds more like teenage love than it does rehab. The Disney-warm ‘Mine’ adopts jazz wholeheartedly, and ‘I Couldn’t Be More In Love’ offers vocals that make us yearn for bathroom acoustics.
The riff on the final song, ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’ delightfully sounds like the ending credits to a Hilary Duff movie. Yet Healy isn’t teenage anymore. He is approaching 30, and his array of styles pays homage to a decade spent prioritising the experience of music.
There is very little homogeneity across tracks; the album is held together by change, and interludes. Yet, such fluctuations still uphold the archetypal 1975 sounds established by the band’s almost-ready-to-headline-Glastonbury career.
If there’s one take home from A Brief Enquiry, it would probably be this: the world is bad, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to a) try and do something about it, and b) dance.