Shortly after the release of The 1975’s second record in 2016, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful, yet so unaware of it, eclectic frontman Matty Healy described the group to MTV as being “the biggest band in the world that nobody’s ever heard of”. Two years on, perhaps only the first half of that statement still renders true.
Since the announcement of A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships at the end of May this year, the group have dropped a single off the record each month, beginning with the Joy Division ‘Disorder’-esque ‘Give Yourself a Try’. Each single on the record is unique, maintaining the distinction of The 1975’s signature, but showcasing that ability in various forms.
Inspired by No Rome and reminiscent of Drake, ‘TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME’ has been dubbed as the “most fun” track on the album and features a slick dancehall undercurrent which carries the rhythm of the song. ‘Love It If We Made It’ sees Healy commenting on the state of the world with relevant lyrics, which skip from heroin to Lil Peep to Kanye and fossil fuels, and is inspired by Prince’s social commentary of ‘Sign O’ the Times’. Cleverly, among some of the track’s most explicit lyrics in the post-#MeToo era is the phrase “I moved on her like a bitch”, infamously spoken originally by Trump – the idea being that if the track were to be censored, it would be done so for including language taken from a verbatim quote from the sitting US president.
Healy commenting on the state of the world with lyrics skipping from heroin to Lil Peep to Kanye and fossil fuels
Fans of ‘If I Believe You’ from the album’s predecessor will have enjoyed the soulful ‘Sincerity is Scary’, with the smooth horns from the late Roy Hargrove and gospel backing vocals juxtaposing Healy’s musings on postmodern anxiety. As is becoming increasingly common with the group, the music video for the track features subtle nods to other tracks of theirs, such as ‘A Change of Heart’ and the forthcoming ‘It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You’, the most synth-heavy, 80s pop-fuelled track on the album that depicts Healy’s former drug addiction, similarly to ‘UGH!’ from their second album.
There is clear success in reaching new territory on the album, however. Sticking with the group’s eponymous album opener from the last two records, this time round sees a more stripped-back version with layered auto-tuned vocals, fitting with the theme of the digital world the album has been released into – continuing with this, ‘The Man Who Married a Robot/Love Theme’ stars ‘vocals’ from Siri.
Moments of vulnerability are littered throughout the album too; previously, the likes of ‘Nana’ and ‘She Lays Down’ were reserved for the end of the album, this time, ‘Mine’, ‘Be My Mistake’ and ‘Surrounded by Heads and Bodies’ take centre stage on the LP. Often simply featuring acoustic guitar and Healy’s exposed emotions, the tracks focus on aspects of relationships and break-ups or encounters from Healy’s time in rehab. ‘Mine’ notably breaks into jazz terrains, with George Gershwin-esque solos, clearly marking the influence of George Michael’s Listen Without Prejudice on the album.
Moments of vulnerability are littered throughout the album
Arguably, the stand-out tracks from A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships come at the end of the record, triumphantly closing the first instalment of the Music For Cars era. ‘I Couldn’t Be More in Love’ is Healy’s Michael Jackson moment, featuring aching vocals and an Eric Clapton-infused guitar solo along the way, in a track not about love, but “when no one cares anymore”. Coupled with the Britpop and early-Busted notes of closer ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’, with its opening resonant of Radiohead’s ‘No Surprises’, it’s certainly unsurprising that the album has drawn similarities to OK Computer.
The 1975 wanted to make what they dubbed as the most important records of the decade, and with A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, they could well be on their way to doing just that.