‘Notes On A Conditional Form’ by The 1975 [Album Review]

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It’s here! It finally happened!

Um, anyway, let’s talk about this fourth studio album from The 1975.

I’ve already talked about some of the singles so here’s a list of those if you want to check out my initial thoughts and reactions to any of those:

Also, here’s my review of ‘A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships’ that I did recently because I will be making some connections between the two albums.

And now that I’m done shamelessly forcing my content on you, let’s talk about this album as a whole!

I’m going to be honest, I don’t really know where to start with this album.

When I first listened to ‘A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships’, I felt like I had a good idea of what the album was trying to say and immediately listened to it again so I could make connections with those ideas in mind. After waiting so long for this album to come out and hearing the amount of hype from the band–mostly Matty Healy–I was willing to put aside my unimpressed feelings about the leading singles and go into this album open to the idea of it blowing my mind…

It did something to my mind,…

The Rebellion That Never Was

I’ve always treated the opening track ‘The 1975’ as a throw-away track that serves to introduce the change in sound each album has. I don’t even mind this version in which Greta Thunberg gives a speech about how important it is to protect our environment. I especially like the final words “It’s time to rebel” leading into the thrashing, punk inspired ‘People’–a track that I will always love and which made me whoop with excitement when it was first released.

Because I’ve come to expect over the years that The 1975 will play with expectations and change their sound from album to album. After being the pop-band they always shied away from with their last album, I was over the moon with the prospect of them taring down their identity and leaning into the outrage of a more aggressive genre. I wanted them to rebel.

That’s what this album should have been.

Instead, Healy screams “wake up, wake up, wake up” only to sleep through the next ten tracks, which only gets us halfway through this album.

A Beautiful Face With Nothing To Say

I’ve always been a huge fan of The 1975 because of the production. Yes, a nerdy reason to like a band, but their songs have a kind of environment to them that always drew me in even when the lyrical content didn’t.

This album is no exception to that. There were multiple times when I thought “this is beautiful” as Healy’s distorted vocals ceased and the instrumentation would swell.

An example of this is ‘The End (Music for Cars)’ which I immediately saved to my playlist of instrumental music. It feels oddly placed in the album as it comes after the torrent of ‘People’ but as a stand alone track, it’s a gorgeous piece of work.

However beautiful I might find some of the instrumentation on this album, it doesn’t take away from the fact that the lyrics seem to be lacking from what I’ve come to expect. Now, I’m not one of those people who thinks Healy has something super profound to say–in fact, I think he usually thinks he’s far more insightful than he is–but I can at least acknowledge that they are clever and full of word-play.

Instead we get things like “You put the tap on to cover up the sound of your piss” in songs like ‘The Birthday Party’. This is a line that always stuck out to me in this song and not for any good reasons. Why are you here, strange line about peeing? Why?

Noise and Sound

I couldn’t get through this review without bringing up ‘Shiny Collarbone’, a song that appears smack in the middle of some songs I actually don’t mind.

From an instrument stand point, it reminds me a lot of ‘How To Draw/ Petrichor’ from the previous album. Except that where that song acts as a transitional point and has some interesting atmospheric qualities, I was left listening to ‘Shiny Collarbone’ wondering what the heck I was listening to.

It’s one of those songs where I just sort of stared at my player looking confused until it was over. And then the album just continues with ‘If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)’ as if nothing happened.

Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.

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I don’t hate this album–I don’t even think it’s a bad album–and I’m certainly not as passionate about how I feel about it as some people seem to be. Which is kind of the problem. I should feel something towards this album and instead I just sort of shrugged after listening to it the first time and moved on with my day. It never crossed my mind to re-listen to it right away like with their previous albums.

There are still some songs that I really like on this album: ‘People’ will be a favourite of mine for some time, ‘If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)’ has been stuck in my head for days and I still enjoy hearing it, and ‘Tonight (I Wish I Was Your Boy)’ has a wonderful groove to it.

But will I ever sit through the whole thing again? Unlikely.

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