A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships is not the classic 5-minute survey in your jam-packed spam folder, but the new album by the renowned British band The 1975. Released on 30 November, the impact of the album is starting to solidify, and one thing is for sure: there is something very special about this release. The undeniable (and intended) parallels to the 1997 Radiohead album OK Computer lead even critics to assume that A Brief Inquiry might well be its millennial parallel, and here is why.
[ Give Yourself a Try - The 1975, 2018 ]
Admittedly, drawing such parallels might seem outrageous for those who have analysed the revolutionary impact of OK Computer on culture and the concomitant re-definition of established music genres. Undoubtedly, comparisons of this scale are questionable as it can take away on the autonomy of both artists’ achievements. Their very individual influence on a society that was and is thirsty for answers as well as guidance cannot be equated.
However, The 1975 frontman Matty Healy declared before the actual production of the record, that he aimed to (re)produce an album that is similar to the cultural relevancy of Ok Computer, but tailored to suit the millennial generation. This ambitious intention becomes clear when listening to the album. That is, it is hard to ignore that Healy chose for Ok Computer as a point of reference in terms of structure, sound, and alarming message of the record.
Both records – equally sensible to their zeitgeist – address the issues that entail the digital age and the pervasive online interactions that structure our interpersonal relationships.
[ Fitter Happier - Radiohead, 1997 ]
The feeling of dehumanisation experienced by Thom Yorke, the lead singer of Radiohead, was then just as present as it is now. When considering the constant and rapid progress in information technology and how we decide to use it, it is obvious that in 1997, the fears were completely different, yet just as justified as they are now.
In this age, Healy inquires us to think about the false assumption that we are in control of how we are perceived online. He (rightfully) assumes that we are desperate to live up to the carefully curated persona we create for ourselves that often misaligns with our actual personality. The feeling of losing control remains an issue in the digital age merely its focal point has shifted.
The helplessness we face daily to adjust to this online world and its fast-moving and inevitable repercussion on human life becomes evident with both records. The atmosphere created is alarming and light-hearted at the same time, making us question whether we are still or even more so “the pigs in the cage on antibiotics”.
[ The Man Who Married A Robot / Love Theme - The 1975, 2018 ]
The contextual parallels and similarities in style become evident when listening to a track like Fitter Happier by Radiohead and its seemingly modern sibling The Man Who Married a Robot/ Love Theme. They lead us to think about the changes that have been occurring since the release of OK Computer back in 1997, and the missing human answer to developments of such gravity.
Nonetheless, the semi-intended apocalyptic and uneasy atmosphere that arises through both records is intended to encourage us to reflect. The up-beat style of many of the songs as well as the exhaustive guitar riffs remind us that even if we are dreaded by the hardships of modern life, human experience is still “the ultimate gag” as Healy would put it.
Healy is known for his storytelling approach to song-writing, and this new record too does not lack in conversational lyrics, laced with literary references and often very resonant of the perceived millennial experience. Singles such as Sincerity is Scary or Give Yourself a Try elegantly touch upon the most profound issues of the millennial youth.
[ Sincerity Is Scary - The 1975, 2018 ]
Both records allow us to rehabilitate from the exhaustion of trying to disguise our thirst for real human connection. They aim to clarify that we can regain power over our online as well as our offline lives, simply by allowing ourselves to be awkward and uneasy at times, which is a vital part of human experience.