A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
Since releasing its first EP six years ago, The 1975 has made itself a household name in indie pop, with major hits like “Chocolate” and “Love Me” dominating music charts in recent years. After the commercial success of its 2016 sophomore album, “I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It,” the UK group finally dropped its much-awaited album, “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships,” as the first half of its two-part “Music For Cars” era.
The album starts off with the band’s lead single, “Give Yourself A Try,” which has notable differences from its previous work. The instrumentals are heavily synthesized and almost sound like something you would hear in a 1980s movie soundtrack, while its lyrics are eerie yet optimistic. Frontman Matty Healy discusses the mistakes he has made in his past and how he has learned from them and encourages others to do the same. Although the lyrics are strong, the use of synths and auto–tune on Healy’s vocals ruins the quality of an otherwise catchy song; they distort his voice into sounding almost like a robot, to the point that it is difficult to understand what he is saying.
The next two tracks, “TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME” and “How To Draw/Petrichor” are similar in style and bland in lyrical content. “TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME” has a beat and piano chord progression strikingly similar to rapper Drake’s 2016 song “One Dance,” with generic lyrics about unfaithfulness. The lyric quality in “How To Draw/Petrichor” improves slightly: Healy vaguely refers to the healing process of overcoming drug addiction, an issue that he has openly dealt with and that caused him to check himself into rehab in November 2017. However, the distortion of Healy’s vocals is yet again present, making it hard to distinguish the lyrics from the instrumentals.
After those songs, “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships” takes a major turn for the better by showcasing the group’s ability to represent a diverse array of genres through its work. In “Be My Mistake,” the synthesizers and auto–tune are stripped down to a simple acoustic guitar riff and piano chords, leaving only Healy’s voice to show — making the lyrics about regrets of unfaithfulness feel more vulnerable. “Mine” incorporates jazz, which the band stated in past interviews heavily influences its music. By including strings and a trumpet solo from jazz trumpeter Roy Hargrove, who died earlier this year, The 1975 pays homage to black American musicians.
The one track that stands out from the rest of the album is, surprisingly, its most recent single from the record “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You).” Themes of drug use are not uncommon within the band’s previous work; one of its well-known songs “Chocolate” is all about marijuana, while the song “UGH!” from the group’s last album details Healy’s former issues with cocaine addiction. In “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You),” lyrics like “Collapse my veins, wearing beautiful shoes/ It’s not living if it’s not with you” show the love and pain of being in a relationship with drugs, that is especially relevant in a time when artists, such as Mac Miller and Lil Peep, have died due to drug use.
Though the beginning of this album does not seem promising, the amount of vulnerability and honesty present within the lyrics improves the overall quality of “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships.” Addiction, love and mental health are all talked about in music but not as extensively as this, making this an album that, in this day and age, people desperately need.