SOMETIMES YOU hear a record that feels like comfort in a diffuse and dissonant age, a warm, reassuring record that harks back to former certainties, wraps you up in sounds and feelings from happier times.
This is not that record. Despite that throwback album title, it’s hard to recall when a rock band, or at least something that appears to be one (lead singer Matty Healy has said, “I don’t even know what my band is half the time”), last captured its moment so well. This is a document of isolation, infidelity, addiction and global tragedy, with choice lyrics on US politics thrown in for good measure.
It’s also hard to recall when a major rock band were last so inventive. The other big-selling acts playing with sound and form this way work chiefly in rap and R&B. A Brief Inquiry… oozes between and around genre; the songs, which are brilliant and unsettling, confound the obvious. The 1975 can make Dixieland or supper-club jazz crooning seem altogether contemporary. It isn’t inaccurate to invoke a cross between Kanye West and Radiohead’s OK Computer, but it doesn’t encompass what they have achieved here, either.
In tackling the alienation of our internet age, this is not a nice record. It is, however, an excellent one.
Our best young rock band display the fearlessness of another age to catch the spirit of this one.
© David Bennun, Metro, 27 November 2018