Few bands have had the same tumultuous ascent to superstardom as The 1975. Touring under many different guises for a number of years, when they finally started to gather a healthy amount of recognition from a growing cult fanbase, the music press started to take notice, only to turn their nose up at the Manchester four-piece. By the end of their self-titled debut album campaign though they had managed to expand both their fanbase and amount of critical acclaim to exponential levels, just in time for the release of sophomore record I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it.
This past week, as the release of their third album A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships inches ever closer, publications seem to be dishing out 5 star reviews like they’re going out of fashion. So what’s changed?
There are significantly less stand alone instrumentals on A Brief Inquiry… letting the prolific lyrics often take centre stage, with tales of singer Matty Healy’s darkest moments documented alongside references to some of the current world’s darkest moments too.
The sonic journey is heightened by the slick production from Matty and drummer George Daniel and evidenced from gritty, borderline jarring, Aphex Twin-esque electronics with warped vocals (‘How To Draw/Petrichor’) through to sultry jazz inflected grippers (‘Sincerity Is Scary’ and ‘Mine’) before ending on a cinematic crescendo (‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’).
Here’s our breakdown of A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, track by track.
Every The 1975 album starts with a song called ‘The 1975’. Flaunting a different sonic guise each time, the third reimagining of this track is an apt introduction to the sound strands that weave together to make ABIIOR. Smooth flowing pianos sit underneath Matty’s auto-tuned vocals which glide straight into ‘Give Yourself A Try’.
‘Give Yourself A Try’
Back in May this was the first taste of anything new from quartet since the release of their Sade cover ‘By Your Side’ in early 2017. It was, predictably, met with mass hysteria from fans and unknowingly was the first hint of this glitchy, electronic sound that has come to fruition on a fair few tracks on this record. In the lyrics it references everything from their fans (“Jane took her own life at 16, she was a kid who had the box tattooed on her arm”) to the knock on effects of fame (“you’ll make a lot of money, and it's funny 'cause you'll move somewhere sunny and get addicted to drugs”), and it’s the band at their colloquial best.
Laid out upon an almost tropical soundscape, lines like, “She said that I, I should have liked it, I told her ‘I only use it sometimes’” seemingly refer to an Instagram generation, where friendships are determined by who’s liked your latest pre-night out mirror selfie rather than anything substantial or tangible IRL. The track was co-written with Guendoline Rome Viray Gomez, perhaps better known to you and I as No Rome. The collaboration with their Dirty Hit label mate channels the opaque buoyancy at the forefront of Gomez’s current discography and reinforces that same creative thread that loosely stitches all of the label’s artists together.
‘How To Draw/Petrichor’
It really feels like ‘How To Draw/Petrichor’ has a life of it’s own. If you listen carefully you can hear it inhaling and exhaling. Just shy of six minutes, delicate embers of sound inform the first half. It’s a transcendent and ethereal mixture of noises almost reminiscent of a child’s soothing nursery toy before a sonic metamorphosis exaggerates the fuzzy electronics the band have already experimented with alongside some spiky ska and garage inflects thrown in for good measure. It pushes and pulls you but ultimately immerses you into the dynamic production from Matty and George.
‘Love It If We Made It’
If the opening lyric “we’re fucking in a car, shooting heroin, saying controversial things just for the hell of it,” doesn’t make you sit up and listen from the get go, the the sheer sonic powerhouse that this song transforms into sure will. Glitchy games console-like sound bites appear subtly, engulfed by effervescent synths, and there’s an added decadence with the inclusion of the London Community Gospel Choir on backing vocals when it gets to the chorus.
‘Be My Mistake’
On ‘Be My Mistake’, a predominantly acoustic number (apart from the distant echoes of a piano) Healy has never made infidelity sound so heart-wrenching. The delicate vocal delivery exposes his vulnerability, but that’s called into question when he sings uncharacteristically timid, “I shouldn’t have called ‘cause we shouldn’t speak, you do make me hard but she makes me weak.”
‘Sincerity Is Scary’
As heavy wafts of percussion ease into the introduction of ‘Sincerity Is Scary’, the jazz tones that follow instantly transport you to another setting entirely. It makes you feel like you should be sat on the rooftop of a New York apartment, with a cigarette in one hand and an expensive glass of red wine in the other, gazing at the skyline. It’s smooth, it’s sultry, it’s so The 1975.
‘I Like America & America Likes Me’
“I’m scared of dying” professes a heavily autotuned Matty in the opening line of ‘I Like America & America Likes Me’. Commanding a hip hop beat entwined with twinkling electronic elements, the singer continues to exercise his well informed perspective on world politics while harnessing the fizzing, atmospheric synths which made regular appearances on the band’s early EPs.
‘The Man Who Married A Robot/Love Theme’
The most stark nod to web relationships on ABIIOR, this ode to online is both endearing and harrowing in equal measures. Once the novelty of having a song completely delivered by Siri has worn off, the dark undertones embedded into the lyrics reveal themselves more prominently. It tells the tale of Snowflakesmasher86 and how dependent on their relationship with the internet they are. After his untimely demise Siri tells us he passed away, “in his lonely house on the lonely street in the lonely part of the world. You can go on his Facebook.” It’s an extreme but not entirely unfathomable account. See you in the YouTube comments in the sky, Snowflakesmasher86?
‘Inside Your Mind’
From the bold piano introduction of ‘Inside Your Mind’, you’re not quite sure whether the track is going to lollop into an anthem similar to Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin’’. But of course we should know by now not to predict The 1975’s trajectory. Instead it settles into a slow burning and placid gripper as Matty echoes, “the back of your head is at the front of my mind, soon I’ll crack it open just to see what’s inside.”
‘It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You’)’
It would be easy to say this track is a welcome return to quintessential The 1975 guitars, but how can anything this band do be quintessential when they are constantly ripping up the rule book and exercising innovation? I guess what I’m trying to say is this is a very good pop song that harnesses plenty of euphoric moments that wouldn’t sound out of place alongside ‘Girls’ or ‘The Sound’ in their live show. Although effectively a love letter to substance abuse, it’s not romanticised, it’s honest, raw and reflective and that sentiment is juxtaposed by being the most uplifting ‘pop’ moment on the record.
‘Surrounded By Heads And Bodies’
‘Surrounded By Heads And Bodies’ is another acoustic number. The back to basics, stripped down production evidences the quartet can nail anything they turn their hand to, even making a classic formula sound innovative, and it’s a stark juxtaposition straight after the dizzying highs of ‘It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)’.
If ‘Sincerity Is Scary’ is the NYC night time vibe, then ‘Mine’ is most certainly the morning after. Those satiable jazz inflects work their way back onto the record, and you never, ever want them to leave. The laidback musicality also allows lyrics like, “I fight crime online sometimes and write rhymes I hide behind," to shine.
‘I Couldn’t Be More In Love’
Perhaps the best way to describe this track would be timeless. From the charming lines, “at the best of times I’m lonely in my mind, but I can find something to show you if you’ve got the time,” to the silky and sensual instrumental elements, including a lingering guitar solo, it sounds like it could have been released today or 20 years ago.
‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’
A cinematic climax, this song is the prefect crescendo and summary of life in 2018 - a truly online age. The chorus witnesses a strong falsetto from Matty as the guitars ascend to epic proportions and the themes of isolation and loneliness the have been prevalent throughout the record reach their peak (“you know you’re not the same as them”). The dramatic strings that fill ABIIOR’s final notes linger long after the record has finished, leaving an ever-lasting mark after a breathtaking 58 minutes and 26 seconds.