Title: Notes on a Conditional Form
Artist: The 1975
Label: Dirty Hit / Polydor Records
Released: 22 May 2020
Notes on a conditional form
"And there’s been no way for me to say
That I felt a certain way
In stages, oh
I think the story needs more pages"
To say that I was highly anticipating this release would have been the biggest understatement. The release of this album was filled with unmet promises concerning its release date, with it being delayed several times. The singles themselves were some of the band’s best increasing my hype for the album release, with them still being some of my favourite The 1975 songs. So when I finally got to listen to the full album, instead of having to listen to the seven singles on repeat, I was beside myself. However, I can’t say that this album does not have its flaws. When you see an album that is 22 songs long, you know that problems are bound to occur.
What is evident from looking at the album as a whole is that The 1975 are highlighting everything that defines them as a band. The opening track ‘People’ calls back the groups early love for punk rock, with its faced paced drumming and roaring guitar and bass coupled with Matty Healy screaming “people like people, we want alive people, the young surprise people, stop f****** with the kids!”. Besides from being a perfect opening track, setting aside Greta Thundburg’s foreboding yet heartfelt speech, it is also a major departure from anything within the band’s discography demonstrating their range. We see The Streets inspired English garage track ‘Frail State of Mind’, where Healy discusses his battles with anxieties and how it affects those around him and his social interactions. Us listeners also bare witness to the band’s affinity for ambient instrumentals, with the likes of ‘Streaming’ which perfectly bleeds into the following track ‘The Birthday Party, a mellow track discussing elements of how the lead singer has been feeling about group gatherings since becoming clean. The 1975 also do what they do best with 80s tinged pop and 90s pop-rock, with the tracks ‘If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)’ and ‘Me & You Together Song’ respectively. Between you and me, these are my favourite songs off the album. Several tracks also feature house inspired melodies, and also softer more acoustic tracks the band have been known to pepper into their albums such as ‘Playing on My Mind’ and ‘Don’t Worry’.
Nah, I’m alright
Nah, trust I’m fine
Just dealing with a frail state of mind
Where this album falls short for me is with the album’s pure instrumentals and their experimental house inspired instrumentals. Not because I personally dislike instrumentals, in fact, one of my favourite The 1975 songs is an instrumental called ‘An Encounter’ off their self-titled record, but it’s because these instrumentals feel so disjointed from the tracklist and feel incomplete. It is quite unlike The 1975 as they have produced amazing ambient music and English garage tinged instrumentals before on their previous works dating back to their early EPs. ‘The End (Music For Cars)’ follows ‘People’ and it sticks out like a sore thumb, as beautiful as the track sounds. The dichotomy between this instrumental and the preceding song is far too different and an abrupt shift in tone that does not work, nor does the instrumental lead into ‘Frail State of Mind’. A lot of these instrumentals or songs that have minimal lyrics also seem to serve no purpose in breaking the listening experience and come off as the band just placing the song in the tracklist just cause. This is truly my biggest gripe with the album, it does feel slapped together with little thought on the full listening experience as you’re being pulled in multiple directions as a listener even outside of the instrumental tracks.
The album really shines within the second half, but specifically tracks 12, 13 and 14. This is the true cohesive sound that I would have liked to have seen more of form the band. Not necessarily saying there could not have been variation within the album’s genres or mood, but rather a clear cohesive ‘vibe’. On their sophomore album, this was on best display as the opening track ‘Love Me’ is vastly different from ‘Change of Heart’, but both songs belong in that tracklist and exist within the same world. The three tracks, ‘I Think There’s Something You Should Know’, ‘Nothing Revealed / Everything Denied’ and ‘Tonight (I Wish I Was Your Boy)’ are the only point on the album where I achieve this same feeling. They fit so perfectly together, even though they differ in lyrical tone, from discussing drug addiction to yearning, and somewhat melodically this just sadly demonstrates what this album could have been if the band had a better focus. The only other points in the album where the same feeling is had are with ‘Frail State of Mind’, ‘Streaming’ and ‘The Birthday Party’ which is disappointing, to say the least.
Feeling like someone, like somebody else, who don’t feel themself
Paying for their wealth with their mental health
I’d like to meet myself and swap clothes
I think there’s someplace I should go
There is a great album within this tracklisting, but it is too bloated and disjointed. I would personally describe it as a beautiful mess that I think is true to the album’s namesake. It is ‘notes’ on all the musical conditions that have made up this band. A deconstruction of the already deconstructed, of which Healy said himself. But in comparison to the band’s 3 previous albums, you can easily see the band were confused, and that they were covering too much ground. Overall, there are plenty of enjoyable tracks being all of the singles, and then some, which I truly love but I go back to their previous albums much, much more. I hope with the band’s next project, whatever that may be, they can find their footing again with a cohesive listening experience.
Reviewed by Lindsay Day - 14/07/20