Album Review: The 1975 Presents Notes on a Conditional Form

The blog resurrection! Welcome back. It’s been a while since things have happened. The world stopped for a moment. I had tickets to 6 different gigs before everything went belly-up. I would have filled this blog with eager reviews and urged you to check out x, y and z, but then it all disappeared and honestly without live music, who the hell am I?

Notes On A Conditional Form

But, The 1975 have just released their new album, Notes on a Conditional Form (NOACF), and I think it deserves a review. I’ve listened to the singles, and I just finished listening to the enhanced album from start to end on Spotify, including the visual/ spoken word tracks throughout. I have some thoughts, that’s for sure.

First I want to clarify, I would let Matty Healy hit me with his car and thank him for it. I’ve seen The 1975 live three, maybe even four times now, and they always floor me. Their energy and synchronisation on stage is incredible and they’re so satisfying to watch. Is this album my favourite of theirs/ an absolute knockout? No. But it serves a purpose and it feeds the narrative of their story and their evolution, so let’s dive in.

The album opens with a 5 minute speech from Greta Thunberg about our climate emergency. If you saw The 1975 at Laneway festival (or probably elsewhere around the world recently), this speech would be familiar to you. It was an interlude in their set and it did take me by surprise at the time. Matty has said that Greta is “the most metal person he had ever met”, so it’s cool they chose to start the album this way. Also, they’re putting Greta’s message out to millions of ears, and forcing them to listen. It’s very clever, especially because it’s something that the band is very passionate about, as we all should be.

We go right from Greta’s speech into People, which was the first single of this album and was released in 2019. It’s a welcome smack in the face and I think they placed it there to juxtapose the speech itself. People is so different from The 1975’s established sound though, I’d be lying if I said I fully enjoyed it. I also don’t think it’s lyrically complex enough to be seen as a serious song “with a message”, so I think coming from the speech into this may not have been the strongest move.

The album flips 180 degrees again, with The End (Music For Cars). It’s a great piece of music and I found myself drifting off in thought, but at this point I was kind of feeling lost & confused – was the whole album going to be interludes/ speeches/ songs by The 1975 that don’t sound like they’re by The 1975? Right after this is Matty’s speech, titled AN ETHICAL DILEMMA.

Finally, we arrive at the first song on the album that really sounds like a tried and true 1975 song. Frail State of Mind is what I was looking for. Emotive lyrics over that poppy, bouncy beat. “I always get this way sometimes” reminding me of A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships‘ closing track I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes). I feel like contrasting an absolute with ‘sometimes’ is something The 1975 has done throughout their whole discography. The main downside about Frail State of Mind is that it sounds exactly like TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME from the aforemetioned album, it could have been called TOOTIME2. You can sing one over the other seamlessly, which I did.

Something I should probably mention here is that this is a long album. There’s 22 songs. More including the speeches. It’s a listening marathon, and a lot to get your head around. Thank you for sticking with me here.

Nothing really notable happens until after Matty’s speech JUST PART OF HUMAN CONSCIOUSNESS. But after that, it’s on. Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America is a beautiful song, I don’t know why they called it that but I don’t care. Phoebe Bridgers sings the second verse and does so beautifully. I’ve always loved their slower tracks, along the lines of Is There Somebody Who Can Watch You and If I Believe You, off their first two albums respectively. Also on this album, Nothing Revealed/ Everything Denied tugs at the same heartstrings. Beautiful.

At this point in the album, it’s like it’s standing on its own. I feel like The 1975 wanted to make a point at the start, and get their message across, which they did. However, you’d be wrong if you got too comfortable. After a few stock standard “1975-esque” songs, we’re hit with Shiny Collarbone, which made me think another band had slipped into my Spotify queue when I wasn’t looking. Following this, we get another speech from Matty about ONLINE INTIMACY.

At this point, I think If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know) is my favourite track on the album, as it transports be back to the original 1975 vibe and sound. We progress through to Having No Head, a six-minute piece of music that ebbs, flows and changes throughout. The second last track, Don’t Worry, sounds like a Christmas Carol.

The last six tracks on the album are honestly all over the place. The 1975 are introducing a new sound while also wanting to keep true to their original roots. It’s led to each track feeling different, and the last section of the album not being sonically cohesive. I think if they wanted to take this album in a new direction and mark a new era for The 1975, they should have launched themselves off of that platform. It seems like they’ve kept one foot planted firmly on the ground, just in case.

That being said, risks definitely were taken here, especially with the spoken word pieces and Greta’s speech at the start of the album. But yeah, it’s not my favourite 1975 album. I like most of the tracks individually, sure, but as a concept, as a cohesive piece of work? I don’t know. I’m not disappointed with it, but the bar their first two albums set was ridiculously high.

I give this one a 3/5 stars, and here’s the tracks I saved along the way:

– Then Because She Goes
– Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America
– Roadkill
– Me & You Together Song
– Nothing Revealed/ Everything Denied
– Tonight (I Wish I Was Your Boy)
– If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)
– What Should I Say

I hope you guys enjoyed this review and find time to check out the album yourself – I can’t wait to hear what you think.

Al

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