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Track-by-Track: The 1975 ‘A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships’

An electric and creative album for the internet age.

Autumn Miller

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The quartet from Manchester has made a dramatic shift from the rock genre to pop — and everything in between — on their third album A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, released late last month.

Almost the entire album was written and produced by frontman Matty Healy and drummer George Daniel. Being their first album solely produced by the band, it is their most creative album yet. They take a deep dive into the internet age and tell a story about what they’ve been doing for the past year.

On previous albums, the songs all seemed to flow together and have a similar sound. Putting A Brief Inquiry on shuffle or listening to it from start to finish will send you through a whirlwind of emotions, while hearing many different types of music, all within the distinct 1975 sound.

The only proper way to review this album is to completely dissect it, track-by-track.

1. “The 1975″ – The band continues to tell their story as The 1975, this track is featured on all three albums with the same lyrics, just a different sound each time. It gives a sneak peek into the rest of the album. They use piano and Matty’s heavily auto-tuned voice as an instrument, a theme carried throughout the album.

2. “Give Yourself A Try” – The first single released after band’s yearlong break from music. This is where I noticed they were making a change. The intense electric guitar is a slight tribute to the band’s rock era, but also an introduction to this new electro-pop era. Matty has never been one to conform himself or his music to societal standards. “Give Yourself A Try” is about pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and being comfortable with who you are — a true coming of age track —definitely a song I need going into my 20s.

3. “TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME” – The pop song none of us asked for – but the one we all need. If Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century liked The 1975, this would be her favorite track. The auto-tune on Matty’s voice and extraneous sounds on give off alien vibes. This is the most fun and energetic track on the album and is something the band needed to produce: every boyband needs a peppy pop song.

4. “How To Draw / Petrichor” – If there’s one thing The 1975 always does right it’s instrumentals. This track starts out like the opening credits for a children’s movie, a tiny toy piano, and fluttering music. About halfway through, the beat completely changes into the second part of the song. You would hear it in a 90’s arcade game, glitchy and electric, almost overstimulating. Auto-tune is one of the main instruments on this track, Matty’s voice is unrecognizable — something that would be insane to see performed live.

5. “Love It If We Made It” – This track is a social statement without being extremely opinionated. Everything Matty says comes from newspaper headlines, as he discusses with Pitchfork. The lyrics “Modernity has failed us” appear many times in this song and on The 1975’s social media, going along with the exploration of the internet age. It’s a reflection of the things we care about, what our current world looks like, and the harsh reality of it.

6. “Be My Mistake” – One of the more vulnerable tracks on the album, Matty is alone with a guitar and piano that’s off balance but it still somehow works. It’s the first track on the album where Matty’s self-proclaimed “Emo Lord” persona really takes over. It’s very singer-songwriter — think John Mayer or Ed Sheeran. It’s a track I have been wanting to hear the band make for a while.

7. “Sincerity Is Scary“- This track needs to be featured in a rom-com. The snappy drums and trumpet played by the late Roy Hargrove turn this into a feel-good romp. In the chorus, there are gospel singers. Church-like music was also featured on I Like It When You Sleep for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It, the band’s sophomore album. Matty revealed to Genius that he is less of an Atheist than he was in the past. It feels like the gospel music here may be related to his newfound openness for religion.

8. “I Like America & America Likes Me” – Matty’s heavily auto-tuned voice makes a return on this tribute to SoundCloud Rap. The title is a good reflection of the song, a lot of popular music in America right now has heavy beats and EDM influences. This track would be a perfect one to play at an American music festival. One of the standout lyrics from the album, “kids don’t want rifles / they want supreme” is very accurate for America at the moment.

9. “The Man Who Married A Robot / Love Theme” – This spoken word track, portrayed by a male Siri voice, is the most interesting one on the record. Resonating with the online generation — we’re all married to the internet. The second part of the song is another pretty instrumental, this time featuring a piano, string and wind instruments, making it a subtle ending to a very weird experiment.

10. “Inside Your Mind” – Matty said on Twitter that the guitar solo was done by him instead of usual guitarist, Adam Hann. The combination of the sharp guitar, string instruments, piano, and Matty’s deep and warm voice, would make this track perfect for a ’90s musical. The connection between love and violence brings out more Emo Lord vibes, also featured in “Antichrist” from the band’s debut album. Isn’t a 1975 love song without a little bit of gore involved.

11. “Its Not Living (If Its Not With You)”  – When I first heard this song, I assumed it was a love song and Matty was referring to a girl. It wasn’t until I read Matty’s interview with The Guardian that I found out it this was “the big heroin one.” Matty went to rehab in Barbados after struggling with a heroin addiction for five years. This is the addiction track the music industry needed. Matty is able to celebrate his recovery with this upbeat dance track.

12. “Surrounded By Heads And Bodies” – This title has to be my favorite from the album, Matty told Pitchfork that it comes from the opening pages of Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, a book that Matty read while in rehab. Another vulnerable and touching song about his struggle with addiction, you can feel his pain in his melancholic voice. Besides bass from Ross Macdonald, Matty plays everything else.

13. “Mine” – Finally! Some jazz from the band! This song makes me feel like I’m in a smooth jazz club and I should be wearing a 1920’s flapper dress. Their creativity comes to the fore on this track and really branches outside of the normal 1975 sound by creating a jazz standard that features everything from piano to cello to flute.

14. “I Couldn’t Be More In Love” – The 1975 don’t claim a single identity: they aren’t a rock band or a pop band, but this song is pure 2000’s boyband. Matty showcases his vocal skills, singing in a powerful falsetto. The gospel singers make another appearance, and make the song even more compelling. The Backstreet Boys would be proud to have made this one.

15. “I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)” – The first time I heard the guitar intro to this track I had to make sure Taylor Swift hadn’t accidentally come on. When the chorus meets the punching drums, screaming electric guitar and the words “I always wanna die sometimes,” it sounds very Green Day, but way more emo. The string instruments at the end of the track give the album a very cinematic ending that’s eerily creepy. The notes at the end seem like the beginning of a song, not the end. This may come into play on their upcoming album Notes On A Conditional Form due to be released in May 2019.

Matty turns into an open book on this album, opening up about religion, addiction, rehab, his relationship with the internet, and our current society.

Thank you Matty, very cool!

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.

Autumn Miller is a junior at the University of Kentucky majoring in Communications with a double minor in Business and Digital Media & Design. She has a love for alternative and pop music, especially The 1975. She is currently working at Texas Roadhouse in Lexington but after college, she plans to get a job in Public Relations. She enjoys stupid humor, being with her friends, and spending way too much time online.

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