|Album Review: The 1975 - A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships|
A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
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On the surface level of thinking, The 1975's self-titled debut album brings about memories of a distinct period of time in 2013 leading well into 2014 defined by head to toe black clothing, nimble hands holding cigarettes out of the car window during a hazy night drive, and so-called soft grunge blog images of bruised thighs and collarbones marked by mouths. The 1975 served as somewhat of a soundtrack during this time and, on a deeper level, set the basis for the development of an era, while listeners endeavored to figure out the inner workings of lead singer Matty Healy's mind through the lyrical landscape he offered. The LP was narratively captivating, establishing a tone that at times led you to feel as though you were present in the exact moment being staged by the lyrics, except that you were there only as a silent, unseen bystander.
If the moment of The 1975 was too early to pin Healy down, the 2016 arrival of the band's lengthily titled sophomore album, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it, welcomes the singer's candor. The album finds a more poetically candid artist who happens to be very openly critical of both himself and others, something only slightly lingered on in certain The 1975 tracks. Listeners were beginning to crack the case of the seemingly mysterious British rocker by piecing together what they could from songs like "Paris" and "UGH!," both acutely personal tracks masked under the guise of immaculate and timeless indie pop hits. I like it when you sleep shows Healy slowly beginning to peel back the covers under which his deepest displays of sincerity are hidden. On The 1975's latest album, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, the covers have disappeared and bearing the truth has been placed on the band's lyrical forefront.
And so truth becomes the path of righteousness. "Sincerity Is Scary" embraces the ability people possess, but often fail to utilize, to accept their insecurities and anxieties for what they are: inescapable human qualities. Healy has always had a knack for presenting the most brooding topics in a covert manner, this showing itself on one of the album's leading singles, "It's Not Living (If It's Not With You)", an open address to the singer's heroin addiction that he whisked himself away to a rehabilitation facility in Barbados in late 2017 to overcome. This has been an ever present topic of conversation throughout this album cycle, but not one that the singer has for a second tried to shy away from. "Surrounded By Heads and Bodies" is a brief acknowledgement of someone Healy met while in treatment, and "Give Yourself A Try" references everything from addiction to suicide to aging, all pertinent topics. On the second half of "How To Draw/Petrichor," he reminds himself through distorted vocals, "They can take anything as long as it's true / What they can't take is you telling them lies."
This warped manipulation of the singer's vocals appears firstly on "The 1975," the opening track included each of the band's albums in a different variation each time. The electronic feel of A Brief Inquiry's version lends to the present theme of social media and the internet, found in the the oddly presented "The Man Who Married A Robot/Love Theme," a story of internet addiction voiced by Siri. Healy wants to emphasize the importance of being aware of humanity. "Modernity has failed us," a lyric from "Love It If We Made It," sets up a theme alluding to the imperative need to prioritize the thoughts and efforts of the youth if any changes in society will ever have the chance to be made. On "I Like America & America Likes Me," an ode to the age of SoundCloud rap, the singer works his way through this widespread lack of prioritization. Urgency is laced throughout the presentation of each of the song's lyrics, creating a feeling that time is running out. "I'm scared of dying," it begins. "Is that designer?" he questions. "Kids don't want rifles, they want Supreme," he insists. "Would you please listen," he begs.
"But your death, it won't happen to you, it happens to your family and your friends," Healy asserts on the rocky "I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)." Leaning more on the theme of awareness and vulnerability, this track confronts thoughts of wanting to give up on life–but he stops himself, saying "If you can't survive; just try." Surviving can at times seem like the hardest possible things to do, especially when put into the context of considering those you care for in life, and it isn't always something people get right the first time around. But remember, Healy has called for truth to be prioritized and for the acceptance of mistepping. "If you're going to tell the truth like that, you can't dress it up," the singer told Pitchfork about guilt-ridden track "Be My Mistake," the conceptually similar but sonically polar opposite of "TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME."
The smoothly progressing track "Mine" offers a look into Healy as a partner, resistant to traditional commitment, finding himself content and reassured without it. It's honest, but the most stripped down displays of truth occur on "I Couldn't Be More In Love," where Healy's vocals cut through the track in the most searing way, dense with blistering emotion and the fear of what occurs when someone stops caring. "Inside Your Mind" ghosts over a similar possibility of having someone you care for make their departure unto a reality that doesn't include you and finds Healy deeply curious of what goes on inside the head of his partner.
A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships feels urgent and present in all of the places The 1975's previous projects felt reminiscent. It doesn't feel as though the storm has entirely passed and is being looked back on by Healy, but rather as though he's learning to engage with the happenings of now–and is encouraging listeners to do the same. Rather than playing the role of the bystander in black, the audience can walk away feeling invulnerable and addressed, with a clear lense into the man leading their soundtrack of the past five years. Healy's sincerity is there, along with his doubt and his insecurities, and that's okay.
Information about The 1975's upcoming tour can be found here.