The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships is a considered, ambitious album from a band who are constantly pushing themselves

Review by Harry Harris | 03 Dec 2018

A lot of people seem to feel embarrassed about liking The 1975. As often as someone talks about how ambitious and exciting and fresh they are, someone else talks about how they want to hate them, but don't. It happens that most of these people seem to be men, the kind of men who like real music, possibly confounded by the idea of digging a band who have a large female audience. Or maybe it's that The 1975 present as indie-rock, all haircuts and tight-tees, but are undeniably a pop band. Maybe. Who's to say? Anyway, don't be embarrassed. Leave your inhibitions and your misgivings at the door. Because nobody is doing what The 1975 are doing right now.

A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships – The 1975's third studio album – is a record about how we communicate with each other, and about looking for chinks of light when the world is going to hell. Love It If We Made It, an anxiety-riddled We Didn't Start the Fire set to Blue Nile-esque opulence, exemplifies that. Where Billy Joel's inherently ridiculous lounge-rock lists a stream of unconnected newsworthy events before absolving himself in the chorus, Matty Healy is at least still quite worried about the fact that everything is literally on fire. I Like America & America Likes Me, the title taken from Joseph Beuys' performance art piece where he sat in a room with a coyote for three days, is a nice companion song – the repeated exclamation of 'Would you please listen!' through Healy's heavily processed vocals touching on that same anxiety, but also a desire to try and work your way out of it. To try and take some responsibility.

As a charismatic frontman, it makes sense that most of how we talk about The 1975 is filtered through Healy, but it's worth saying how beautiful the production is on this record, and that's down to George Daniel. On their last record, I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It, a lot of songs were hung on a really slick, 80s live-drum sound – think of the intros to She's American or This Must Be My Dream – but here there's a lot more lush, Postal Service-y electronica, and dreamy, cinematic collage-like phrases and choices dotted around the place. Even Be My Mistake, pretty stripped down by their standards, fills out with a soundscape, synth backdrop that puts it in the context of the album beautifully. A similar idea is used as the backdrop for the Siri-narrated spoken word midpoint, The Man Who Married a Robot / Love Theme. 

There's so much going on in this record, but it's far from a case of throwing everything against the wall and seeing what sticks. A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships is a considered, ambitious album from a band who are constantly pushing themselves.

Listen to: I Like America & America Likes Me, It's Not Living (If It's Not with You), Love It If We Made It