The 1975 are a band I’ve been aware of for a long time, but have never been too interested in checking out. There’s always been a certain trying-too-hard, eye-roll-inducing quality about them (their second album’s title encapsulates this perfectly) that’s put me off really diving into their stuff.
A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships ended up being hard to ignore though – due to all the buzz it’s been receiving online – so I decided to give it a go. And it’s a strange one, to say the least. The album is flawed, but it’s often admirably ambitious at the same time. You can tell that the band chucked a lot of ideas into it, and when they work, they often work spectacularly.
‘Love If We Made It’ exemplifies this best. The song is full of tension, featuring abrasive vocals and an ominous, repetitive instrumental on the verses. They act as a recap of the low-lights of the past couple of years (from the Syrian refugee crisis to ‘Thank you Kanye, very cool!’) before the glitzy 80s-infused chorus comes in. And it’s gorgeous – especially when paired the chant of ‘And I’d love it if we made it’. The song just perfectly encapsulates modern times and is the perfect anthem for them.
It’s the main highlight of the first half of the album, which is mostly filled with underwhelming moments. Matty Healy sounds too much like he’s trying to ape Bon Iver’s 22, A Million on intro track ‘The 1975’ and the two singles that follow it – ‘Give Yourself A Try’ and ‘TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME’ – are just kind of okay. Neither are bad songs, but it’s difficult to get excited about them.
On the other hand, songs like ‘Be My Mistake’, which features the album’s cringiest line (‘You make me hard, but she makes me weak’) and ‘The Man Who Married A Robot / Love Theme’ are straight-up bad. They don’t really do much other than drag down the album’s batting average.
Outside of a couple of highlights, such as ‘Love It We Made It’ and ‘Sincerity Is Scary’, A Brief Enquiry Into Online Relationships doesn’t really hit its stride until right near the end… Which is unfortunate. ‘Inside Your Mind’ is a fantastically twisted love ballad, managing to be haunting and romantic at the same time. On it, Matty sings about cracking his girlfriend’s head open to find out what she’s thinking. On ‘It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)’, the band once again wears their love of 80s pop on their sleeves and it pays off tremendously, featuring a cheesy chorus that they just about pull off.
Album closer ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’ ends things on a definite high note. Swapping the 80s pop influence for 90s Britpop, it’s a great overblown alternative rock number – think Oasis’ ‘Champagne Supernova’. It’s grand and climactic like a good closer should be. It’s just a shame that so much of what comes before it doesn’t work half as well.
Best Tracks: ‘Love It If We Made It’, ‘Inside Your Mind’, ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’