'A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships' review: The 1975 are three-for-three with their experimental yet cohesive third album
With their third studio album 'A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships', The 1975 prove their mettle yet again as the flagbearers of experimental pop.
As promised, The 1975 are back with the penultimate album from their 'Music For Cars' era. Titled 'A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships', fortunately, this time the album title is one that you can fully pronounce in a singe breath (as opposed to 2016's sophomore record 'I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It').
With their third studio album, the Cheshire pop quartet has managed to do what few bands can pull off successfully these days - a hat-trick of back-to-back hit albums, each outdoing the previous one in some way or the other.
On 'A Brief Inquiry...', The 1975's ambitions are as high as ever, as they experiment with a range of styles and genres. From groovy jazz ('Sincerity Is Scary') to ironical auto-tune pop ('I Like America & America Likes Me') to piano-centered ballads ('Inside Your Mind') to almost rap-like poetry ('Love It If We Made It') and everything in between, Matt Healy and the boys flit from one experimental style to the other through the album's 15 tracks.
But even while attempting such a grand feat, they don't seem out of step for a single moment and through the 58 minutes of the album, at no point does it feel dragged out or bloated.
As the title suggests, the theme of the album is broadly the idea of love and relationships in the digital age. The subject is perhaps most evidently tackled on the track 'The Man Who Married A Robot / Love Theme' in the most unexpected way.
Offering a break from the eclectic first half of the album, the track slows things down as the music gives way to two-and-a-half minutes of spoken-word short story. The song tales the satirical tale of a lonely man in a lonely house who falls in love with the personification of the internet (fans of Spike Jonez's 'Her' should love this). In case you can't wrap your head around what just happened mid-way through the album, The 1975 provide about a minute of ambient, atmospheric tunes for you to digest the idea fully.
Other themes that are addressed in the album include heartbreak, loneliness, the existential angst of millennials, and Healy's own drug addiction which he takes apart with unfazed honesty on the tracks 'It's Not Living (If It's Not With You)' and the early single 'Love It If We Made It'.
But as always, The 1975 prove that grim themes need not always be handled with grim tunes. The two songs are perhaps some of the catchiest songs on the record and it provides that dichotomy between ridiculously happy melodies and melancholic lyrics that The 1975 have perfected over their short career.
Sticking to their tradition, the album opens yet again with a track titled 'The 1975'. Like the two album openers before it, it's a brief 90 second intro into the maximalist pop glory about to unfurl itself. Again, it's placed before one of the catchiest songs in the album, 'Give Yourself A Try', which was released as the lead single of the album.
From there, the album meanders through the aforementioned range of styles with the confidence and swagger of a band that is absolutely sure of exactly what it wants.
Personally, the one section of the album that holds the most amount of literary merit for me is the juxtaposition of the two tracks 'Be My Mistake' and 'Sincerity Is Scary'.
The first slow burner of the album, 'Be My Mistake' sees Healy pour his heart out as he croons about love and loneliness, abandoning his usual smug and ironical lyricism and embracing earnestness and sincerity. The sparse, acoustic instrumentation only adds more value to the song. When he sings "While I see how much drink I can take/ then be my mistake," you can actually feel his isolation on every syllable.
Right after the track ends, it's as if Healy immediately realizes how scary it is to actually pour out your emotions with such sincerity. Backing away from the deep, dark confessions, he quickly slides into a flourish of horns and a groovy jazz beat on 'Sincerity Is Scary', a track that couldn't have been more aptly titled. The self-aware song makes Healy sound sincere, even when he is smugly commenting on the nature of sincerity itself. Pure genius!
With 'A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships', The 1975 have proved their mettle as the flagbearers of experimental pop yet again. What's more exciting is that Healy has promised the final chapter of this era, a fourth album called 'Notes On A Conditional Form' will drop sometime next year. If this album is anything to go by, more awesome stuff is coming our way in 2019.