A Brief Inquiry Into The 1975's New Album

There are very few bands that one could genuinely describe as generation-defining. The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Queen and Nirvana come to mind, of course, but when compared with the sheer number of musical acts to ever exist, only an infinitesimal number have made a lasting impact on our collective consciousness.

With A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, The 1975 have solidified themselves (in this fan's opinion) as the band of our generation, with frontman Matty Healy serving as the voice. They've crafted an album that touches on everything from the macro (love, addiction, technology) to the micro (a neighbor from rehab, a fan who took their own life, Trump). In doing so, A Brief Inquiry also jumps between a staggering expanse of genres, from 80s synth-pop to traditional jazz and everything in between. As divisive as they are beloved, The 1975 have never shied away from taking risks, and A Brief Inquiry is somehow both their riskiest and most widely appealing album; it truly does have a song for everyone. Don't believe me? Let's take a trip through the tracklist:

  1. 1. The 1975

    Step into your skin, I'd rather jump in your bones / Taking up your mouth so you'll breathe through your nose

    The 1975 have included a version of this track on all of their albums, each one distinct in tone and style as to match the respective aesthetics of the albums. On A Brief Inquiry, the track features robotic and overwhelming vocals from Matty contrasted with the soft piano notes in the background. "The 1975" perfectly sets the stage for an album driven by the tenuous relationship between society and technology.

  2. 2. Give Yourself A Try

    And what would you say to your younger self? / Growing a beard's quite hard / And whiskey never starts to taste nice

    The first single released off of A Brief Inquiry, "Give Yourself A Try" is a reflection on aging and personal growth set to a contagious (and borderline frenetic) guitar riff. In it, Matty ruminates on his discovery of a grey hair, what he wishes he had known when he was 16 and his desire to craft and claim his own identity—to give himself a try. If you're feeling unmotivated, "Give Yourself A Try" will fix that right up for you (and it's a great song for cardio, too)!

  3. 3. TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME

    I think we need to rewind / You text that boy sometimes / Must be more than three times / I didn't mean to two-time, two-time you

    "TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME" is both an examination of infidelity in the age of Instagram and Facetime and, as the kids say, an absolute bop. Blending Afro-pop with synth and an infectious chorus, it's by far one of my favorite songs on A Brief Inquiry. The music video is as much of a blast as you'd expect, featuring a cast of fans dancing alongside Matty and Dirty Hit labelmate No Rome. 

  4. 4. How To Draw / Petrichor

    Take something and then make it brand new / Try and do anything fourteen times / Love yourself like someone you love, one you love

    This two-part track is a doozy. It begins with a new take on "How To Draw," a song originally released as a bonus track on the Target edition the band's sophomore album, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it. This version is heavy on the synth and robotic vocals, both of which draw you in and leave you feeling a bit mesmerized. The second part is named after a Greek word that refers to the pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather. The robotic vocals and EDM-inspired beats contrast directly with the song's lyrics, which refer to Matty's time in rehab and the toll it took on his personal life and relationships.

  5. 5. Love It If We Made It

    Oh, f*ck your feelings / Truth is only hearsay / We're just left to decay / Modernity has failed us / And I'd love it if we made it

    This one's a doozy. "Love It If We Made It" is the pièce de résistance of A Brief Inquiry, an anthem for our generation that perfectly captures the sense of unrest and the power of hope that, for many of us, has defined the late twenty-tens. The third verse of the song opens with a direct quote by the sitting president of the United States, "I moved on her like a bitch," a line which would be censored if it were played on the radio. "Love It If We Made It" is one of the best songs of the year, and someday when we look back, I think we'll be hard-pressed to find a song that better captured the tumultuous time we're living in right now. The music video is equally jarring and impactful, featuring imagery of headlines from across the globe interspersed with some Michael Jackson-inspired dance moves.

  6. 6. Be My Mistake

    So, don't wait outside my hotel room / Just wait till I give you a sign / 'Cause I get lonesome sometimes

    One word: ow. The first ballad of A Brief Inquiry is also one of the best-written songs on the album. According to Matty, "Be My Mistake" is about realizing that a casual relationship isn't what you really want. It's an incredibly vulnerable and emotional song, and it's the source of some of the most subtly beautiful lyrics on the album. Looking for something to listen to while you cry? This is your track! (And mine!)

  7. 7. Sincerity Is Scary

    And why would you believe / You could control how you're perceived / When at your best you're intermediately / Versed in your own feelings?

    "Sincerity Is Scary" is a neo-jazz gospel-pop song—is that unique enough for you? No? Please exit my article. This song addresses the insecurities and anxieties that so many members of our generation suffer from, especially with the pressure brought on by social media, and the need to put up a façade to hide these feelings from the world. It calls out the increasing prevalence of irony and cynicism in our society, and how we seem to shy away from sincerity in our emotions and our actions. The music video is also an absolute gift—just keep an eye out for all of the references to other songs and videos by The 1975!

  8. 8. I Like America & America Likes Me

    Kids don't want rifles, they want Supreme / No gun required! / Oh, will this help me lay down? / We're scared of dying, it's fine

    Matty has always been an outspoken advocate for gun control, and "I Like America & America Likes Me" is the latest reflection of that. According to the frontman, the song is "an homage to SoundCloud rap," featuring enough autotune to make Cher proud. The shouted lines ("Would you please listen?") succeed in conveying the sense of urgency and desperation that so many of our generation (this writer included) feel in regard to gun violence and the need for gun control.

