The 1975’s Long And Messy “Notes On A Conditional Form” Is A Triumph

Music lovers of any genre will love something from The 1975's new fourth album, "Notes on a Conditional Form." It is a long portfolio of the many genres that the band spreads, while speaking of current issues and personal growth.

Anna Radinsky/Assistant Entertainment Director

Warning: The following may cause out-of-body experiences, traveling through space and time, sensations of drowning and reviving, goosebumps, happy crying, sad crying, moshing, shimmying and raving for 80 minutes.

The 1975 took the organized topic of the Internet from their last album, “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships,” and exploded with a genre-bending portfolio in their end-of-an-era fourth record, “Notes On A Conditional Form.”

Singer and frontman Matty Healy doesn’t take your hand to go on a steady and carefully planned walk through the album’s 22 songs. It’s more like taking rides on roller coasters (“People“), flying to England to walk on its streets (“Yeah I Know”) and going clubbing to house music (“I Think There’s Something You Should Know” and “What Should I Say”), flying back to take a road trip through America (“Roadkill“), staying in your lover’s room (“Me & You Together Song“), going to church (“Nothing Revealed / Everything Denied”) and even going clubbing with the Jamaican dancehall musician, Cutty Ranks (“Shiny Collarbone“).

We are welcomed into The 1975 experience with their self-titled intro. While the first song of their previous albums felt like turning on an Xbox or Mac, this one begins with a warning from Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg, “the most legit punk person I’ve ever met in my life,” Healy said in Spotify’s Storyline. A distant saxophone, a crying baby and twinkling ambient piano notes rise and fall with the urgency of Thunberg’s message of needing to end fossil fuel emissions for survival.

“Everyone out there, it is now time for civil disobedience,” Thunberg concludes before the track goes silent. “It is time to rebel.”

If you didn’t get Thunberg’s message, set “People” to be your morning alarm.

The song explodes with screaming and bone shaking lyrics that pushes people to get off of their sofas and make a difference. The band expresses how fed up they are on how not enough action is being done to protect future generations against climate change.

The rage drops and turns into uplifting beauty with “The End (Music for Cars),” marking a tribute to the end of an era that began with the band’s first self-titled album in 2013. 

The first lyric of “Frail State of Mind” is a testament to everyone’s current situation, even though the song was first released in October 2019: “Go outside? Seems unlikely.”

The song is a bop with a dreamy melody that could make you smile, unless you listen to the lyrics and are reminded of social anxiety and convincing yourself that you don’t want to go out even though your friends push you to.

The fully ambient track of “Streaming” was created by blending avant-garde sounds with an orchestral interpretation of music that has no time signature. It seamlessly flowed into “The Birthday Party,” one of the best songs that Healy has written in his career.

While swaying to sounds of a music box that softly mix with a banjo, the lyrics speak of Healy’s recovery from drug addiction, temptations, breakups and even running the sink to hide the sound of peeing.

Indie rock singer Phoebe Bridgers sings right beside Healy in “Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America,” a beautifully sad song about loving religion but fearing the stigma of being queer. (This was the song that gave me an out-of-body experience at 2 a.m.)

Roadkill” humorously summarizes what it was like for The 1975 to tour throughout the U.S., while set to a familiar country sound found in radios all over the nation. Healy shares his experiences with homophobia, losing weight, harsh critics, unwanted hookups, guns and the 2016 election.

Children have probably been conceived to “Me & You Together Song.”

The fun and happy melody lace together with dreams about falling in love, going on dates in amusement parks and starting a family. Healy also sings about his sexuality, singing “Oh, it’s okay, lots of people think I’m gay/But we’re friends, so it’s cool, why would it not be?”

No one is disappointed by “If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know).” The instant hit is about getting naked on FaceTime and experiencing the awkwardness and excitement that comes with it. As the song starts off with the suspense of ambience rising with distant opulent vocals from English genre-bending singer FKA twigs, the beat drops with horns and melody that is impossible not to dance to. And just as you think the song can’t get any better, John Waugh’s saxophone rips through, tying together one of the best songs on the album. 

One of the most impressive tracks and Healy’s favorite was made by the band’s drummer, George Daniel. His meditative creation, “Having No Head,” starts off with single notes being hit on an old piano while synthetics and ambience layer up so high that it feels like you’re underwater, faintly hearing the chaos of a city above you. Suddenly, he lifts you over the noise and transports you to a nightclub that transitions between house and deepbass. He ties the journey all together by returning back to single notes on the piano.

The final two songs on the album are the most personal. “Don’t Worry,” originally titled “You,” was one of the first songs that Healy ever heard, created by his father Tim Healy. Father and son sang together words of love and comfort, ending the piano lullaby with “I’ll always love you. You.” The perfect lyrical transition introduces us to the finale, “Guys,” a love song from Healy to his bandmates, who have been friends ever since they were 13. Even though the song expresses gratefulness of the brotherhood within the band, I couldn’t help but think of my own friends and the people I love.

When “NOACF” ended, I had a flashback to a sweet high school memory.

One weekend, the first driver of our friend group took five of us down to an ice skating rink in Miami Beach. We accidentally got there an hour before it opened, and we didn’t feel like killing time by walking around in the humidity or paying for parking anywhere else. Without saying much about it, we all decided to stay in the car and play music from our friend’s aux. I think the cool sounds of Tame Impala and Pink Floyd chilled us out over our poor planning skills and after a song or two, we all fell silent. I was sitting in the middle of two friends in the back and pretty soon they both slouched onto me and fell half asleep. Maybe I did too. What makes this memory one of my most cherished was that none of us expected to enjoy each other’s silent company to an admired soundtrack that night. But if there’s anything that can cure a bunch of teenagers from their boredom while also bringing their friendships a little closer, it’s a great record.

That’s the power that “NOACF” has.

I hope that it won’t be too long before friends can get together to share a similar experience with The 1975.

8/10

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