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THE 1975 Notes On A Conditional Form gets 7/10


The 1975

Notes on a Conditional Form
Dirty Hit

7/10

Notes on a Conditional Form is The 1975’s worst album so far, yet it somehow contains some of their best work and is still a great listen, if you ignore the flow issues. It explores so many genres that it feels like a music history lesson, which is also why it does not quite feel cohesive. However, the fact that so many genres are covered on one album, is quite innovative and ambitious, which is what you would expect from the band after A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships was hailed this generation’s OK Computer. It is their first album that explores the idea of the feature, with tracks boasting Phoebe Bridgers, FKA Twigs, Greta Thunberg and frontman Matty Healy’s father, as well as Jamaican dancehall musician, Cutty Ranks.

Expectations are shattered within the first few minutes, as their usual opening track, the self-titled and ever-changing The 1975 now featured climate activist Greta Thunberg speaking over an instrumental, rather than the usual “go down, soft sound,” that fans are used to hearing. While this speech packs a punch in the live setting, it only survives the first listen in the album context, however, “It’s time to rebel,” never fails to whir something up inside.

People roars to life after this, and the two tracks couldn’t be more different. It is jarring, to say the least, and the next song transition is even worse. The End (Music for Cars) is the complete opposite of People, and the sudden change from loud punk to classically ambient just feels wrong and unsettling. But while some transitions are uncomfortable, others are seamless, like the transition from Streaming to The Birthday Party. This is an album full of extremities.

The singles shine on Notes, especially since there were so many of them released before the album. Frail State of Mind glimmers and glitches and sounds exactly like a panic attack unfolding, which is fittingly what the song is describing. If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know) is even better in album context, sounding anthemic and creating the perfect singalong, Guys is a wholesome album closer, and Me & You Together Song sits perfectly in the middle of the album, reminding us just why we are listening: because this kind of perfection exists. It is easily the best on the record, and one of their best works to date. It was nice to have a bit of familiarity around every corner with the singles, especially considering the one-hour twenty-minute time stamp.

There is a heavy house and dancehall influence on the record, and it is epitomised by Shiny Collarbone, an instrumental dance piece that features Cutty Ranks. If it came on shuffle, you would not know that it was a 1975 song. It sounds like something you would expect to be playing in a UK Warehouse rave, and that’s exactly what they were going for. Other tracks that take this influence but add a little more pop include Yeah I Know, which features some heavily effected vocals, and an interesting modular synth line, Bagsy Not In Net, and What Should I Say, which needs to be played in a club immediately. It has the similar vocal stylings as Meduza’s Piece of Your Heart, but is a little more downbeat. A highlight for sure.

Kanye West’s Life of Pablo is what comes to mind when you hear Nothing Revealed / Everything Denied, which features a similar gospel sound with some flow elements. The track feels very revelatory and triumphant, and is among the album’s best. Following is Tonight (I Wish I Was Your Boy), which seems like it will be a fan favourite, it sounds a lot more like a 1975 song than others on the album, but with a little bit of that Kanye influence as well.

The country/folk sounding songs are some of the weakest on the album, with failed attempts at witty lyrics and too many references to the genital area to feel comfortable. Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America, which features a duet with Phoebe Bridgers, just does not quite hit the mark, Roadkill is slightly more catchy, but again just misses, and Playing On My Mind is forgettable. The lyrics in Roadkill however, are interesting and seem to be a comment on how people perceive Matty Healy. The line “playing my song on the radio station, mugging me off all across the nation,” seems to reflect on how people often bag him out and put his music down due to the perception that he is pretentious and outspoken, which he is, but not always in a bad way. It also references early hit Robbers with the lines “If you don’t eat, then you’ll never grow” and “If you don’t shoot, then you’ll never know.” These aren’t the only referential lyrics on the album, Nothing Revealed / Everything Denied references Love It If We Made It in its first few words, and many tracks interpolate other 1975 songs. It’s clever.

Then Because She Goes is another one of the best tracks on the album, short and simple; it has beautiful lyrics that match the drowning guitar covering the track. Like shoegaze mixed with a little hint of emo, it is not a song that immediately stands out, but it later grows on you. Don’t Worry is sweet and was written by Matty’s father, Timothy Healy. It is a lovely duet, and the better of the albums slower tracks.

As is usual for The 1975, Notes on a Conditional Form contains a few instrumental tracks, most are one time listens that can be admired in the album context, but not really played on their own, but Having No Head is perhaps the best instrumental track they have ever done. It really shows off drummer and producer George Daniel’s brilliant production skills, which have been taken to the next level on this album. His production shines more than even Matty’s lyrics on Notes, which are normally pretty great, but this time all the witty lines fall short and the smart lines don’t sound so smart. It could just be that there aren’t meant to be as many stand out lines on this album, it is heavily influenced by dancehall and ambient music after all, but it just seems like something important is missing.

Overall, Notes on a Conditional Form is a journey, albeit a bumpy one, more like a rollercoaster than a lovely coastal drive. On the first few listens the tracks blur together a little, probably because there is 22 of them, even though they are totally different. But the more you listen, the more tracks stand out and the more you start to appreciate the album as a whole piece.

KIERRA POLLOCK

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