The 1975 aren’t content to just be part of the zeitgeist, they want to inhabit it in its entirety. This ambition was usually left frustrated, until now. A Brief Inquiry epitomises the experience of living now, today, with stunning clarity. The thrills and heartbreak of everyday life is rendered in uncanny detail, and when in twenty years somebody wants to know what 2018 sounded like, they will turn to this album.
The stunning thing about A Brief Inquiry is how simple it actually is. Where their self-titled debut and follow up I Like It When You Sleep… suffered from bloat, this is remarkably streamlined. Nearly all the songs here are built from just a few textures, with the voice of Matty Healy taking precedence always.
This minimalism reaches a stylistic peak with ‘TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME’. Possessing little more than a static beat, simplistic descending bass and distant tinkle of keys, this is three minutes and seventeen minutes of blissful pop perfection.
The same ethos is present in ‘Give Yourself a Try’, which sounds like a demo. The instrumentation is incredibly simplistic, but Healy provides his most heartbreaking lyrics to date, dripping with empathy and insight, and a wonderful sighing chorus.
At it’s more prosaic and heady moments, namely the double-header ‘I Like America & America Likes Me’ and the automaton eulogy ‘The Man Who Married a Robot’ (read by Siri) the band stick to their ethos of less is more. It’s refreshing and allows the band to get their message across clearer, instead of burying it in the dense and impenetrable verses Healy has been guilty of in the past. That said, at nearly sixty minutes it is still over-long.
A Brief Inquiry reaches a simple conclusion: modernity has failed us, and life is strange. Not a surprising insight. However the album is about the journey, the series of brightly lit tableau which capture moments along the way.
‘It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)’ makes cold turkey sound positively blissful, ‘TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME’ pokes fun at millennial infidelity, while the jazzy ‘Sincerity is Scary’ reminds us that irony may be cool, but it’s cheap too. These are peppered with great throwaway lines, the best of which pops up in ‘Love It If We Made It’ – “Truth is only hearsay“. This lyric distils the album’s central point – the corrosive affects of social media – into a perfect soundbite.
A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships is wordy, combative, unflinching pop – an inimitable age-defining masterpiece.