The consensus is in: just about everyone loves The 1975’s latest album, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships. The band has a clear plan that involves releasing this one and then dropping part 2 about six months later, so we won’t know for sure exactly what statement they are making. However, this extremely eclectic effort is almost impossible to classify, and maybe genre-jumping is The Point. It is chock-full of all the tricks of the trade for the music industry in the 21st century: auto-tune, over-the-top crooning, power ballads, and even an attempt at stadium rock.
The praise for the album is so effusive it creates expectations which are, in my view, way too high. NME called it “the millennial answer to ‘OK Computer’…” which… I guess? I don’t really see this album reaching such lofty heights. First, let’s cover the best of the album. The hyper “I Love America and America Loves Me” is covered in trap beats and is compulsively listenable. “Be My Mistake” is certainly the kind of emo, acoustic-guitar ballad that millennials everywhere seem to adore. “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not with You)” is meant to be Matt Healy’s discussion about heroin but in truth, it’s the twinge of 1980’s synth pop that makes the song really go. “Sincerity is Scary” sounds like a less catchy version of Jamiroquai, but it’s in tune with what plays on the radio today. The song “I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)” taps into the despair and suicidal feelings that people are expressing more frequently in music. For all that, the song ends (and ends the album) on an optimistic note.
As for the things I’d classify as Decent, the band goes for a big Radiohead reference with “The Man Who Married a Robot” which is based on Radiohead’s “Fitter Happier.” It even features Siri doing the lyrics. The story is about a man who lives his whole life online and still feels lonely. There is little subtext to this music, but The 1975 gets extra credit for trying to converse with Radiohead.
Now for the less good. “Love It If We Made It” is quite obviously a rip-off of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” updated for the moment with lyrics such as:
We’re f**king in a car, shooting heroin
Saying controversial things just for the hell of it
Selling melanin and then suffocate the black men
This will resonate with some as a profound statement. The strobe-light video contains a trigger warning: “This video may potentially trigger seizures for people with photosensitive epilepsy. Viewer discretion is advised.” It will probably be a hit, but the word “obnoxious” comes to mind.
“Give Yourself a Try” is typical 21st century ironic look at self-improvement that I found unpersuasive. Again, your mileage may vary. “Mine,” a jazz ballad, and “I Couldn’t Be More in Love,” another ballad, are both forgettable.
Overall, the album is what I would describe as pretty decent. Others believe that the lyrics and music transcend mere Tumblr and Instagram sayings, but the verdict is still out on that one. If you already like The 1975, you’re sure to love A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships.
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