Conversations these days embrace a plethora of expressions popularized in 2018, from encouraging others to “go off” to calling a good friend “fam.” But another buzzword to look out for, usually in a warier sense, is “oversharing.” More specifically, searching for the word will pull up countless articles on how to stop oversharing. The 1975 challenge those naysayers with A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships. The newest LP from the Manchester group dives headfirst into inner millennial monologue, prioritizing authenticity while providing commentary on contemporary conventions.
All three of The 1975’s LPs open with a variation of the same self-titled prologue. The 2013 debut started with a clean indie pop sound that introduced The 1975’s free-spirited persona, while 2016’s sophomore LP dreamed up ’80s synthscapes tinged with gospel influences. The new album features the use of a vocoder juxtaposed with a simple piano section. Together, they sound dissonant and distant, foreshadowing the motif of technology’s effect on human interactions.
A Brief Inquiry continues with lead single “Give Yourself A Try,” putting guitar distortions a la Joy Division to an infectious beat. It talks about learning to navigate societal pressures in order to grow into your own person, as frontman Matty Healy puts his own battles with drug addiction and social media connectedness on full display.
“’Cause you’ll move somewhere sunny and get addicted to drugs/ And spend obscene amounts on fucking seeds and beans online/ So just give yourself a try.”
This symbiotic relationship between sardonic anecdotes and social commentary lives on throughout the album. The rhythmically feel-good “TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME” and unplugged tearjerker “Be My Mistake” deal with dating struggles in the digital age. The narrative on technological dependence continues with a sonic shift in “How to Draw/Petrichor” and “The Man Who Married a Robot/Love Theme.” Both observe technology’s isolating effects while layering computerized vocals over glitchy glimmers. The ambient style is identical to that of electronic artist Baths—namely, on “Lovesick Synthetic.” And while this sound is not unique to The 1975, its thoughtful use incarnates loneliness and brings A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships to new levels of poignancy.
Then there’s “Love It If We Made It.” On the surface, it sounds like an ode to lasting romance, but its lyrics reveal a wealth of quippy pop culture and political references. It’s a wired anthem for humanity most succinctly summed up by its own lyrics: “Modernity has failed us/ And I’d love it if we made it.” “Sincerity Is Scary” brings some soul into the post-modern discussion, while “I Like America & America Likes Me” channels Soundcloud rap to express fears and the need for action surrounding gun violence.
The 1975 saves the bulk of its heavy-heartedness and heavy introspection for A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships’ wind-down. Sunken piano keys and fuzzy guitar riffs make “Inside Your Mind” a somber ballad about wishing to bridge distanced lovers. “Mine” and “I Couldn’t Be More In Love” are equally heartfelt and explore elements of jazz and R&B, respectively. Matty Healy also opens up about his heroin addiction and time in rehab on “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)” and “Surrounded By Heads and Bodies.”
At 15 songs, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships closes with “I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes).” Its melody builds into a grandiose soundscape, though its lyrics dig into the depths of self-sabotage. It’s the culmination of the album’s self-deprecative words of wisdom, as much as it is a reflection of utterly prevalent thoughts. Oversharing or not, The 1975 tunes into its internal dialogue and looks outward all at once, filling in the seemingly isolating moments of these volatile times.