The 1975: A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships
By Zoe Huettl
On their third studio album, the 1975 tackle modernity and technology in a winding, intense 15 tracks. Singles “TOOTIME” and “Give Yourself a Try” leaned towards the true pop edge of their sound and, as they racked up more an more listens on Spotify, gave the band more mainstream support before the album’s official release. They’ve always straddled the edge of the alternative and mainstream scenes, and these singles proved to be more divisive than the album as a whole. Their earworm-style guitar runs took away from the lyrics that seemed to be grasping for something deeper, especially after the album title was released.
The album does succeed in creating mindful, fun pop. “Love it if We Made it” and “Sincerity is Scary” are two great examples of how the intersection of their style and chosen themes can make for thoughtful songs that are still enjoyable and well-produced. However, they do turn slightly cringey on “The Man Who Married a Robot/Love Theme.” The issue is not turning from traditional lyrics to spoken word, which can be done well in most genres (notably by Beyonce in Lemonade and Blood Orange throughout Negro Swan) but the way the song attempts to discuss a complicated issue. Neither grounded nor fully abstract, the song tries to understand how deeply entrenched lonely people can become in the internet. It’s an interesting idea, and even the title sounds promising, but the lack of subtlety throughout the story and the psuedo-deep conclusion it makes about how society is too phone dependent is a very easy target. There are so many cool ways this song could have gone, but very little risk was taken in terms of content.
As a whole, the album is a little scattered. It crosses acoustic and full rock-band instrumentation, it has love songs, spoken word, and more pop-style jams. The more frenetic guitar runs “Give Yourself a Try” and “TOOTIME,” give way to “Mine” a slower, jazzier song. Sax has always been a part of their sound, and letting that spread into the drum part is an interesting move that makes “Mine” a more organic, lighter song. “Be My Mistake” is another deep breath where the band explores how guilt and need twist within a causal relationship. It’s a somber, beautiful meditation on the way actions and words can be disparate, and it’s the album at its most introspective.
Depending on how you listen, you may or may not have access to a bonus track,“102.” First performed acoustically in 2013 as a solo piece for Healey, the track is an interesting choice for this record. It’s a showcase of just how classic their songwriting can be, and the 2013 version can still currently be found on Youtube, along with a studio version from 2016.
As much as they’ve changed some aspects of their sound, they still chose to incorporate their usual instrumental songs and outros. By maintaining their signature instrumentation, the 1975 signals something that A Brief Inquiry illustrates well: as much as the band is exploring and changing, they are still holding true to their blend of alternative themes and pop.