Any fan of The 1975 knows to expect the unexpected. Throughout their career, the band have crossed genres and musical styles, exploring themes of political unrest, drug use, the internet, love, sex, life and more. Their long awaited fourth record, Notes on a Conditional Form, (the bookend to their Music for Cars era) is no exception. Sitting at 81 minutes long, the album crosses genres and musical styles ranging from punk to electronic to orchestral. However, dance and pop music is the most evident musical thread throughout the record.
While 81 minutes may seem long for an album, the listening experience feels more curated. Sharp turns and songs that juxtapose each other sonically. Spoken word, autotune, orchestral interludes and punk vocals. The record comes at a time where the world is in isolation. While the band had no way of knowing what the state of the world would be in when finally setting a release date, the timing works. It’s an album to be taken in. Sitting in your room listening, dancing around your house listening to Matty Healy navigate the complexities of his own mind. Two tracks in particular, reference staying inside: “Go outside? Seems unlikely,” Healy sings on Frail State of Mind, and, “I don’t like going outside bring me everything here,” on People. Delving deeper into the record, it feels like the soundtrack for the current isolation period. It’s introspective, it’s dreamy, it’s aggressive, it’s confessional. The orchestral interludes such as The End (Music for Cars) gives the record a filmic quality, cementing how fans describe the bands albums as the soundtracks to their lives.
In keeping with the bands traditional self-titled opening track, the record opens with a monologue from climate activist, Greta Thunberg, focusing on the climate crisis. The track was released in July 2019, marking the start of the NOACF album cycle, 10 months before the albums release (which was plagued with delays). The monologue ends with the line, “it is time to rebel”. The record then takes a sharp turn from the ambient opening track to the anarchy-punk People, moving from the climate activists speech to Healy’s own dire thoughts. The track addresses the fear of the current political climate, such as the generation gap, and urges listeners to urgently “Wake up”, or rebel as Thunberg stated.
The End (Music for Cars) is a beautiful composition that stirs feelings and gives the listener a moment to contemplate, after the heavier lyrical content of the proceeding tracks. Healy stated Frail State Of Mind is about anxiety in an interview with Beats 1. The track seems to take cue from fan favourite TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME, as if it is a sequel to this track from their previous album A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships. The track successfully embodies vulnerability and anxiety, with lyrics such as “Don’t wanna bore you with my frail state of mind,” and, “I’m sorry that I missed your call, I watched it ring”.
Streaming is another emotion-stirring orchestral track, that you’d find in a movie such as Finding Neverlandand acts as an intro to the following track, The Birthday Party. The Birthday Party’s music video introduced ‘Mindshower’, a digital computerised rehabilitation centre. The band fully launched the Mindshower website yesterday which allows fans to download song stems, templates to create their own album covers and merchandise. The sweet ballad is about house parties and the social interactions that occur. Yeah I Know is comprised of repetitive lyrics and the glitchy, anomaly sounds they’ve become known for.
Then Because She Goes feels like The 1975 we met almost a decade ago. It’s a rock love song with a 90’s vibe, a fleeting moment of beauty within the manic state of the record. On the track Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America, Healy, an atheist, takes on a sarcastic tone singing of his love of Jesus Christ. The track also takes on sexuality, with Healy singing he’s, “in love with a boy I know, but that’s a feeling I can never show”. The song marks the first vocal collaboration with an artist on a track with the band. Phoebe Bridgers features on the track, singing of her love for the girl next door. The slow and acoustic song has minimal production, featuring only vocals, guitars and horns – much more stripped back than the majority of the album. The confessional track Roadkill is relatable, giving a comedic look into the singers life. With a sort of country music / Nashville influence. The lyric “If you don’t shoot, then you’ll never know,” is a callback to Robbers, a track off their debut album.
Me & You Together Song is placed halfway through the record and is a playful, pop track about unrequited love. I Think There’s Something You Should Know is more mellow with Healy singing, atop a house beat, of feeling like “somebody else,” and the depression that accompanies that feeling of being an imposter and isolated. Lo-fi hip-hop track Nothing Revealed / Everything Denied is an attempt to destroy the public persona Healy is known for, complete with pseudo-rap. He’s making revelations about himself and contradicting things he’s said and done in the past.
Reggae-Pop track Tonight (I Wish I Was Your Boy) is another song about yearning for someone, but in this case Healy sings of messing it up and the relationship not working out. Dance cut Shiny Collarbone features Jamaican dancehall musician Cutty Ranks, who is the sole vocalist on the track. Shiny Collarbone is the biggest departure sound-wise on the record.
FKA Twigs lends her vocals to If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know) and is an ode to cybersex and navigating webcam intimacy. The up-tempo track is one of the catchiest songs on the record. It includes a triumphant saxophone solo that will leave you grooving no matter where you’re listening to the track, elevating the song to another level. It’s pop perfection infused with jazz. The record then takes a turn to a more melancholic track, Playing On My Mind. Stripped back the song is Healy listing his thoughts, and is a lovely honest moment. This is followed up by the final completely instrumental Interlude, Having No Head. Another beautiful instrumental piece. It’s ambient and soft, and is a nice breather as we reach the end of the record while also building us back up with electro sounds.
What Should I Say is another collaboration with FKA Twigs who provides airy beautiful vocals, paired with Healy’s distorted deep lead vocals. The track is a gorgeous synth pop song, that you’ll find yourself moving along to. Bagsy Not In Net is the final interlude with a UK-garage influence. Healy then collaborates with his father, Tim Healy, on Don’t Worry. The striking song was written by Healy’s father, who played his son the song when he was younger. The song has a poetic quality to it, and is about being there for your partner.
The record ends with Guys. The track is a sentimental love letter from Healy, declaring the love he feels for his bandmates, making it the antithesis to Girls, from their debut album. Healy sings, “You guys are the best thing that ever happened to me”. It’s a beautiful love song from a man to his friends. Something unfortunately not heard often, or immortalised in lyrics, from many male artists.
Musically and sonically, the record has no boundaries with glitchy electronic sounds, garage rock guitars, indie pop, reggae-pop, melancholy ballads and alt-rock. The record also marks the first time a collaboration has featured on an album from The 1975. Yes, the album may be a bit long but it is a ride of emotions, self reflections and powerful messages on the current state of the world. The record is their most ambitious release to date, and that ambition paid off to produce a beautifully curated album.
By Vasili Papathanasopoulos