Track by Track: A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships – The 1975

The highly anticipated third album from The 1975 is finally here. This manic, existential 15 track LP delves deeply into our relationships with (and even more so, our dependency on) the internet, telling tales of humanity’s darkest moments, with scattered narratives of life in modern society. Here’s my track by track breakdown A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships.

The 1975

This self-titled introductory track finds itself reincarnated on each of The 1975’s album’s so far, always consisting of the same lyrics but flaunting different sonic arrangements, and this one is the most obscure one yet, boasting heavily distorted vocals from frontman Matty Healy. I got goosebumps when I first heard the previous rendition, this one not so much. Distorted vocals, by the way, is something you’d better get used to pretty sharpish, you’ll be hearing a lot of this.

Give Yourself A Try

The first single released ahead of the album earlier this year. Glitchy and neurotic, this one very much had a ‘marmite’ effect on fans. It marked the beginning of a new era for The 1975‘s discography – I’m still warming to this one.

TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME

Arguably the first ‘pop’ song we encounter on the album, which drew a lot of comparisons to Drake upon its release earlier this year. It’s certainly reminiscent of the rapper’s flirtations with dance-hall as seen on tracks like Controlla, but if anything it’s a bit more like OMI‘s 2015 hit Cheerleader. It’s not their most dynamic composition to date, but ultimately it’s an unadulterated, frivolous pop song, and on an album as dark as this one, it comes as welcome respite.

How To Draw / Petrichor 

We first heard How To Draw when it was released as a bonus track on the US release of ILIWYS etc etc. that was exclusive to Target, but its undergone one hell of a makeover since then. It starts off just as delicately as it used to, twinkling and transcendent. Midway through however, it does a complete sonic 180, becoming a bit of a skittish house anthem with fuzzy flecks of early 00’s UK garage. Its evident that George Daniel really got to play about here in terms of production.

Love It If We Made It

Comprising of zeitgeist quotes, and political and pop culture references, Love It If We Made It is a relentless dialogue on the harrowing nature of life in modern society. Whilst no solutions are offered to the many, MANY struggles of existing in the year 2018, it does offer a slight glimmer of hope. Speaking to Pitchfork about the track, Healy said “Basically, every day post-ILIWYS, I got someone to pick up the tabloid newspapers on the way into the office so I could eventually, after a year, have every single tabloid headline and write a song about that. The sad thing is that, using the actual things that were written, it was just becoming too slapstick and funny.” Thank you Matty, very cool.

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Be My Mistake

A vulnerable and acoustic number, undoubtedly about guilt, infidelity, and isolation, that makes you feel personally addressed. Matty timidly sings of reaching out and seeking solace in forbidden people, “I shouldn’t have called ‘cause we shouldn’t speak, you do make me hard, but she makes me weak”, before realising that casual sexual relationships are just not what you want or need in that moment – they won’t fix you. Be My Mistake was admittedly one of the only songs from ABIIOR that I loved immediately upon my first listen. This is the good shiiiit.

Sincerity Is Scary

YA LIKE JAZZ? Sincerity Is Scary is undeniably smooth. Laid-back jazz intertwines itself with pop, and lyrics that convey discontent with the current culture of just encouraging people to mask their pain, instead of expressing it and actually dealing with it. Matty details his tried and tested ways of not really combatting his issues very well. “It’s hard to be really sincere. It’s harder to be soft and vulnerable in the face of earnestness, serious shit… It’s easier to be ironic in the face of those situations. It’s easier to take the piss out of it. Or like be really sardonic” he says, speaking to Genius earlier this month. “It’s just something that I really, really noticed. And I kind of wanted to denounce”.

I Like America & America Likes Me

“I’m scared of dying”, confesses Matty Healy, with heavily auto-tuned and distorted vocals on this INCREDIBLY Kanye-meets-Bon Iver-meets-James Blake inspired track. Healy’s voice is cleverly transformed into its own instrument, a technique often employed by the three aforementioned musical geniuses. I imagine that this is another track that might divide fans in the same way Give Yourself A Try did, loyal devotees to the 2013 debut might have issues here… but I love it.

