Release Date: Nov 30, 2018
Record label: Polydor
This is the third record by The 1975. You've been waiting forever for it. You remember the jump between the tacky youthfulness of their first album, and the sticky rush of their second. You start to formulate phrases in your head. Phrases like 'artistic development' and 'wider palette'. Perhaps ….
It was with The 1975's second album, 2016’s ‘i like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it’, that Matty Healy and co pushed their band from a massively popular yet largely base-level operation into genuinely important statement-purveyors. Musically, the record was a manic, scattered, genre-spanning canvas but remained tied together by the frontman's frenzied takes on relationships, drugs, and navigating life as a young person in such a paranoid era. Sure, the bubblegum hits remained - ‘The Sound’ is pure, euphoric chart fodder - but unlike ‘Chocolate’, ‘Sex’ and ‘Girls’ from their debut, it was flanked by deep dives into the human psyche and the darkest corners of our minds.
They've only gone and made the millennial answer to 'OK Computer'... Matty Healy always said the first three 1975 albums would tell a story: his own, from teen dreamer living in an affluent hinterland of Manchester (2013's self-titled debut) to pop star in the first flushes of fame (2016's 'I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It') and the Ziggy-ish conclusion to come. Instead, The 1975 took to the studio to produce not one but two albums, the first of which is 'A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relations', with the second, 'Notes On A Conditional Form', to come next year.
Maybe the answer lies not in art of counteracting beauty, but art that fully leans in to the horror. The 1975 's third album A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships is shrouded in the sludge of contemporary existence. Aptly released at the end of a terrible, unsettled year, it is the sound of ennui with a dying Christmas party in the background. Like 2016's I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It, A Brief Inquiry… was recorded in LA, but sheds that album's sunset pinks and pool blues for a desolate sonic world, crafted by genius co-producers Matty Healy and George Daniel.
Download | Listen and subscribe via Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Play | Radio Public | Stitcher | RSS The Lowdown: The 1975 are a band for our times. After the overstuffed sprawl of 2016's I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It, a record that in spurts revealed Matt Healy's immense talent as a songwriter, A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships makes good on the band's promise. The first of two planned records in a six-month period, the album is a chaotic, scattered document of modern society that manages tremendous insight into a life lived online that sidesteps condescension or generalization.
The 1975 dare to be too much. Led by frontman and lyricist Matty Healy, the quartet has made its name on an unruly brand of abundance throughout this decade: musically, referentially, emotionally, all of it. Did Healy pop pills, lick coke, and twirl a revolver before holding up a convenience store and getting shot in the torso--but ending up totally fine!--in the video for early hit "Robbers"? He did.
It would easy to disregard The 1975. Four white-boys with guitars. Mind-blowing, I know. These days if you don't have some sort of 'quirk factor' it seems the world isn't interested and to be fair, why should it be? We've had our fill of 'rock bands', so much so that we've turned it into a game ….
For anyone watching from outside the UK, the rise of The 1975 must be somewhat confusing. How did this band, with their penchant for grand ludicrous statements and stylistic excursions, make the jump from punchline to indie-rock royalty? The UK's NME magazine named them "the worst band in the world" for their debut album, then picked the follow-up as their album of the year. For their third record, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, the magazine praised them for making "OK Computer for millennials." The turn-around has been similar, if less pronounced, in the rest of the UK press.
Manchester pop outfit the 1975’s third album, A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships, tackles anxiety, addiction, trauma, self-loathing, disillusionment, cynicism, and death. Dark subject matter, to be sure, but the music around it--a thrilling combination of sophisti-pop polish, post-punk attitude, and art-student swagger--is incandescent. The guitar figure that begins “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not with You)” conjures the image of a fist thrust into a neon sky, while “Mine” and “Inside Your Mind,” two ballads that wring every ounce of emotion from frontman Matty Healy’s voice, evoke the unmistakable feeling of a new day breaking.
How many genuine characters has the past decade or so in music turned out? The very fact that the ones we have had loom so large across the landscape should give you some idea as to their scarcity. There's a reason why the Gallagher brothers seem to swallow what's left of the music press whole for a month or so whenever either of them opens their mouth; in a climate where publicists want everybody on their best behaviour, the pair of them still have something to say, and they don't mind saying it, either. When Mac DeMarco sold out two nights at Brixton Academy last year, it wasn't because there's ten thousand Londoners happy to part with thirty quid to hear some lo-fi love songs played back at them note-for-note, because by that calculation, Jonathan Richman would've made enough out of them to retire by now.
A batch of quality pop songs - nothing more, nothing less. One of the things that has become increasingly popular in internet publications is shock statements. Headlines that make you go "wow" and compel you to give that website a view…you know, click-bait. Music review websites are often just as guilty of doing the same thing, excitedly proclaiming someone as the savior of rock every year or hailing an album as a generational statement.
The 1975 start every album exactly the same way. But there's something more sinister about this latest introduction, a twisted, even deformed take on a salacious encounter by singer/songwriter Matty Healy that is fast becoming inconsequential. But what Healy wants from this playful exercise is for us to pay attention to how he says it rather than what he says.
Listening to the 1975's ambitious, often frustrating third full-length album, 2018's A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships, it's clear that the Manchester outfit is not the same band that delivered their effusive 2013 debut. They sound somewhat more akin to the band that issued 2016's I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It. If that album found lead singer Matt Healy pushing the group's emo and post-punk influences ever pop-ward, embracing R&B and adult contemporary stylings, then A Brief Inquiry takes those changes even further.
Five years ago, The 1975 were something close to a punchline. Adored by a certain demographic for being a "quirky" yet attractive band comprised exclusively of young men, they delivered a debut album's worth of obvious indie pop that triggered as many eye rolls as it did ticket sales. It was, therefore, quite remarkable to see the complete 180 that a lot of the music press - myself included - did on the band upon the release of their excruciatingly titled yet expertly conceived and delivered sophomore album 'i like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it'.
A s generational demarcators go, there are few more electrified than Auto-Tune. The vocal effect is layered over passages of this significant third album by the 1975, disguising singer Matt Healy in a kind of depersonalised, tear-stained fatsuit. It's best to go with the Auto-Tune as just another emblem of this band's self-conscious hyper-modernity, in which genre is immolated and our online co-dependency is scrutinised by those guilty of it.
Midway through "A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships," the 1975's frequently dazzling exploration of life in the iOS era, frontman Matty Healy turns the mic over to — who else? — Siri. Narrating a strangely touching fable about a man in love with the Internet, the bot contributes one of a great many moments on the album — the polymorphing Manchester quartet's third after their glossy 2013 debut and thrillingly widescreen 2016 follow-up — that directly recall Radiohead's "OK Computer" (somehow still the definitive sonic statement on our technological dystopia two decades later). This is by Healy's design.