  9. 9. The Man Who Married A Robot / Love Theme

    You can tell me anything. I’m your best friend. Anything you say to me will stay strictly between you and the internet.

    The ninth track on A Brief Inquiry is a poem about a man (@SnowflakeSmasher86) who falls in love with the internet, narrated by a British male version of Siri. No, I'm not kidding. Described by NME, "The Man Who Married A Robot" is a Vonnegut-like allegory about loneliness, data, social media and internet addiction. The poem ends when the man dies, but thankfully he'll live on because "you can go on his Facebook." Even though I probably won't be listening to this track too frequently, it still serves the album well as a thought-provoking intermission that ties into its broader themes.

  10. 10. Inside Your Mind

    The back of your head is at the front of my mind / Soon I'll crack it open just to see what's inside your mind

    A slightly more upbeat ballad, "Inside Your Mind" is about the desperate desire to know what exactly is going on inside your partner's mind. We can all relate to how it feels when you just can't wrap your head around what someone is thinking, and how hard it can be to live with that unknowing. At the same time, some of the lyrics hint at the potentially toxic nature of a relationship wherein one partner feels they have a right to know 100% of the other's thoughts and feelings: "Maybe I will wait until you're fast asleep, dreaming things I have the right to see." 

  11. 11. It's Not Living (If It's Not With You)

    And all I do is sit and think about you / If I knew what you'd do / Collapse my veins, wearing beautiful shoes / It's not living if it's not with you

    As Matty put it, "It's Not Living (If It's Not With You)" is the most "1975-iest" song since the band's debut album. As upbeat and bubblegum pop as it may sound, the song is actually about Matty's struggle with heroin addiction, similar to how "UGH!" from I like it when you sleep dealt with his addiction to cocaine. Although he's been clean since late 2017, addiction still has a major effect on Matty's life and on the music he writes, so it's fitting that "It's Not Living (If It's Not With You)" describes the aftermath of getting over an addiction and finding new ways to fill that void. Be sure to check out the newly-released music video if you're in the mood for a trip!

  12. 12. Surrounded by Heads and Bodies

    Oh, we don’t speak / She stayed an extra week / Oh, I see her in my sleep / Angela, oh Angela

    Keeping with the theme of recovery from addiction, "Surrounded by Heads and Bodies" is about a woman known to us as Angela, a fellow patient from Matty's time in rehab. Although he didn't spend much time with her outside of therapy, Matty described Angela in an interview with Pitchfork as "a beautiful, lovely woman. I felt a real connection and an empathy with her." The idea of a human connection forming despite a lack of direct interaction is a moving one, and to me, this song is equally moving.

  13. 13. Mine

    I fight crime online sometimes / Then write rhymes I hide behind

    I didn't expect to come across a jazz standard on A Brief Inquiry, and yet here "Mine" is in all of its swing ballad glory. In it, Matty ruminates on society's expectation for young men to "settle down and find a wife," a line which brings to mind the track "Settle Down" from The 1975's self-titled debut album. He also mentions his tendency to use his online platform to "fight crime online," including his outspoken tweets hitting back at figures like Piers Morgan and Donald Trump. Matty's reluctance to commit ("For some reason, I just can't say 'I do.'") doesn't bother him much; above all, he's happy just to know his girlfriend is his.

  14. 14. I Couldn't Be More in Love

    Maybe I'll rely on all the things that made it right / Because I'd give you all the years of my life / So, what about these feelings I've got?

    Given it was described by NME as "a pitch-perfect 1980s wedding song pastiche," it's unsurprising that "I Couldn't Be More in Love" is another one of my favorite songs on A Brief Inquiry. Ironically, Matty describes it as less of a love song and more of a song about "what happens when no one cares anymore"; in particular, when The 1975's fans no longer care about them. The vocals are raw and moving, and the key change during the third verse really cements the song as one of the most emotional soul-power ballads I've ever heard. (And if Twitter is anything to judge by, Matty shouldn't worry–The 1975 fans aren't going anywhere.)

  15. 15. I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)

    You win, you lose, you sing the blues / There's no point in buying concrete shoes / I'll refuse / And I always wanna die, sometimes

    According to Pitchfork, "I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)" instantly feels like a classic—like something that has always existed. It's hard to describe the rush of emotions you feel when listening to this track, especially following the rest of the album. It's a deeply personal and cinematic song, one which clearly takes inspiration from early 2000s soft rock legends like Oasis. Matty admits that he always wants to die (sometimes, at least), but he implores the listener to ignore these urges: "If you can't survive; just try."

I used to think it was hard to choose a single band to designate as my favorite of all time, but with A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, The 1975 have concretely established themselves as the bearer of that title. Love them or hate them, you can't deny their impact—or the thought they put into each and every track on each and every album. Whether you couldn't be more in love or you always wanna die (sometimes), one thing is true: it's not living if it's not with The 1975. And with that...the countdown to Notes On A Conditional Form, due for release in March 2019, begins!