The 1975’s third studio album “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships” is a near hour-long meditation on a world dominated by technology and its consequences. Released Nov. 30, it’s the band’s most thoughtful album.
The 15-track album takes listeners through an arc from navigating relationships and identity in a digital age to reliance on the internet in a troubled society and longing for genuine connections again. The British band is labeled as a pop rock band, but its music runs the gamut from alternative to electronic to jazz.
Similar to its previous two studio albums, the opening track is called “The 1975” and carries the same lyrics with a new mood. The original version was dark and dramatic, and the second one was more dynamic as the band experimented with new sounds. The third rendition features a gentle piano tune that’s interrupted by flashes of electronic lyrics which quickly take over and set the tone for the rest of the album.
The opening tracks deal with how society navigates the digital landscape. “Give Yourself a Try” encourages people to remain authentic, and “TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME” examines online dating and the anxieties it brings.
“How to Draw/Petrichor” is an updated version of a bonus track on The 1975’s second album. It’s a thoughtful, mostly instrumental track, and its title might have listeners reaching for a dictionary.
“Petrichor” is a word used to describe the fresh smell after a long rain, and the song matches that refreshed feeling. The first part of the song, “How to Draw” opens with a heavenly, lingering sound and a gentle electronic chant overlay. The track transitions into an electronic shuffling and didactic, stream of consciousness lyrics.
This electronic dreamscape is followed by what’s arguably the most jarring track on the album.
“Love It If We Made It” is visceral — sounding like a darker version of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” The lyrics hit multiple political and cultural points with lead singer Matty Healy’s wrenching vocals and a strong pulse keeping the song moving forward.
This song doesn’t sugarcoat anything. Its opening lines tackle the opioid crisis and political rhetoric and goes on to reference several fraught topics. Lyrics such as “a beach of drowning three-year-olds” and “I moved on her like a bitch” are among the more explicit lines hitting on the Syrian refugee crisis and quoting President Donald Trump, respectively.
“I Like America & America Likes Me” has a similar contemplative tone as “Love It If We Made It,” with the lyrics referencing issues about mass shootings and gun control. Healy’s mumble-rap works for this track as he sounds exhausted and fed up.
“I Like America & America Likes Me” was named for a work of the same name by performance artist Joseph Beuys, according to Billboard. In the performance piece, Beuys spent three days in solitude with a wild coyote, and the two eventually make peace with each other — a metaphor about peace and civility which could now be imposed on American society.
The next track digs into the root of modernity and its problems.
“The Man Who Married A Robot/Love Theme” is a spoken word piece narrating the story of a lonely man and his love affair with the internet. The internet is the man’s best friend. The internet “would always, always agree with him.” The internet told the man, “You can tell me anything. I’m your best friend. Anything you say to me will stay strictly between you and the internet.”
The narration sounds rushed and robotic, similar to an artificial intelligence software. However, this doesn’t gloss over the problematic aspects of the man’s relationship with the internet — the emotionless narration is profoundly sad. The spoken part ends with the man dying followed by a lush instrumental fit for an intense romance. “The Man Who Married Robot/Love Theme” marks a shift in the album, and the remaining tracks are slower, stripped down and personal.
“It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)” and “Surrounded by Heads and Bodies” confronts Healy’s past with addiction, and Healy’s voice croons in “I Couldn’t Be More in Love,” a melancholic ballad about the pain of being ignored. “Mine” stands apart from the rest of the album as a gentle jazz track.
The 1975 has pushed genre boundaries with “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships,” and its thought-provoking content will have listeners thinking about their own relationship with modernity.
“A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships” is available on streaming platforms including Spotify and Apple Music.