Arts and Entertainment

The 1975 Figure Out the Internet

The 1975 are back with another massive concept album, merging multiple genres in to a gigantic hour-long, danceable thinkpiece on the virtual world.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

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By Adrianna Peng

“I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)”; “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)”; “I Like America & America Likes Me”; “How To Draw / Petrichor”—What could these possibly be but blockbusters by The 1975, everyone’s favorite Indie pop band which can and do anything they want? Dealing with suicide, heroin addiction, gun violence in schools, and who knows what, these songs are just a brief sample of the amazing and beautiful chaos of The 1975’s new album, “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships” (ABIIOR). Their charismatic and somewhat rash frontman and resident musical genius Matty Healy is seen as an almost Jesus-like figure to many fans, and for good reason. With this album, Healy’s written a masterwork that touches, or tries to touch, upon almost every topic relevant to modern society. He honestly reflects his own struggle with drugs, making a song largely of tabloid headlines (“Love It If We Made It”) and even one about internet addiction narrated by Siri himself—all in under an hour. Drummer George Daniel programmed or played all the album’s drums, giving it a crisp and bouncy feel. He gets his real moment to shine on the “Petrichor” half of “How To Draw / Petrichor” with a British Jungle/Garage-inspired glitchy dance track, reflecting what 2019’s follow-up album should bring. The remaining members of the band are Adam Hann and Ross McDonald. They are the lead guitarist and bassist who don’t seem to do much in the way of creativity, but play their instruments well.

Despite dipping into at least seven styles of music, ABIIOR feels like a really cohesive whole, swapping various musical genres and styles as fast as Healy changes hairstyles in a kind of 15-track hodgepodge that actually works. The themes of trying to survive in the modern world form the ethos of the album. The 1975 have a well-developed consciousness on how to construct songs that work. They started experimenting with a mix of atmospheric, pulsing synths and vocals that have been processed into instruments on their self-titled debut (2013), and they continued to perfect it on their sophomore record “I Like When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It” (2016). They carry on with it in this album. On tracks like “Love It If We Made It” and “TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME” they use the vocal bits as an accent to the main melody, as opposed to the equal mix of the two on “Sleep” or the awkward experimentation of their debut. While this is definitely something every pop producer from here to Indonesia is trying, Healy does it in a way that sounds genuinely fresh and manages to make it work with many different types of music (even jazz). The single “Give Yourself A Try” brings back some of the shoegaze fog from their earlier, more unique sound that they largely left behind to fit into the pop genre. “I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)” takes on a late ‘90s/early ‘00s sound strongly reminiscent of Coldplay, Blur, or Oasis, mixing in strong guitar, powerful drums, and contrasting strings. For a musician who’s claimed he’s “not into your modern singer-songwriter dude,” quite a lot of the songs are either acoustic or based around an acoustic guitar, reflecting the humble origins of most songs by The 1975 as drunk takes from Matty Healy’s bedroom.

Lyrically, “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships” is true to its name, focusing on issues relevant in today’s plugged-in society. The lyrics “I'm sure that you're gonna say that I was sexist” and “You try and mask your pain in the most postmodern way” from the track “Sincerity Is Scary” describe almost every conversation on the internet. The line “Instead of calling me out, you should be pulling me in” actually does something most social commentary songs don’t: attempting to propose a solution. Epiphanies like the well-placed lines "I moved on her like a b*tch!" (courtesy of our President) from “Love It If We Made It” and “Kids don’t want rifles, they want Supreme” from “I Like America & America Likes Me” mirror the high level of insight and social intelligence The 1975 are capable of.

While Healy does reference his addiction to heroin in multiple tracks, he doesn’t directly talk about the pain of the recovery process nor the larger issue around it, failing to mention the world epidemic of painkiller addiction. He talks about his own struggles with suicide, but doesn’t acknowledge anyone else’s pain or the other recent deaths of pop culture icons by suicide (except for the stray line about Lil Peep). Healy doesn’t try to relate his own experiences to others and speaks half-empty lines about trying and going outside as his sole suicide prevention message to his Internet-centric, largely younger fanbase. Artists should try to relate their own struggles to their fans, or at least try to talk about them in a way that their fans can relate to or take inspiration from as part of their duty as influential public figures.

The 1975 have a tremendous amount of potential, but occasionally, it feels like they spend too much of it in one place and tire themselves out, leaving some tracks as shells. The acoustic songs do work, but they might work even better over one of the amazing instrumentals The 1975 show time and time again they can make with ease. The idea that they don’t make their message more universal also reflects their waste of potential musical brilliance, and if they tried to hold up every part of their music instead of focusing on only a few unique sounds or important messages, they would become significantly better.