REVIEW: The 1975 go digital & deep in A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

In the past year, Matty Healy has kicked a heroin addiction, opened up about rehab, and now he and the rest of the British alternative (arguably, genre-neutral) band The 1975 seek to tackle love in the digital age in A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships. This third studio album begins the Music for Cars era in the band’s life and will be followed by Notes on a Conditional Form next year. It’s an odd release cycle, but it proves that The 1975 truly have something to say.

I am a relatively new fan of this band. Up until this summer, the only song I knew was the one that everyone else seemed to know (The Sound). Since a friend showed me Love It It We Made It, I have been inseparable from their captivating and thought-provoking sound. They have a solid mix of rock, pop and just enough indie vibes to peak my interest at every turn. With this new album, they’re adding a healthy amount of oddity and spoken word songs to further expand their catalog.

The main narrative of ABIIOR (the abbreviation that’s being used for the album title) is not just about the dangers of love and life in the digital age, but also serves as the vessel for Healy to tell the story of his addiction and recovery.

The album is far different than the first two records that have been produced. It’s a complicated mix of indie pop, rock, acoustic, R&B and even a little jazz. Each song has their own special thing to say through their individual, distinct sounds.

The acoustic numbers feel a little morbid but in a romantic way. Inside Your Mind discusses wanting to crack open a partner’s head just to see what kind of thoughts live inside. Be My Mistake and Mine are two sides of a coin in the way that one is about being conflicted and then being reassured of your love.

I will defend the more experimental tracks like TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME, I Like America, and The Man Who Married A Robot until I don’t have a voice anymore. These tracks seem to be a bit divisive, but I think they really add to the narrative in a unique way.

The songs that deal with Healy’s addiction (Give Yourself a Try, It’s Not Living, Surrounded by Heads & Bodies) are the ones that seem to stand out the most for me. The story he’s crafted based on his experience feels like more than just a journey towards sobriety. It feels like Matty’s journey to discovering who he is outside of the influence of these substances on his career and art.

The best songs on the record for me have to be Love It If We Made It, Sincerity Is Scary and I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes). Both represent very important concepts in our society right now. Love It If We Made It boasts a politically-charged, social frustration with the way the world is turning right now. It expresses the anger that those who want to press forward and progress the world feel right now.

I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes) is a 1975 power ballad if there ever was one. It’s in the vein of Robbers in the emotion that evokes. It’s a cinematic track, this time about the effects of suicide, with the raw power we’ve come to expect from this band. Healy’s falsetto is a tear jerking reminder that not even fame can stop you from having bad feelings, especially in the craziness of the world that we live in right now.

The album title perfectly describes what you get here. A brief inquiry into relationships in the digital age, a concept that The 1975 have just dipped their toes into on this record. Next year’s Notes on a Conditional Form will likely push the narrative of this new kind of love further. It may take a few listens to fully grasp this record for all its worth, but by the end of the second listen through, you may fall in love with it too. I consider The 1975 to be my greatest personal musical discovery of 2018, so I can’t wait to enter the new year in this new era as a true fan of this band.

Listen to the full album on Spotify here.