After disappearing for almost two years, the 1975 re-emerges with their project tackling millennial culture on their new album, “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships.”
The album is arguably this generation’s greatest anthem, delving into the ways in which our generation communicates. Whether it be through texting or social media, this album comments on a level that only our generation can understand and identify with. This is the soundtrack about our lives, which some critics say is reminiscent of Radiohead’s “OK Computer.”
“A Brief Inquiry” explores the nuances of online relationships and the internet’s intrinsic role in our culture and interactions with one another. Regardless of whom you interact with, nearly all relationships are affected and shaped by social media.
The fascination and curiosity with our current online culture concerning relationships, politics and social trends can be found in songs such as “Love It If We Made It” and “Sincerity Is Scary.”
Healy’s exploration of how we interact with each other online and portray ourselves is less a condemnation of our phone addiction and more a self-aware discussion of living in a postmodern age.
Healy gives up the spotlight in “The Man Who Married A Robot” and allows Siri to tell a story of a man in love with the internet, with that being his only meaningful relationship. In the end, the man dies, but the internet continues. It’s slightly off-putting through the first listen, but with the entire album being an experimentation in different styles, having a monologue set to music thrown in the middle should come as no surprise.
Healy told Billboard, “We all know how addictive the phone is, but when it’s brought up, it’s boring. It’s almost like Brexit or Trump now: ‘We know, Granddad, we know!’ But we don’t really want to do anything to change it.”
“I Like America & America Likes Me” is taken from the title of German artist Josh Beuys’ 1974 performance of the same name. It reflects Healy’s view of America, containing an underlying message about the gun control debate in the United States. Lyrics in the song include “kids don’t want rifles, they want Supreme,” which shows that it’s easier to buy guns than a brand of clothing.
Heavier topics are masked by the upbeat pop sounds of “Love It If We Made It,” “Sincerity Is Scary” and “Give Yourself A Try”—a closer listen reveals lyrics quoting President Trump (“thank you Kanye, very cool”) and a mention of a fan, Jane, who had died by suicide.
Despite the inevitability of growing up that “Give Yourself A Try” centers around, it celebrates the ability to still feel young. It’s a teenage anthem for the punk kids turned indie. “How To Draw / Petrichor” plays off of “Give Yourself A Try” but as a much more mellow and less lyrical lullaby, with Healy writing it as a nod to childhood.
The album contains a taste of everything—including an ode to Healy’s heroin addiction, “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You),” and a dedication to a woman named Angela whom he met in rehab. “Surrounded By Heads And Bodies” was taken from the first paage of David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest,” which Healy ready while in rehab.
“There was no one there. It was me and my nurses, who’d come in and check on me, and then Angela, miles away,” Healy told Pitchfork in an interview. “I was surrounded by no one, and the book was just open on the front page, as most copies of ‘Infinite Jest’ are.”
Both songs were inspired by his seven-week stay in rehab in Barbados in late 2017. Oddly upbeat and sweet, “It’s Not Living” plays into the glamor of drug abuse in the rockstar lifestyle that Healy has successfully overcome. The song begs no pity for Healy’s experience, instead memorializing it into a catchy and raw love letter.
Healy never strays far from the theme of love in any of his music, whether the love is focused on a person or a thing. A gut-wrenching ballad called “Be My Mistake,” hinting toward the singer-songwriter style, is a raw and powerful truth about being young and not knowing what—or who—you want. It’s guilt-ridden and tear-inducing and simply tells the truth about the necessity of making mistakes.
The album isn’t without its share of sweet and melodramatic romanticism, with songs like “Inside Your Mind”—a theme song for those whose desire to know their partner’s thoughts is so strong, they’d smash their head open.
The band also plays around with the sounds of jazz in “Mine” and adds ‘80s inspired “I Couldn’t Be More In Love” that practically begs to be on the soundtrack to a John Hughes film.
Healy doesn’t lose sight of the unique aspect of millennial culture concerning how prevalent the internet is in our lives. The anxiety, isolation and loneliness that go along with a strong social media presence can be seen in “I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes).” It’s the perfect ending to a record exploring the complex way we live our lives through the internet in this digital age—whether by consuming our constant news or interacting with each other.
Despite its morbid lyrics, the song ends cinematically; like when you’ve experienced an outstanding and culturally impacting film for the first time and the credits are finally rolling. You’re left alone wanting more, perhaps a sequel, or to play it all over again.
“If you can’t survive, just try,” Healy sings.
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