thu 30/05/2024

CD: The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships | reviews, news & interviews

CD: The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships

CD: The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships

The ambitious pop-rock outfit return with an album that's interesting, but overlong

As befits an album preceded by lofty claims and vaulting ambition, A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships is long. Very, very long. Last year, Matt Healy stated that the next album The 1975 produced had to be an OK Computer or The Queen Is Dead for our times, and gave journalists up and down the country a convenient strapline in waiting. The truth is that it’s more like their Sandinista!

(The Clash's triple album), by which I mean it’s great in places, but in dire need of editing. 

The band fidget throughout, flitting between musical styles with the kind of abandon that perfectly reflects a world in which all music is available to shuffle through at once, and attention spans are measured in seconds. One could, perhaps, argue that this approach itself provides a kind of conceptual coherence, but I suspect that might be overthinking it. What it makes for is an often thrilling, but occasionally tiresome listen. 

The candy-coloured pop of “TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME” is one such point. Matt Healy’s autotune obsession proves too much and, backed by a gratingly radio-friendly bounce, it sounds like it has been precision made to accompany the sound of barcodes being scanned in Primark. There’s a really nice melody underneath, struggling to be heard through the layers. 

It is followed by “How to Draw/Petrichor”, a gentle, elegiac piece that gives way to skittish beats and lively urgency. Other than the autotuned vocal, the musical through-ball is utterly absent, but this disconnect shouts at us to pay attention and is incredibly successful in doing so. The same is true of “Love It if We Made It”, which has the theatrical bombast of and wide-angle lens feel of '80s pop, albeit peppered with some spectacularly bad word choices. Elsewhere, we veer from delicate, smoky jazz (“Mine”) to near R&B (“Sincerity is Scary”) and a gently funny spoken-word cautionary tale with Siri on guest vocals (“The Man Who Married a Robot”). 

Which is all fine – exciting even. Except that some of what’s here really shouldn’t be. The awful over-emoting pop ballad “I Couldn’t Be More in Love”, for example, sounds like a Kids From Fame outtake and bears a keyboard sound so bad it could start a war. It’s one of a handful of stowaways that haven’t paid their way and don’t look like they have the means to do so. They’re not going to sink the ship, but it could do without the extra weight.  


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