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'A Brief Inquiry...' review: The 1975's ambitious sprawl of ideas and styles

The 1975's "A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships"

The 1975's "A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships" on Dirty Hit/Interscope Records. Credit: Dirty Hit / Interscope Records

THE 1975

A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships

BOTTOM LINE An ambitious sprawl of ideas and musical styles that somehow hangs together

The 1975 has never been short of ideas or the confidence to pursue them. But the British band’s previous two albums (and the associated promotions) were decidedly hit and miss.

However, on its third album “A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships” (Dirty Hit/Interscope), The 1975 manages to make all its ambitious pieces fit together.

Somehow, “The Man Who Married a Robot/Love Theme,” a spoken-word piece read by the British male version of Siri about a man who falls in love with the internet and ends up lonely, is poignant. Somehow, “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You),” which sounds like it came straight from country-pop radio in the mid-90s, is an upbeat revelation about singer Matty Healy’s heroin addiction. And yes, somehow, the spare, John Coltrane-inspired jazz standard “Mine” is stunningly beautiful as Healy is “looking back on 2009” amid horn solos and the swell of string sections to build a genuine millennial wedding song.

What makes all of that even more remarkable is that none of those songs even come close to The 1975’s wheelhouse, shimmery synth-pop and clever, often sad, rock grandeur. And “Brief Inquiry” has plenty of those things too.

The tropical dance single “TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME” is as fizzy as Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean?” only the catchy club hit about temptation has some lyrical depth. Even the peppy leadoff single “Give Yourself a Try” is actually a call for teenage self-esteem.

On “Love It If We Made It,” Healy combines wild current event headlines with shout-outs to the late Long Beach rapper Lil Peep to try to make an argument for hope in an era of despair.

The 1975’s “Brief Inquiry” concludes with the epic rock ballad “I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes),” where Healy battles against sadness with soaring rock atmospherics. It turns out that’s a pretty great strategy.

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