A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships is potentially The 1975’s strongest record yet. This, their third studio album, seamlessly blends a wide variety of genres, the most dominant being pop, funk and indie. The lyrical content is similarly diverse. The album explores a host of topics ranging from broad intellectual commentaries on 21st century society to introspective insights into the lead singer’s battle with heroin. It’s certainly not a record to be simply pigeon-holed.
Following the tradition from the last two albums, the band introduce this record with a revision of their song ‘The 1975’. Things kick-off with a crackly recorded piano and authentically unedited vocals; possibly a soundbite of Healy trying to find the band’s new style? This is then followed by a quite chaotic but captivating reworking of the song. Healy’s vocals have been heavily vocoded, with influences from Bon Iver being heard. Listeners who know the older records well might pick up on similarities between this vocal style and the introduction of the track ‘Lost My Head’ off the band’s sophomore album.
‘Give Yourself A Try’ is one of the record’s more poppy moments. The song demonstrates how the lead singer has matured in the latter half of his twenties. Healy claims that modern debates so often become decontextalised and calls on his fellow downtrodden millennials to believe in themselves a bit more. The instrumentals are repetitive and the melodies are memorable.
‘TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME’ is similarly chart-worthy. Healy’s vocals are heavily auto-tuned as he sings about the pitfalls of modern-day relationships. ‘It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)’ projects feel-good Prince vibes as the lyrics subtly explore the lead singer’s battle with heroin addiction. The 1975 have proven that they can still write a good pop tune.
One of the album’s more tranquil moments comes in the form of a beautifully emotional love song. ‘Be My Mistake’ is unmistakably The 1975 in its non-cliched lyrical specificity. Healy sings ‘You do make me hard but she makes me weak’, weighing up the pros on cons of two relationships, one driven by love, the other by sexual desire.
A more profound societal exploration comes in the form of ‘Love It If We Made It’, an anthemic song in which Healy’s shrieking vocals (making it not the easiest song on the album to listen to at times) explore contemporary society. The band pay homage to the recently deceased rapper Lil Peep, as well as referencing the Donald Trump tweet-turned-meme, “thank you Kanye, very cool”. Healy wishes more than anything that the world can make it through the 21st century. The song, filled with contemporary references, is one that neatly encapsulates the tropes of postmodernism. Some may argue that this hyper-self-awareness is a bit too ostentatious occasionally. ‘Sincerity Is Scary’ explores similar themes, only this time in an all funk, groove and gospel number.
‘The Man Who Married A Robot / Love Theme’ is arguably the album’s most experimental moment. Over the top of a delicate piano line, a Siri-esque voice eerily tells a story about a man who falls in love with the internet. The song critiques the dangers that social media poses, with the underlying message that online relationships are not a substitute for real-life connections.
Whilst some may find The 1975’s social criticisms a bit too pretentious at times, what is apparent on this record is how much the band have matured. They’ve moved on from making songs about uncontrollable teenage lust (‘Sex’) and idealizing recreational drug use (‘Chocolate’). A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships is an album that confidently (maybe over-confidently at times) blends a plethora of musical genres to further exacerbate The 1975’s already unique style.
The band have already promised another album to follow in 2019. It will certainly be interesting to see what path the quartet venture down after this indelible and though-provoking record.