The 1975’s “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships”: A deep dive into social issues & sonic diversity

"The group puts everything together into "Sincerity Is Scary." From irony to expelling all of your insecurities onto the people who are closest to you, this is truly a classic." - Arts & Entertainment Editor / Al Harmon.

Matthew Healy, the lead vocalist for the indie-rock band the 1975, has been outspoken about his addiction to heroin which led to a stay at a rehab center in Barbados last November. As he peppered details about his time of addiction into interviews, it was a line from the first single, dropped May 31, “Give Yourself a Try” off The 1975’s third studio album “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships,” that hit its mark among fans.

“And you’ll make a lot of money,” Healy sings, “and it’s funny/ ‘Cause you’ll move somewhere sunny and get addicted to drugs.”

This was just a glimpse of what the album would entail.

After four more singles, it became clear which subjects would be addressed in the much-anticipated full-length release.

Now, 184 days later, we finally get the finished product. “A Brief Inquiry” sees Healy discussing current social issues, including reliance on the internet, gun violence, drug addiction, and insecurity within romantic relationships.

The band hit the nail right on the head.

As they’ve done in their previous two albums, “A Brief Inquiry” starts with the self-titled track “The 1975,” which features the same lyrics as before, but strung across a melody, which will foreshadow what the album will be as a whole. This time, Healy’s voice is echoed with auto-tune and the piano in the background is reminiscent of Daniel Caesar’s “We Find Love.”

Sonically, the album is so much different than anything else they’ve produced. They’ve made it clear before that they don’t have a specific sound and that is quite apparent in “A Brief Inquiry.” Despite formal classification as “English pop rock,” jazz, rock, pop, acoustic, and even rap influences can be heard in this record. Most other bands I listen to, like Local Natives and Young the Giant, take two or three albums to establish a unique sound. The 1975 seem to have no interest in doing so. That’s one of the many reasons they are unique.

“TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME,” the album’s third track, discusses practically cheating on one’s significant other over the most “pop” beat on the album in a contradiction of words and sounds. Healy goes back to personal thoughts within relationships with “Be My Mistake,” which sets the scene of a battle between love and lust. Here, he uses the woman he’s involved with as a rebound to distract himself from the heartbreak that he endured from his last relationship, singing: And be my mistake/ Then turn out the light/ She bought me those jeans / The ones you like.” Purely acoustic with faint piano, it’s one of the album’s most interesting songs.

Regarding “How to Draw/Petrichor,” Healy stated in an interview with Pitchfork that its sound is the band’s “identity” and where they “come from.” He also says, “It’s the soundtrack to nighttime, to being up too late, to being a kid.” But the lyrics touch upon his heroin addiction and how Healy’s subsequent lies about it, especially to best friend and the band’s drummer George Daniel, can ruin things. It’s a reflection on himself and a note to listeners that “they can take anything as long as it’s true. What they can’t take is you telling them lies, lies, lies, lies.”

“Inside Your Mind” takes a morbid approach to the wandering thoughts that some have in relationships about what their partner is thinking of. “The back of your head is at the front of my mind / Soon I’ll crack it open just to see what’s inside your mind,” he sings. “Maybe I will wait until you’re fast asleep / Dreaming things I have the right to see. Maybe you are dreaming you’re in love with me. The only option left is to look and see.”

Fortunately for Healy, he claims in his Pitchfork interview that his girlfriend finds his fascination with morbid romantics “quite sexy.”

Focusing again on his drug addiction, “It’s Not Living if It’s Not With You” sees Healy portraying a character named Danny who deals with heroin addiction. Danny goes through withdrawals and knows that “If I choose [heroin] then I lose.” Danny also never saw heroin as something bad, as it was described as “wearing beautiful shoes.” The next track, “Surrounded By Heads And Bodies,” details his time at the rehab center. Here, he talks about meeting a fellow patient named Angela. The title of the song stems from the beginning pages of David Foster Wallace’s novel “Infinite Jest,” which Healy was reading while at rehab.

On the thirteenth track, “Mine,” John Coltrane’s influence is apparent as the lyrics explore the theme of not needing a marriage to show that you love someone: There comes a time in a young man’s life / He should settle down and find himself a wife / But I’m just fine ’cause I know that you are mine.”

To my surprise, “Love It If We Made It,” the album’s top single, is also the song that Healy has said in an interview with Sirius XM that will come to define the band. Combining front page headlines, “Love It If We Made It” serves as a wake-up call to our current society. From Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest, the death of Lil Peep, Kanye West’s affiliation with President Trump, and “a failing sense of modernity”, this song covers it all.

The group puts everything together into “Sincerity Is Scary.” From irony to expelling all of your insecurities onto the people who are closest to you, this is truly a classic.

Songs like “I Like America & America Likes Me” and “The Man Who Married A Robot/ Love Theme” speak to America’s internet obsession. In the former, Healy wrote the song as “a homage to SoundCloud rap.” You can hear the auto-tune again just as in the album’s opening track. But it feels a bit deeper, hinting at America’s systemic issues concerning gun control.

In a Twitter statement, Healy asserted that people in America would rather have toddlers be shot in the head than give up their guns. Meanwhile, the latter track is read from the Siri voice set to British Man. It talks of a lonely man who spent all of his time on the internet, becoming best friends with it and sharing everything with it. The song ends with the man’s death, upon which his Facebook page displays a memorial.

What can be read as a love story is inverted within the guitar solos of “I Couldn’t Be More In Love.” Healy’s vocals, recorded the day before he went to therapy and questioned what happens when nobody cares anymore, are more emotional than on any track previous.

“A Brief Inquiry” finishes with a powerful anecdote on the impact of suicide on those left behind. In an interview with Genius, Healy says, “We have to just really love each other, and if you don’t, just try, on a mechanistic level.” The lyrics in the first verse speak to existence and how when you die, you’re not the one dealing with the repercussions of it: “But your death it won’t happen to you / It happens to your family and your friends.”

The course of this album sees The 1975 at their absolute best. “A Brief Inquiry” has everything that the band stands for on a personal level. From self-love to societal misconstruction, The 1975 knocked this out of the park. Even if you’re not a already fan, I’d recommend giving it a listen.

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