The Man Who Married A Robot / Love Theme

A very harrowing bed-time story from Siri/Alexa/whatever other spooky robot bitch you may use and enjoy, about a lonely man who falls in love with the internet. If you’re anything like me, and maybe a little bit too dependent on your phone, you’ll be alarmed by how much you actually relate to this lonely man, in his lonely house, on a lonely street, in a lonely part of the world . Whilst initially it sounds like a warning of what the future could hold for us, you very quickly realise that this track is just rattling off the details of the near-dystopian reality that we’re already knee-deep and fully immersed in.

Inside Your Mind

And if you look to your right kids, you’ll see what I consider to be one of the weakest tracks on the entire album. The lyrics are morbidly romantic, detailing that feeling you get when you like someone SO much that you want to know every little insignificant thing about them, just shrink yourself down to microscopic size and live inside them, exploring their every inch in a tiny submersible machine. Y’know, that really relatable feeling you get when you just want to smash their head open and look at the inside of their mind? Yeah me neither. If you thought the guitar on Give Yourself A Try was annoying then you’ll hate this. Honestly, just skip it. Thank u, next.

It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)

The only thing I could think of when I heard this debut on Radio 1 a few weeks ago was ALLSTARS (Land of Make Believe anyone???). An undeniable euphoric pop song that harnesses all the elements that combine to make a quintessential The 1975 track, if such a thing even exists. It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You) very cleverly manages to be a love letter to Healy’s past heroin addiction, without romanticising substance abuse.

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Surrounded By Heads and Bodies

Another stripped back acoustic song, that sort of explores Healy’s substance abuse to an extent, with the title taken directly from the opening lines of Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, the book he read whilst in rehab. “There was no one else there. It was me and my nurses, who’d come in and check on me, and then Angela, miles away”, he told Pitchfork. “I was surrounded by no one, and the book was just open on the front page, as most copies of Infinite Jest are”. Again, this is one of the slightly weaker tracks on ABIIOR.

Mine

Another tender sprinkling of jazz from The 1975, with lyrics about fearing commitment. Coming across more experimental than anything else that has proceeded it on the album, Mine somehow manages to sound both unfinished and complete simultaneously.

I Couldn’t Be More In Love

A few words: bit cringe Michael Bolton bit cringe Disney Soundtrack bit cringe. However, Healy’s vocals are particularly impressive here, and that guitar solo is *chef’s kiss*, so credit where its due and whatnot I guess.

I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)

LOL same. Providing a grandeur, stratospheric climax to the album, I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes) is a personal highlight, described by Healy himself as ‘a gritty, English ‘I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing’. A carefully constructed soaring chorus, and strings provided by David Campbell (who also provided the strings for Iris by The Goo Goo Dolls) help showcase The 1975‘s true potential as artists on this one. More of this please.

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Ultimately, I don’t love A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships as much as I’d hoped I would, but I sort of expected that. When each single debuted at various points over the last year or so, it took me a considerably long time to enjoy most of them – with TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME being the exception. I certainly don’t think I’ll ever love it as much as I Like It When You Sleep – for me they peaked the very second they wrote Somebody Else. On ILIWYS, I found myself consistently enthralled and engrossed by the sonic evolution, and the sheer beauty of the instrumentation. Despite being 19 tracks long, it never ever FELT long. However this time around, I instead found myself getting distracted and bored, A LOT. A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships of course has its highs (Love It If We Made It, I Like America & America Likes Me, and I Always Wanna Die), but unfortunately there are one too many lows that come with them – tracks 9 through 14, basically. It may have it’s odd moments of brilliance, but the shortcomings are simply too difficult for me to ignore. Don’t get me wrong, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships is not a bad album, it’s just not The 1975 at their very, very best, and I realise I’m one of very few people who thinks that. The singles have grown on me over time, so I imagine the album will too. Regardless, I’m very keen to see how they explore their new expanded discography on stage in their upcoming live shows, even if that does mean saying a reluctant goodbye to a few old favourites.

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