The 1975, “A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships” (Interscope)
Matty Healy is so self-aware that you almost can’t believe he went to rehab last year to treat an addiction to heroin. Not because his self-awareness should somehow have enabled him to master his impulses. As the singer/lyricist of British band the 1975, Healy writes all the time about how knowing an idea is bad makes the idea only more seductive. Rather, you’re surprised at the form of his risky behavior — that this 29-year-old would allow himself to get so close to such an old-fashioned rock-star cliché.
In business since the members were teens, but playing to a sizable audience for only the last five years, the 1975 is committed to disrupting what we think a rock band looks and sounds like.
Its self-titled 2013 debut paired serrated guitars and slick funk grooves; its follow-up, 2016’s chart-topping “I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet so Unaware of It,” ventured into slow-jam R&B and found the proudly flamboyant Healy undercutting the type of machismo associated with long-haired frontmen.
But those records were merely setting the table for the 1975’s all-over-the-place new album. It veers wildly among mechanized garage rock, ’80s-era soft pop, atmospheric dance music and lush acoustic balladry; one song strongly recalls Justin Bieber’s “Sorry,” while another evokes the Great American Songbook.
And there’s the big single, “Love It if We Made It,” which with Healy’s rapid-fire spray of current-events signifiers — among them Donald Trump, Black Lives Matter and the late rapper Lil Peep — feels like an update of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” with programmed strings.
Yet for all the disinterest in the conventions evoked by their gender and race, the 1975 clings happily to certain rock notions. And here, Healy sings about drugs in a way that puts him in line with many dudes with guitars before him. In the record’s gorgeous closer, “I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes),” he makes you think of Kurt Cobain in the twisted but witty title phrase, even as a glossy Hollywood orchestra saws behind him.
The real theme of “A Brief Inquiry,” beyond Healy’s struggle with addiction, might be his anxiety regarding his relationship with his influences in our online age. Over and over, you can hear him worrying about whether anyone has anything new to say.
“Modernity has failed us,” he declares in “Love It if We Made It,” and part of what he means is that this crush of information is making it harder to understand people or incidents in their proper context. And although this excellent, often thrilling album suggests that Healy grasps the problem here, he’s also more of a contributor than he likely realizes.
Mikael Wood, Los Angeles Times
Jeff Tweedy, “Warm” (dBpm)
Tweedy is cementing his reputation as a storyteller this fall with his new memoir “Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back)” and his new solo album. The songs on “Warm” are far more direct and no-nonsense than Tweedy’s work with Wilco. The sleek alt-country “Some Birds” takes flight, soaring even as he worries “Is it my fault the countrysides are so full of suicides? I break bricks with my heart, only a fool would call it art.”
The charming “Let’s Go Rain” recalls his work with Billy Bragg to bring unfinished Woody Guthrie songs to life on “Mermaid Avenue.” The jangling “Having Been Is No Way to Be” feels like a throwback to Uncle Tupelo, but the personal lyrics about struggling to change bad habits represent a newer, more comfortable Tweedy.
Even the six-minute epic “How Will I Find You,” essentially a meditation on uncertainty, tells a relatable story that is definitely “Warm.”
Glenn Gamboa, Newsday
• The Decemberists, “Traveling On”
• Zayn, “Icarus Falls”
• Bruce Springsteen, “Springsteen on Broadway”