The 1975's highly anticipated album, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, is an explosive body of work that explores multiple genres, experiments with theatricality and forces us to review the way we connect with the world. All in one album?! Two and a half years since they released their last album, I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It, The 1975 drop 10 fresh tracks to go with their 5 pre released singles as part of their 2018 album, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships.
Each song exemplifies the albums' title in some musical form, i.e; lyrics, production techniques, rhythm. Initially, the album feels sporadic and messy, as if each song jumps from one genre to another with no attempt at a gradual drift in feel between tracks. After a second or third listen in full, you start to notice a pattern emerge thematically, each theme relates directly to the kinds of relationships we have now with the help of the internet. The stark contrast between songs exaggerates the difference between the kinds of relationships we have now. So is this an album of repertoire or a musical challenge at our current social climate?
A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships is in no way typical. Its introduction sounds like a casual jam session, a 1:30 predominantly a-cappella track thats altered post production to sound robotic. This short self titled song acts as a set up for the rest of the album, almost like a calm before the storm while also hinting at the heavy technological influences. Continuing with Give Yourself A Try a synth-heavy number and TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME a groovy track with a tresillo drum beat! The tresello drum beat was a typical pop rhythm widely spread through the top 40 but its last notable appearance was Justin Bieber's Sorry. TooTime resurrects the tresillo, encouraging the infectious hook. This track also touches on online romantic relationships, briefly, specifically noting both parties are "messaging" other people.
How To Draw/Petrichor is what takes us in an entirely different direction. Its ambient, atmospheric start has a movie soundtrack quality to it that almost mimic's elements of the preset music for Facebook 'friendaversary' 's. Then about roughly 3 minutes in we jump into dubstep. My understanding was that this track demonstrated the communication difficulties that go hand-in-hand with online relationships, the idea you could understand entirely one minute and then be completely misinterpreted the next.
Love It If We Made It jumps straight in, bold lyric leading us back into indie pop before taking us way back down again for Be My Mistake. A completely stripped back track, predominantly vocals and guitar based with a few keys chucked in the mix. Lyrically the song is also very melancholy, with assistance from the lack of post-production pop-effects by comparison.
Sincerity Is Scary takes us into the syncopated-RnB-feel section of the album, with heavy brass, a steady drum line and an incredibly catchy hook. There's something about a chorus with backing vocals that almost sound as if they're shouting the lyrics, that give it this 'sing-a-long' quality.
I Like America & America Likes Me brings us back to a dubstep influenced pop before The Man Who Married A Robot/Love Theme. The entire song is a computer generated voice reading a story about, quite literally, a relationship between 'a man' and 'the Internet' (personified), put to an ambient instrumental similar to that of How To Draw/Petrichor. A very clever idea and the story itself is funny which does communicate the amusing side of online relationships, for example, meme culture. However, the monotonous tone of the robot is quite jarring and definitely adds to the idea of a 'brief inquiry' that acts as more of a warning/challenge to us as consumers.
Inside Your Mind brings us to a middle ground between the slow, atmospheric emotional feel and the synth-heavy indie pop. It's a comfortable place to be and a very steady, chill song that doesn't drastically change during it's three minutes. Being at the 10th song, we definitely needed some sort of stability, at least for a little while. Then of course we jump back into our poppy singalong for It's Not Living, revert to stripped back and slow for Surrounded By Heads and Mine, and finally bring us to a middle ground for I Couldn't Be More In Love and I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes).
Overall, the album is very bold, if it is indeed intended to be perceived in the way that I came to understand it. Though the order of the songs was somewhat frustrating and hard to listen to in order initially, each song is without a doubt well written, composed and produced. And if writing predominantly for the 'streaming age', which I imagine their fan-base is mostly, then order and overall album-cohesiveness perhaps isn't as important as it once was. Obviously theres an endless list of ways this album can/will be perceived, I'd be really interested to learn how others explore the album after a few days being accessible, via the.. internet..