The 1975’s ambition leads to a disconnect in ‘A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships’

Kaitlin Wong, A&E Editor

British pop-rock band The 1975 tackle a wide range of genres and ideas in their album, A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships. The group’s individuality and creativity are put on display as they dabble in jazz and tropical pop, however it ultimately misses the mark. At times, The 1975 are too experimental and other times they’re bland and unexciting. The few tracks that find a happy medium between the two extremes are what makes the album passable.

A track where The 1975 are way too ambitious is “The Man Who Married A Robot / Love Theme.” It’s a unique take on how our obsession with the internet negatively impacts us. The track uses Siri to tell the story of a lonely man who’s only friend is the internet while a piano is played dreamily in the background. The track is eye-opening and validates the title of the album, but the use of Siri hinders the track because it’s awkward to listen to. No one is going to jump into the car and feel the need to blast Siri on the speakers. “The Man Who Married A Robot / Love Theme” is The 1975 trying to be weird just for the sake of being weird.

While The 1975 lyrics are always interesting, sometimes they try too hard to be clever, leaving them seeming pretentious. In “I Like America & America Likes Me,” Healy demands, “Would you please listen?” over and over again. It’s The 1975’s attempt to call Americans to action about gun violence, but it comes off as arrogant considering that they’re not from America. Also, the grating autotune vocals doesn’t make the track any easier to hear.

The 1975 also face the problem of being just plain boring. A more stripped-down and raw version of The 1975 is presented in “Be My Mistake,” “Inside Your Mind” and “Surrounded By Heads And Bodies” which is very much needed after all of the unnecessarily quirky tracks. The main problem with these tracks is that the instrumentation is extremely simplified, but they also simplify the vocals, which leads to a very bland sound. Also, except for “Mine,” they all lack a strong melody, leaving listeners wondering when the track is going to end.  

One of the only enjoyable elements about the album is the variety of genres and elements The 1975 employs. In “I Couldn’t Be More In Love,” retro synthesizers create a R&B feel and in “Sincerity Is Scary,” The 1975 creates a jazzy sound with trumpets and strong piano chords. Additionally, in “TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME,” autotune and cheerful beats are used, creating summer vibes. The difference in the tracks lead to a lack of cohesiveness throughout the album, but it’s refreshing to see The 1975 try different genres out instead of using the same formula to try to recreate their past rock hits.    

“It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)” is one of the few tracks that hit the mark on the album. Lead vocalist Matthew Healy sings lightheartedly over bold guitar riffs, “If I knew what you’d do/ Collapse my veins, wearing beautiful shoes.” At a quick listen, one might think that Healy was crooning about a girl he loves in a track that sounds like it’s straight out of a peppy 1980s teenage romcom. However, as the track progresses, it becomes apparent that Healy was writing about his struggle with heroin addiction and his dependency on it. The combination of the joyous instrumentation and the grave lyrics is a frightening one, making the track seem like the calm before the storm. 

Throughout the entire album, The 1975 veers on the edge of being tedious and then swings off in an entirely puzzling direction. It’s draining to listen to, but it’s evident that The 1975 put forth a valiant effort to make meaningful music and avoid being generic. A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships is truly an attempt at creativity, the problem is that most of its tracks become exhausting after only one listen.