It’s that time of the year again, folks. Time for us to painstakingly take apart another album by The 1975, this time titled Notes On a Conditional Form. Matty Healy and friends have given another long album, featuring 22 tracks and clocking in at about an hour and a half. It’s got seven more tracks than its sister album, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, and it continues the band’s story of learning to step away from our intensely connected world.
The album begins with the eponymous track “The 1975”, but instead of the usual reworking of the same lyrics like the past three albums, Notes switches it up. We are given a spoken word from climate activist Greta Thunberg, including lines from her powerful “Our House Is On Fire” speech. It’s a strange way to start the album, given that the rest of it barely touches on the subject, but it’s another example of how the band has changed from a Top 40 staple to a group of people who genuinely want to change the world with their art.
The album continues with “People”, which was the lead single and released last August. This has been a long album cycle — the album was delayed twice. It continues the theme from Thunberg’s introduction, featuring a call to action and the end of apathy. It also takes us back to the early days of a more punk rock 1975, modernizing it with scathingly political lyrics.
To their merit, this album is more meat than potatoes for me. A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships was revolutionary when it was released, and yet as I listened to it over the year it’s been out, it became lacking for me. In Notes, the band has really figured out what they want to say and how they want to say it. With the addition of more fun tracks like “Me & You Together Song” (a personal highlight) and “Guys”, the album feels more personal and complete.
A Brief Inquiry and Notes are not recreational albums. Notes is almost there and is inherently easier to listen to, but I know I’ll still cherry pick. I wonder what would happen if The 1975 could write an entire album without feeling the need to fill it up with instrumentals. When I listen to the band when I’m in the car, I go for their self-titled or I like it when you sleep.
For a band who is so obsessed with making change, they’re sometimes stuck in a formula. If you listen to any of their albums, it’s evident, even so far as using pieces of past music — see I like it when you sleep’s “Please Be Naked” and Notes’ “The End (Music for Cars)”. Their need to stick to their formula is almost religious, and I feel that sometimes, though sacrificing continuity, it would be beneficial to really break away from what they’ve previously done.
All in all, Notes On a Conditional Form is set to be an album of the year contender for many. The idea that we can use music to foster conversation is something that The 1975 does well, and I’m grateful that they’ve chosen to use their platform in this way.
by Nadia Paiva
Nadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.