The 1975 first broke onto the music scene in 2013 with their self-titled debut album. Their first big single, “Chocolate”, was a quirky, catchy, and sometimes hard to understand pop smash. Along withs songs like “Sex”, “Robbers”, and “Girls”, the band quickly asserted their pop promise, again, even amidst their sometimes inaudible accent. Their second full-length effort, I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It, was truly ahead of its time. Songs like “Love Me”, “She’s American”, and “Somebody Else” flexed their infectious pop muscle. But they paired perfectly with deeply seductive and introspective tracks like “The Ballad of Me And My Brain”, “A Change of Heart”, and ‘Paris” to produce a nearly complete album, one that took huge leaps not only in-terms of soundscape, but also in the raw emotions found in the lyrics.
Now, after gaining worldwide fame and frontman Matty Healy leaving the allure of the rockstar life behind in rehab thanks to equine therapy, we have their third record, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships. This is their sharpest and least-bloated album to date, including some of their most addictive songs as well as a heavy dose of synthetic sounds and autotune vocals that make this one of those great ‘late night drive’ records. But it also provides one of the most genuine accounts of getting tangled up and strangled in the age of the internet while trying to stay hopeful in a world that is constantly trying to drag us down.
Over these last few years The 1975 have painted themselves as the new emo-pop underdogs, a title that many of us would be quick to misinterpret. For The 1975, this simply means being open and honest with all the feelings and emotions that come with being young and confused, rather than simply shying away from the uncomfortable moments in life that many of us have been conditioned to subdue.
The 1975 is making it cool to feel your feelings again.
On the surface the album’s title initially brings to mind relationships with other people that have been, at least in-part, fueled by our immersion in online services. But it also reflects the way that our minds now view the world in the age of both FOMO (fear of missing out) and falling for someone or something just to show off to our Instagram followers. Whether it’s a romantic flame that was ignited by Tinder, a new obsession to prove to everyone that you can fit in with the cool kids and their self-destructive tendencies, or a relationship that fell apart because of something that happened in the digital landscape we inhabit today, this album addresses it all with beautifully brutal honesty.
“TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME” perfectly illustrates the sometime uncontrollable rush that you get when a new relationship begins; An urgency to do anything and everything as soon as possible which often leads to that flame burning out too soon. Its apologetic, but honest, and again highlights a feeling that we have all experienced. “Sincerity is Scary” begs the question of whether or not you can be friends with your ex after a relationship expires. Can you? The 1975 certainly hopes so, a concession that ultimately allows you to move on to the next profile picture that catches your eye.
“Love It If We Made It” illustrates a relationship that began as nothing more than a spark behind a keyboard. And somehow, even though you may not know much about the other person, something inside of you is fighting to make it work. It makes you believe in both the power and naivety of blind attraction that we are all somehow accustomed to, leaving it up to us to say how hard we’ll fall for someone we barely know.
The album continues by diving into the deeper feelings that aren’t easily justified to anyone outside of the seemingly cosmic event you are experiencing with someone else. “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)” at once brings to a boil every feeling and emotion that you may have when embarking on a new relationship, celebrating the chance that things may finally be different, once and for all. But, in painfully honest 1975 fashion, follows “Mine”, which confronts the fact that many people are terrified of the word commitment – all while confessing to this paradox of wanting someone to be yours unconditionally without allowing yourself to fully collapse into them on anything more than a physical level. Think about how easy it is to meet new people in our day and age. Remember when I mentioned FOMO? Or perhaps it should be FOSB (fear of something better) that is keeping you from committing. There is always a new distraction begging for our attention.
“Be My Mistake” is the only stripped down track on the album, and it’s one of the best. This is the conversation you don’t want to have about not quite being over something from your past. A moment that comes when we look for anyone or anything else in order to get us by, which inevitably leaves us feeling just as empty as we did before. This feels like a track Healy may have written alone in his room at rehab earlier this year, a haunting portrayal of desperation to not feel so alone in the world.
But the album doesn’t limit itself to simply discussing relationships with other people that we develop thanks to naivety and an idea of what a relationship is supposed to be. It also jumps headfirst into the relationships that we have with ourselves, again thanks to the online integration in all of our lives.
You probably won’t blast “The Man Who Married a Robot / Love Theme” while driving with the windows down, but it is the stitching that holds the message of the album together. It tells the tale that many of us know, one of someone finding solace and friendship in the digital world without ever having to leave their bedroom. A parable of a man who finds satisfaction living his entire life online, all coming to the inevitable realization that, in death, none of that matters at all.
“I Like America & America Likes Me” is part satire and part startling realization of the toll that being young in the modern world can take on you. It deals with drugs, politics, and the image that so many of us covet. It’s a haunting track that ends with a screaming reprise of “Would you please listen?/ Would you please listen?” as if Matty and the Boys are trapped in the chaos of youth. They’re not alone.
And that’s is why this album is so good. In the past, albums like Lorde’s Melodrama and recently Troye Sivan’s Bloom, as well as Khalid’s debut album American Teen have all brought to light what it is like growing up in the modern world. And what ABIIOR does so well is further build on the raw, gritty, and hard-to-understand experience that is simply growing up.
It makes you believe in the beauty of being young and clueless in a world that commands you to know all of the answers before you’ve even heard the question.
It is an album full of hopes and dreams, and the realization that in a world full of more opportunity than ever, it is easy to feel more alone and excluded than ever, as well. This brings to mind the lyric, “Modernity has failed us.” This is a full-blown meditation on the fact that this is just how the world works now – whether we like it or not. But that begs the question: Have we failed it? And if so, how the hell do we fix it? That is an answer, unfortunately, that I alone do not have.
This record makes you realize that sometimes, no matter what we do and regardless of any reality distortion field we may live in, there are just somethings that aren’t meant to work out. That sometimes the hardest pill to swallow is the one that tells us that’s just how the world is as it’s cutting our throats on the way down. Why? Who the hell knows. I certainly don’t, I wish I did. But no matter what, regardless of the inevitabilities, we have no choice other than to embrace everything as it comes to us for as long as we have it. I’m tempted to mention my personal mantra, that everything happens for a reason, but I’ll leave that one up to you.
It is a personal, complex album full of raw unfiltered emotions with the array of sounds that made their first two records so great, while also jumping into new sonic territory for the band. At times it is deceptively bright, offering a high that you don’t want to come down from. Perhaps reminiscent of a high some of us have used to escape our lives in the past. But regardless, it makes you want to walk straight up to the person you haven’t been able to get out of your head and pull them straight into the controlled chaos that is modern romance.
But at other times it is sincerely startling, making you think to yourself, “Oh, I’ve felt that way too. How do they know that?” It will make you question just how much time you want to spend online, and how much you share while you’re there. It will leave you asking yourself if the world we are living in is one that you want to be apart. And if it’s not, the record strives to find a solution, or at least an alternative.
This isn’t an album just ahead of its time; It’s an album at the forefront of modern culture, a record so relevant that anyone can pick it up and instantly connect to the music on some level. It’s the reality of our times, an antidote to the fantasy worlds so many of us live in today. It’s an album for anyone who doesn’t have the slightest clue as to who they want to be or where they want to go in this world. And because of that, to the delight of Matty Healy himself, it can make us all feel a little less alone.