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The 1975: Under the Radar’s Whipping Boys

A little harsh, wasn’t it?

Tim Coffman

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The 1975’s latest release A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships was received warmly by critics, and their follow-up is anticipated in the next few months.

While publications like Consequence of Sound and NME rated the record very high, the album was panned by indie music magazine Under the Radar, mainly due to its use of electronics and subject matter.

But is it truly worth the condemnation?

A Brief Inquiry… is an absolute triumph of an album that perfectly builds on their previous effort from 2016. Under the Radar does make a fair point about the unnecessary hype surrounding the album’s release, but that hardly seems fair because the music should be judged, not the fanbase.

Many bands have followers that will bow down to their every move. The crux of the argument is whether the music they make is any good. When all the bells and whistles die down, the 1975 created a damn good album.

Another issue UTR raise is the fact that the album relies heavily on Autotune and electronics in order to achieve the sound. When looked at on the surface, this makes sense, since many artists use Autotune as a way of cleaning up vocals that they cannot produce. But on A Brief Inquiry… Autotune is used to evoke a sterile technological environment.

And the album has numerous moments free of synthetic flourishes, like the abrasive guitar sound on “Give Yourself a Try” or the achingly beautiful acoustic guitars that close out the album on “I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes).”

1975 naysayers also find an eerie similarity between this album’s structure and that of Radiohead’s opus Ok Computer. While I like both albums, the 1975 put their own unique twist on this structure by bringing in songs about love and heartache, as opposed to Radiohead’s anger, sadness, and apathy. Even though the band sounds like Radiohead presently, the 1975 have been known to change up their sound, with 2016’s I like it when you sleep…  displaying influences from D’angelo and Sigur Ros.

Speaking of lyricism, frontman Matty Healy’s writing on this record is absolutely spellbinding, much to Under the Radar’s chagrin.

While Healy can be a touch narcissistic at times, he offers stunning insights into topics that hit at your core: “Give Yourself a Try” and “I Always Wanna Die(Sometimes)” are songs about overcoming suicidal depression, especially poignant since Healy has struggled with his own mental health.

The lyrics also paint a heartbreaking scene on “Be My Mistake,” where Healy starts seeing a girl while he’s on the road only to realize that he is simply missing his girlfriend back home. But by far the best lyrical showcase on this album is “Love It If We Made It,” which delves into the current socio-political state and how we must try to keep everything together for the good of the world.

As a lyricist myself, I must give Healy kudos for being able to pen a song with the line “Modernity has failed us” and make it sound utterly seamless.

The 1975’s latest is probably one of the best albums to come out of 2018 and it is difficult to understand the reasoning behind Under the Radar’s bitter review. This album has me chomping at the bit for whatever direction the band takes next.

Their planned 2019 release Notes on a Conditional Form can’t get here fast enough.

If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.

Tim picked up the guitar at 10 years old and never looked back. He has been writing about music since 2011 and has loved every single minute of it. Music is his MO every day and he will do whatever he can to make sure that he's involved with it every day of his life.

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