Review: The 1975 — A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

Category:  The Arts
Wednesday, December 5th, 2018 at 6:12 PM
Review: The 1975 — A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships by Livia Homerski

★★★★

Being someone who has found the development of social media to be more isolating and disruptive to my own relationships than helpful, I was very excited to see an album discussing these ideas from none other than my favorite snarky Brits, the 1975. “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships” was released on Friday, Nov. 30 and has blown up the internet with rave reviews for its fresh take on some very 2018 problems while exploring a more diverse and mature sound. 

Like all of their albums, “The 1975” begins “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships” with rich keyboards and a few bars of raw singing from Healy before going into the heavily autotuned vocals singing the classic “Go down, soft sound” lyrics. 

Not only on this opening track, but throughout the album, the 1975 juxtapose instrumental elements such as acoustic guitar and piano with heavy, electronic bass and overzealous use of autotune. The autotune not only seems very 2018 and Kanye West inspired, but it helps establish musically the overindulgence in technology and how it changes what we sound like to our core.

The first single released in anticipation of “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships” was “Give Yourself a Try,” which grew on me as I listened to it more. The song features a fast beat and a repetitive, albeit catchy, distorted guitar riff that intermingles with speedily sang, staccato vocals.

The track is about owning up to growing up and trying to be yourself in an age obsessed with image. Lyrics like “I found a grey hair in one of my zoots. Like context in a modern debate, I just took it out” show Healy’s growing self-awareness and wit in every release. The clever penmanship coupled with its matter-of-fact delivery helps free the band of the “pretentious” label they’ve long been hit with it, and shows a newfound sense of honesty- and in return- maturity.

“TooTimeTooTimeTooTime” follows “Give Yourself a Try” and is less autobiographical, but a lot of fun. The song is a pop banger with a funky beat and tropical synth accents about the ambiguity of “talking” to other people while in a relationship. The chorus is catchy and as the numbers add up, Healy points out the hypocrisy from his other half: “You text that boy sometimes- Must be more than three times. I didn't mean to two-time you, two-time you.”

“Love It If We Made It” is another example of tongue-in-cheek lyricism and the seamless blending of wokeness and positivity. Healy’s near yelling vocals get your attention as he shouts about issues that have plagued modern society such as racism, the information overload which has only divided us, the use of the word “daddy” in a sexual context, and America’s latest, most outrageous online president, Trump.

The dancey, roundabout breakdown in the bridge is what really brings the song to fruition. Healy simply sings “And I’d love it if we made it” as the instruments go full funk. This track could’ve made it onto “I Love It When You Sleep…” and fit in fine, but some things are worth the wait. We had to wait for the chaos of 2017 to brew before we could get such a cathartic and clever song.

Critics online have drawn many comparisons between Radiohead’s 2000 album, “Ok Computer” and “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships,” even going as far as to refer to the 1975 album as a “millenial” or “Gen Z” version. However, the 1975 leaves behind the doom, gloom and nihilism of Radiohead in the 1990s and gives a much needed and fresh take on the way technology has actually come to affect us in the modern age.

This comparison echoes most notably to the track “The Man Who Married a Robot/ Love Theme.” I immediately was reminded of Radiohead, specifically “Fitter, Happier” (which is actually on “The Bends”) due to the monologue read by a computerized voice and the sonic, orchestral movement after the monologue has finished. The male, British voice of Siri recites a story about “a lonely, lonely man” who falls in love with the internet and decides essentially marry it and spend his life with it. This song also reminds me of Spike Jonze’s 2013 artificial intelligence romance movie “Her.”

I was not expecting such a romantic jazz tribute to appear on an album about online relationships, but I was pleasantly surprised to hear that on “Mine.” Although the lyrics are fairly simplistic and the vocals a bit sparse, the track is a contemporary waltz made for lovers who are challenged by commitment.

There were unfortunately tracks that failed to capture my attention in the numerous listens I gave this album such as “Surrounded by Heads and Bodies” or “I Couldn’t Be More In Love.” The first half of “A Brief Inquiry…” is undoubtedly more engaging, perhaps due to being more upbeat and high energy. It doesn’t mean that they weren’t good or I didn’t enjoy them, they just couldn’t stand on their own as much as others did for me.

But overall, this album succeeds the standards of previous albums instrumentally, stylistically, and lyrically. Other tracks such as the gun violence anthem “I Like America & America Likes Me” and “I Always Wanna Die Sometimes” are poignant songs that contrast greatly in their sound, but show the diversity the 1975 continues to explore with every release.

For an album about online relationships, I hoped to be put more in cyberspace or hear more critiques about online culture. However, this step-outside of the internet helps the album to be a breath of fresh air in such a divided and apoplectic age.There’s no dwelling on negativity or bashing of anything. It doesn’t make people feel bad about themselves or be swayed in one way or another. Instead, it offers a chance of connection to each other beyond a blue screen.

Livia Homerski can be reached at ae.spectator@gmail.com.

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