The 1975, “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships”

The 1975
A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
POLYDOR/DIRTY HIT
8/10

The 1975’s third album, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, finds a balance between joy and self-seriousness. It’s the quartet’s finest and most decadent album to date, showcasing how they can shimmy from the eerie sway of Radiohead–alternative rock to an upbeat horn-laden style of Chance the Rapper, then hop over to illustrious jazz lounge singing, all in an album’s swoop without losing their pointed, witty lyricism.

A Brief Inquiry is self-aware, and both cripplingly personal and observant on a larger scale. Ringleader Matty Healy has a wonderful gift for details. On the vulnerable “Be My Mistake,” he examines his infidelity, understanding its immorality yet giving in to temptation all the same. “I shouldn’t have called / Because we shouldn’t speak / You do make me hard / But she makes me weak,” he sings over an acoustic guitar and raindrops of piano keys. The song’s softness leans into the adjacent jazzy and melancholic but uplifting “Sincerity Is Scary,” where brass horns fiddle over observations about humans putting reality at arm’s length by abusing anything with numbing capabilities.

With the arrival of the Internet and the shortening of attention spans, decisions about what to prioritize have become a big concern. A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships is aware of this. “Would you please listen,” Healy cries with his voice veiled in autotune on “I Like America & America Likes Me.” Hi-hat triplets bounce around like a rattlesnake’s poisonous tail as he rants about his own mortality and the inanity of consumerism. The 1975 not only explore intimate or romantic relationships here, but, more importantly, the companionship between “the online” and humanity. In addition to his transparency about heroin use, Healy opened up about his Internet addiction, most of which is based on the “slot machine technique.” On A Brief Inquiry, both of these compulsions overlap.

During “The Man Who Married a Robot / Love Theme,” a satanic spawn of Where the Sidewalk Ends and Her, a strange robotic voice narrates a love affair with a computer. It’s creepy but somewhat endearing, since so much of A Brief Inquiry takes stock in the Internet’s ability to distance us from actual human commitment. In the end, the song’s subject dies alone. The 1975 expose how easy it is to hide between a virtual wall—falling into infatuation with others, antagonizing others, and fighting “crime online sometimes” (as he claims to do in “Mine”), all without tangible consequences. 

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