It’s been almost two years since The 1975’s most iconic album, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, was released. Whilst writing, the band realised instantly that this project was bigger than they had initially predicted. We were promised a Part Two follow-up album to finish what they started. Life for everybody has changed dramatically since then, and even more so in the past four months. The world we had just started making sense of barely exists now. It’s confusing. It’s frightening. It’s also kind of boring. Enter The 1975 with Notes On A Conditional Form…
Similar in nature to their previous album, NOACF is a diverse medley of musical genres. Their familiar 1980s-infused synth-pop sound is one of their trademarks.”If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)” is barely infused, it breathes 80s life from beginning to end. There is a mix of full orchestral compositions, country-inspired acoustic tracks, ethereal dreamlike electronica and even a gritty dose of punk rock. The band left no stone unturned in their composing. The album structure is cleverly designed with each song complementing the previous, whether through lyrical theme, musical ambience or emotive effect.
Lead singer, Matty Healy, has been known in the past for his bold, unapologetic political voice. Why should he change now? The album opens with the self-titled song “The 1975”, featuring a spoken monologue by climate change activist Greta Thunberg set to music. By doing this, the band offered Thunberg another platform to amplify her voice and urgent message. The speech concludes: ‘So everyone out there, it is now time for civil disobedience. It is time to rebel.’ With not even a musical pause for respite, the album propels listeners straight into track two on the album, “People”.
A complete distinction in sound to its precursor, this politically charged, fast-paced punk outflow is a commentary on the isolated lifestyle of our computer age. ‘Wake up, wake up, wake up, we are appalling, and we need to stop just watching shit in bed’. The issue is presented: climate change. As well as the answer: rebel against the establishment. In this blatant expression of activism, the group are fearless in preaching their principles. We love you for it, boys.
Despite how this may sound, the album is in no way a preaching collection of musical propaganda. Instrumental fragments of full orchestral compositions are layered throughout the record. “The End (Music for Cars)” is a transcendent piece that sounds lifted from a scene from The Notebook. It is complimentary music that lacks the political noise of other parts of the album. No intense instruction to burn down the patriarchy here. This coordination of mixing politics with pleasure is the success of the record. Offering you something to think about, then granting you the time to actually consider it.
Climate change is not the only global issue that can be picked out of NOACF. Last year, the band released the single “Frail State of Mind”. This velvety electronic song touches upon mental health and its impact on relationships. Here, the protagonist would prefer to stay at home or in bed to avoid ‘boring’ people with their ‘frail state of mind’. In the last 10 years as a society, we have made great progress in normalising the discussion of mental illness. The human mind is a brilliant, complex and wonderful thing. The power of this minimalist song projects this idea; the silvery sound blankets and normalises the subject matter.
Actually, the band embracing their own sensitivity is a running theme throughout the album. “Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America” is an enlightening acoustic ballad featuring Phoebe Bridgers. The combination of Bridgers & Healy’s vocals alone would be special enough. However once again, the lyrics explore questions surrounding religion, existence and sexuality. This powerful and emotive duet takes on a life of its own, revealing a delicacy that has already delighted fans since its release earlier this year.
This vulnerability continues in the final track on the album “Guys”. A lovesong of friendship and ode to the bromance between the bandmates of almost 20 years. ‘The moment that we started a band – it was the best thing that ever happened – the first time we went to Japan was the best thing that ever happened – And I wish that we could do it again’. The foursome spent their twenties in the chaos of achieving fame and success as The 1975. Now entering their thirties, this song allows listeners to reminisce with them. It is a heartfelt finale to the album: a nostalgic display of affection. The end of an era and the introduction of a new chapter of their career.
Notes on a Conditional Form is here to target your emotions. It comments on important social and political factors that are part of all of our lives, particularly now. Feeling isolated and alone at the moment is something that we can all relate to. This weekend it is vital that you enjoy your daily allowed exercise with a walk or run. Take your headphones and relish having time to reflect with this refreshing, thought-provoking album. It is the gift we didn’t know we needed this year.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Notes on a Conditional Form will be out this Friday 22 May 2020 on all music platforms – best reached HERE
You can also visit The 1975’s official website for more info.