When reviewing previous albums by Manchester band, The 1975 over the last few years it is common to hear reviewers say with some surprise, “it’s actually pretty good”. Lead singer Matty Healy always seems to be trying a bit too hard with his tales of promiscuous sex and drugs. Effortlessly cool this is not. However, several singles released through 2018 that all appear on A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships were quite a bit more than “pretty good”.
After a sub two-minute introduction, the band is off and running with “Give Yourself A Try” and its squiggly guitar. “TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME” is the kind of daft relationship pop song that Sugar Ray used to do so well in the 90s before the glitchy “How to Draw/Petrichor”. Pitchfork song of the year “Love If We Made It” comes in like a bomb with Healy declaring “we’re f**king in a car, shooting heroin…”. Heroin makes another appearance on single “It’s Not Living If It’s Without You”, that is easily masked by one of the breeziest melodies on the album.
Radiohead comparisons abound on the Siri/computer voiced “The Man Who Married a Robot/Love Theme” and the guitar line on ballad “Surrounded by Heads and Bodies” is airlifted straight off OK Computer. The pacing on the second half of an Inquiry can get murky with several just OK ballads appearing in quick succession. Lopping off three lesser tracks would have made for a leaner album but the four absolute smash singles is enough compensation for the extra run time.
Following up last year’s ecstatically received Sgt Pepper remix, The Beatles camp released their s/t 1968 double White Album also in remix form from Giles Martin. In mid-November the Celebration Rock podcast debated what tracks they would include if they cut The White Album down to just a single disc and neither host was happy with their choices. The sprawling double album has many hits, several misses and a few redundant tracks but without them all, somehow it doesn’t hang together as well.
On the new remix, tracks that in the past were easier to skip (to these ears) now have a new groove. “Glass Onion” has always been one of my least favourite later day Beatles tracks but here the background atmospherics are brought out to the forefront to add to the madness. “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill” greatly benefits from a more exhilarating chorus. “Wild Honey Pie” on the other hand is still completely unlistenable.
On the second side, “Yer Blues” has John Lennon really going for it in the vocal but “Cry Baby Cry” all the way on side four is the better of the two. The latter appears before the cut and paste “Revolution 9” that could have been cut out altogether. Ignoring the hits spread across the album (“Back In the USSR”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”), the underlining memory of The White Album is that it’s challenging but going back and hearing it, many of the tracks are just terrific. Paul McCartney’s “I Will” is a pleasant pop song before Lennon’s “Julia” that is utterly beautiful.
Two of Lennon’s best album tracks appear here with “Dear Prudence” and the drowsy “I’m So Tired”. Non-singles “Birthday” is familiar to anyone who’s ever heard FM radio in their lives and vocal shredder “Helter Skelter” is a big part of late 60s dark crime wave. Everyone will have their random favourites with this writer’s being the jaunty Ringo Starr lead “Don’t Pass Me By” and the “Good Night” album closer that saw The Smashing Pumpkins Melon Collie years in the future.
On the three disc edition, the third disc is devoted to the famous Esher demos recorded at George Harrison’s home. A generous 27 tracks in acoustic form. The version of “Back In the USSR” with the double tracked vocals is superb, great musicians just banging around. “Mother Nature’s Son” sounds great and “Honey Pie” finds a new home as a campfire singalong. A few Harrison tracks appear such as the organ accompanied “Circles”, the angry “Not Guilty”, and “Sour Milk Sea”. Two Abby Road tracks also pop up in demo form – “Mean Mr. Mustard” and “Polythene Pam”. Not really a disc to listen to all in one sitting but fascinating to jump around and discover different tracks. The six disc super deluxe edition offers a deeper dive into the valley of the White Album.