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The 1975 just debuted their newest album “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Rela­tion­ships.” | Courtesy Wikipedia

On Sep­tember 23, 2013, I swung into my friend Tyler’s family Subaru, glancing at the time. Tyler handed me his phone and started driving, trusting me to determine the energy of our 20-minute drive. To me, it was obvious what we would be lis­tening to that night.

With the release of their latest album  “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Rela­tion­ships,” on Nov. 30, would it be pos­sible for me to sep­arate my deep-seated nos­talgia for The 1975 long enough to write an unbiased review of their third full-length effort? Likely so. Their debut self-titled album hap­pened to arrive right in the middle of my high school expe­rience. My mem­ories have shaped the record as much as the record has shaped my mem­ories. And still, half a decade later, in a new place, with new friends and a new life, it’s hard not to get excited about The 1975.

The 1975’s pre­ten­tious, melo­drama is a con­stant source of con­tention with lis­teners. Love them or hate them though, they have a way of always being talked about. With their follow up to the gaudy, extrav­agant, sophomore effort titled “I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beau­tiful Yet So Unaware Of It”, hyp­notic frontman Matty Healy embraces the duality of his outfit, steeped in a largely female fan base and boy band-esque media cov­erage, while at the same time hailed by critics as both inno­v­ative and reflective of the greater mil­lennial musical zeit­geist.

Bands with initial success, espe­cially success driven by a large and active fanbase, must always walk a line between pleasing their con­stituents and cre­ating exciting, rel­evant music. Perhaps no band may be more aware of this duality than The 1975. Healy’s unique self-awareness of their position could serve to vin­dicate his over­bearing sen­ti­men­tality, evi­denced in his melo­dra­matic lyricism. Matty’s vocals— jaunty, raspy, will­fully drippy— evoke mem­ories of his British frontman influ­ences including Sting, Noel Gal­lagher, and Thom Yorke. This kind of emo­tion­alism can polarize music fans. Do Matty and Co. deserve the hate they get for their pre­ten­tious, self-serving antics? Probably. Do they deserve the ver­i­table worship by mil­lions of fans around the world for their inno­vation, energy, and refusal to defined by the status-quo? I would say, yes.

Like Healy’s own life, which has been wracked with cycles of drug abuse and rehab, “A Brief Inquiry…” cer­tainly has its ups and downs. Solid tracks build upon pre­vious 1975 hits, including singles “Sin­cerity Is Scary” and “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)”, songs which help the lis­tener track the band’s devel­opment of their dis­tinct sound. Still others give a nod to obvious 1975 influ­ences, with “Give Yourself A Try”’s ties to Joy Division,” The Man Who Married A Robot / Love Theme” and its clear tribute to Radiohead’s “OK Com­puter,” or their stadium-shaking closer “I Always Wanna Die (Some­times), rem­i­niscent of their Man­chester fore­fa­thers, Oasis. Other tracks fall embar­rass­ingly flat: Ed Sheeran-esque acoustic ballad “Be My Mistake” caters to teenage fan­girls, but fails to rep­resent what makes The 1975 so special. “Sur­rounded By Heads and Bodies”, a soft and rhythmic take on love and pain in reha­bil­i­tation, lacks the vocal energy and instru­mental diversity to bring it to the level of the runaway song of the entire album, “Couldn’t Be More In Love”, which places Healy’s vocals at their rawest and most enticing on a backdrop of gaudy, hyp­no­tizing 80s synth and a gospel choir. Fan-favorite “Love It If We Made It” shines as probably the most “1975” song on the new record, pairing a heady drum loop with Healy’s melo­dra­matic cry: “Jesus save us / Modernity has failed us / And I’d love it if we made it,” while breakaway stadium anthem “Inside Your Mind” will likely leave fans “oohing” and “aahing” at con­certs with its goosebump-inducing guitar loop, courtesy of lead gui­tarist Adam Hann. Other notable tracks include “I Like America & America Likes Me”, Healy’s sen­sa­tional rage against the machine, as well as eclectic, elec­tri­fying “How To Draw / Pet­richor”, which may best rep­resent the titular mission of the album.

When Radiohead released Kid A at the turn of the century, fans were split. Ques­tions over Yorke’s vision, their new sound, and their embrace of modern elec­tronic music wracked the same fan base who had rabidly sup­ported them through three records. Whether this will be the case for The 1975’s OK Com­puter, crit­i­cally acclaimed yet divisive to their fans, is yet to be deter­mined. Maybe it will just stand as another pre­ten­tious and over­bearing example of mil­lennial music-making. It just needs a little time, and maybe a little per­spective. When I asked my friend Tyler what he thought of “A Brief Inquiry,” he responded with a simple: “I wish they would go back to making huge guitar rock songs instead of overly pro­duced pop music.” There’s a wisdom in that.