Is it pure coincidence that Manchester’s The 1975 chose November 30th to release their third full-length, on the day that marks the 36th anniversary for the original release of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’? Probably not. In fact, let me rephrase: it might not be, in the light of Matt Healy’s gigantic ego. All jkoking aside, ‘A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships’, the third full-length released by the Mancunian band via Dirty Hit (Interscope for the American market), comes as a record you’ll love or hate. Most likely, you’ll love it, for it marks a new rebirth for the beloved, often controversial and certainly never trivial, four-piece.
We had left Haley and his band on stage in mid-2017, and the feeling was that something was not quite right. The great reception of ‘I Like It When You Sleep for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It’ had transformed the perception of The 1975: from an emo-pop band from the North to a bunch of proper provocateurs, fronted by a man in his late 20s as unpredictable as fragile. He admitted it, more recently, coming back from the shadows and talking with brutal honesty about a four-year period of heroin addiction, which culminated in a moment when he felt “not alright anymore”. Healy checked into rehab, in Barbados, spending weeks in complete isolation to detox, both physically and mentally, and reach a new point of balance.
The new studio album channels anger, confusion, and a sense of being lost and lonely the frontman put down on the table, fearless and without hesitation. It’s this human, perfectly imperfect, side of the stardom that makes me appreciate The 1975’s new exploration of songwriting. It’s exactly the idea of being honest, through a number of letters of confession, that is most likely going to have the huge impact the artist aims for.
The 1975 play some distracted lo-fi (‘Give Yourself A Try’), become catchier (‘TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME’), then switch to a Bon Iver-esque atmosphere with ‘I Like America & America Likes Me’. In the middle, a bit of everything, from more incisive chapters such as the jazzy ‘Sincerity Is Scary’ to the bipolar electronic of ‘How To Draw / Petrichor’.
The resolution is a blend of influences and sources of inspiration that make difficult our work to try and identify a fil rouge. Yet, the scene opens up to new horizons for the listener, in just under an hour of music and reflections on modern human nature. ‘A Brief Inquiry’ is a delicate punch on the stomach. It’s more impactful than its predecessor, stylistically different from the band’s debut EPs and LP. It won’t match Michael Jackson’s glory, despite the not-so-coincidental date of release, yet it brings a diverse set of feelings, and that’s why I like it. It can be a ray of light in a dull night spent on social media, as well as the depiction of a more introspective moment in front of a mirror.
On a final note and to be clear: this is not a new ‘OK Computer’, nor a response to ‘The Queen Is Dead’ for millennials and Gen-X. The 1975 are not a rock band, and in all honesty, I struggle to simply label them as merely pop. Healy & Co., instead, are the ideal fit for nowadays’ audiences, able to flip the table and – let’s be honest – masters in making catchy songs that, sooner or later, you’ll end up mumbling in the shower or singing along to, with other thousands of souls in a crowded arena.
Dirty Hit | 2018
Tracklist & Stream