The 1975, ‘A brief inquiry into online relationships’- album review.
By Mollie Campbell.
An accurate reflection of modern society and culture perfectly packaged within an album that provides an appropriate equilibrium between insight and inspiration.
Genre: Synth-pop, Indie-pop, Alternative.
You will like this if you are a fan of: The Talking Heads, M83.
Highlights: Give Yourself a Try, TooTimeTooTimeTooTime, It’s Not Living (If It’s Not with You).
Originating in Manchester in 2002, The 1975 have come a long way since their self-titled debut album released in 2013, they have even managed to enhance their musical capabilities since their breakthrough album ‘I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It’, released in 2016. ‘A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships’ sticks to the successful song- writing formula the band have acquired, yet it is given space to breathe and sets itself free from the entrapment of a cliché, introducing new concepts and meanings throughout, and establishing itself as a personal yet extensive portrait of life in 2018.
It begins with an accustomed intro of ‘The 1975’ meeting us on the cusp of our venture into the band’s third studio album, a minute and a half musical prologue designed to gently introduce the audience to a greater concept that goes far beyond the music they are about to hear. Opening with a haunting vocal rawness, you can feel a sense of emptiness in the room unequivocal of the ironic loneliness of a world with the internet at its centre. This is suddenly filled with overwhelming synth sounds, perhaps commenting on the constant confliction between two ends of the same spectrum, or just an attempt at intertwining the old in with the new… a classic trait of the band. The lyrics within the band’s single ‘Give Yourself a Try’ seems to encapsulate modern life and the trouble that comes with learning and developing in a digital setting. Healy’s provocative and raw vocals immediately seek out and capture the listener’s attention, the honest concept simply leaves them with no choice but to listen.
A highlight of the album, TooTimeTooTimeTooTime provides a glimpse into modern love, confirming how much the contexts of relationships have changed in correspondence with social media. It attempts to analyse, or comment upon the current relationship climate or structure, implying that the internet gives more opportunities to ‘two-time’, whilst justifying this nature as normal and socially acceptable. The piano at the start of ‘How to Draw/Petrichor’ is mesmerising and for good reason, by making the intro almost a minute and a half long, it is keeping us at bay…leaving us on the cusp of greatness in terms of what is to follow, testing the patience of the fast moving music culture in 2018. When we eventually get there, we are treated to a monotonous yet important 3 and half minutes, the vision of this song is what gives it its eccentricity, the attempt at singing the same four lyrics whilst incorporating popular sounds results in a satisfying listen mentally, but maybe not in terms of musical variation, despite the experimentation in sounds. Certainly not a single but the message is received, it clings onto the idea that love is even more of a difficult subject to define in this modern internet-ridden world than ever before, questioning if any of these relationships will last due to the instant gratification and then throw away aspect of internet dating, undoubtedly projecting a sense of loneliness that is more prominent now than ever before.
‘Love It If We Made It’ is a representation of what modern societal expectations are doing to our generation, the lyric ‘modernity has failed us’ is a standout moment…if you are going to retain any of the concepts from this album, let this be one of them, it resonates profoundly. It also gives a representation of the somewhat laid back and nonchalant attitude of such important things, almost an oxymoron: ‘ I’d love it if/ we made it’.’ Be My Mistake’ is reminiscent of an Eagles classic combined with the necessary shades of a modern anthem, the gentle guitar and raw vocals guides the listener into a place of profound thought whilst still retaining that tender emotion of a love song. It is a solitary reflection upon the singer’s mistakes in love, almost as if it is a burden to even try at all. Instead he needs to get drunk in order for his lover to be a mistake as opposed to connecting on an emotional level. This, along with ‘Sincerity Is Scary’, is a daring attempt to dictate the conflicting feelings between lust and love, and empty relationships in this post-modern world.
When we reach ‘I Like America & America Likes Me’, the focus of this album really starts to emerge, overtly yet somewhat surreptitiously. This is a clear attempt to gain an insight into modern America, its divisions and the problems that come with it. Gun violence is probably a big influence here with the opening line being ‘I’m scared to die’ yet the title implies that his relationship with America isn’t as black and white as that, he still loves the idea of it and it is both rewarding yet devastating living within the centre of such conflict. The lyric ‘no gun required’ alludes to the fact that we are all scared of dying, so why add a gun to the equation? An interesting aspect of the continuity of this album is the fragmentation in which the music is presented to us, mirroring the somewhat fractured element of the modern societal no man’s land in which we find ourselves trapped in.
‘The Man Who Married a Robot/Love Theme’ is the lowest point of the album musically, but taking the time to listen to the concept is rewarding, it seems to embody the idea’s presented to us in the science fiction show ‘Black Mirror’ but within the realm of music. By using a ‘robotic’ voice, it adds authenticity to a very important idea, the concept of the Internet/Social media being a villain, simply lurking behind the mask of a friend. The music in the background is comparable to a lullaby, and serves as an oxymoron, representing the child like naivety of how we as a society use the internet. The powerful keys and distorted guitar acts as a buffer between concepts, a palette cleanser for the ears. ‘It’s Not Living (If It’s Not with You)’ opens with a catchy and vibrant high-pitched riff, designed in the laboratory that is the 1975’s studio, a concoction of contradictory sounds. This song is a refresher course in terms of the band’s distinguished sound, with verses acting as Stanza’s and Healy’s narrative taking on the role of a tortured poet. Easily a highlight of the whole album, the acoustic guitar in the next track ‘Surrounded by Heads and Bodies’ strips away the confident voice of the narrator, leaving us with the honesty of a soul that has been exposed, this is very laid-back and an almost Elliot Smith style moment for the band, with a superior element of production value.
‘Mine’ reminds us that we are nearing the end of this contemporary voyage, bringing us back down to earth, where stereotypes of what we ‘should’ be doing with our lives comes back into play. The Piano is poignant and the Saxophone reminiscent of the history and society that precedes us, one that is still relevant, regardless of where technology has taken us. The singer reflects upon life in 2009 and the societal pressures that have been thrust upon him, something that he wants to escape. The penultimate track, ‘I Couldn’t Be More in Love’ refers to this concept of loneliness that undoubtedly haunts us throughout the whole album, a notion that even finds its way into our relationships…even if the feelings are inside of us, they aren’t reciprocated in the way that the partner desires them to be, adding to the idea that relationships are desolate and void of any significant meaning or longevity. This leads us into the final track on the album ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’, it is nostalgic in the most current way possible, an amalgamation of gentle acoustic guitar and the howling tones of an electric, gentle piano weaving its way into the synths and the stone that they are set in, giving a platform for the lyrics to make an impact. The choice to end this album with a somewhat negative concept is daring, it provides us with the tools to really go away and think about modern life, the pros and cons of the internet, the way we disregards lives and mental health, and the lack of sincerity that goes along with modern love.
Whilst it does start to melt into a trend of repetition, this is prevented by the constant reinvention and rejuvenation of the sound, creating a continuous stream of energy and potential for individualistic insight. This album is a handbook for a generation lost in technological fragmentation, a challenge to confront the modern world given to us by a band that continues to rock the boat within a music industry in turmoil, a stalemate of creative progression. It covers such a varied spectrum, touching on loneliness, modern love, regret, hope, fear and death, all within the realm of a pop album which has enabled an innovative leap into their mighty third act. ‘A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships’ juxtaposes greatly when compared to the identity it initially presented itself in, this inquiry is endless and utterly indispensable. This album is an up to date narrative on modern life, and certainly worth the wait.