Notes On A Conditional Form is the long awaited, and long delayed fourth album from the ever controversial The 1975.
Originally slated for release in 2018, a close follow up to the chart topping A Brief Inquiry Into Relationships, the band’s fourth full length has been subject to much suspicion and criticism, even before it landed.
See, Matty Healy loves to talk, and often does without thinking. Plenty has been promised, opening the door to criticism wider than ever before. Said promises have led to a twenty-two track album, eventually released on 22nd May 2020, a year and a half later than planned, and needless to say, has come with plenty of controversy.
On first listen, you could say that twenty-two tracks has resulted in a lot of filler, but, listen again and there is plenty to be discovered. Passionate fans of the band will relate heavily to Notes On A Conditional Form, because yes, it is still very much The 1975, and if anything this is a record more personal than ever before; but most importantly, it brings new styles and new sounds to the table, once again proving the Wilmslow band capable of remaining fresh and relevant.
There’s no way to define this album, because it truly is all over the place; yet somehow each and every track works together to create what genuinely is a soundtrack to our generation’s lives in Britain today.
Keeping in theme, NOACF opens with the self titled The 1975, but this time around it is different. There’s not the usual nostalgic instrumental, but a spoken word call to arms from Greta Thunberg, the first of multiple collaborations to be found throughout. Is an album the right place for a speech on climate change? I’m still unsure, but what I am sure of is that this album doesn’t serve one particular purpose, it is purely a band being self indulgence without fear.
There’s all-out punk on early single People, closely followed by the nostalgic romance of instrumental The End (Music For Cars), something which is revisited throughout in the form of Streaming and Having No Head. It’s easy to say that these instrumentals are included solely as filler, but they do serve a purpose. They help to transition between tracks which are a lot to take in, giving a calming moment to truly take in the heavy expression of each every track.
Sure, in theme, this is an album of pure chaos, but that’s because The 1975 are a band writing music for themselves, nobody else. It’s one hour and twenty one minutes of pure expression, not one specific subject, just everything that has come to Healy’s mind; and isn’t that exactly what music is about?
There’s the deeply personal, highly relatable anxious sounds of Frail State Of Mind and the pure 90s nostalgia of Then Because She Goes and Me & You Together Song, the country-esque tour confessional Roadkill, featuring vocals from friend of the band Phoebe Bridgers, and there’s the heavily produced garage beat of Yeah I Know and I Think There’s Something You Should Know.
It truly is all over the place, but that’s what makes it good. We’re talking about a band who could easily have returned with an album full of catchy indie anthems and shot straight to number one, but that’s not The 1975. This is a band constantly pushing their boundaries, offering witty and honest lyrics which fans can relate to in a way nobody else is, but most importantly doing exactly what they want.
There’s no point in being a musician if you’re not creating the music you want to be. Sure, that’s difficult if you’re just breaking through, but if you’re at the level that these guys are and you’re. cutting corners just to please the critics, then you’re simply a coward.
I don’t doubt that Notes On A Conditional Form could have been better had certain promises not been made and more time been given to really define themselves, but as a whole it is exactly the ‘night time record’ the band have been promising.
There’s real high points in the story of a Facetime relationship, If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know), which could potentially be the band’s strongest work to date; and in the anxiety of Frail State Of Mind. There’s also low points in the pure chaos of the Cutty Ranks fronted Shiny Collarbone, and the out right cheesiness of Healy’s love story to his band, Guys; but there’s not a track on here which you could really call bad.
Sure, some tracks are not to the standard of previous albums, but all in all The 1975 have delivered twenty two tracks which tell a story, their own story and most likely the story of a lot of our own lives. It’s over indulgent and completely narcissistic, but it simply wouldn’t be The 1975 if it wasn’t.