“The desire to make a big artistic statement is the thing that has always kept us going,” 1975 frontman Matty Healy told the Irish Examiner two years ago. “We make pop music for the art of it — not the commerce.”
The singer remains true to that vow on the band’s third album — a sprawling and often gloriously idiosyncratic deconstruction of stardom, fame and the imperative, as the leader of a chart-topping outfit, to please your fanbase rather than give voice to deeper creative instincts.
All of this is achieved even as Healy and his bandmates meaningfully advance their Bowie-esque take on guitar pop, which glides on a silvery sheen of electro beats and treated vocals (and if you don’t like it a companion LP arrives in 2019).
So a gauzy Ibiza tempo propels ‘TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME’ — that penchant for annoying song titles also endures — while ‘How To Draw / Petrichor’ lurches between piano balladry and shuffling EDM.
There is, of course, an underlying grand concept too. Healy has described the 1975’s first two albums as charting, again in that Bowie fashion, their dramatic rise from obscurity and subsequent struggles with fame.
But A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships is something else entirely: a meditation on how easy it is loses your sense of yourself in a world of ceaseless distractions and where our heightened, online identities increasingly bleed into our true selves.
True, 1975 and Healy, especially, are somewhat of an acquired taste and a whiff of indulgence characterises A Brief Inquiry’s occasionally lurches into jazz and funk. As for the assertion, already doing the rounds, that this is their OK Computer — well, anyone expecting a generation-defining masterpiece, is likely to be underwhelmed and possibly annoyed at the over-sell.
Nonetheless, the hyperbole is occasionally justified. And the LP has given us one of the year’s great pop epics in closer ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’ which sounds like Coldplay’s ‘Clocks’ as reconfigured by millennials with the weight of the world pressing down.