Let’s make one thing clear, I’m not coming at this review as a fan of The 1975 (although I very much am a huge fan) because quite frankly no one needs to read about another teenage girl that’s obsessed with a band so therefore everything they do is their best work yet. I’m coming at this review purely from a musical perspective that has no correlation to my love of the band or desire for this album to be great.
Review: *** (3 stars)
Summary: Undeniable promise that is misguided in parts
There’s something nostalgic about The 1975 and the scenarios they presented in previous albums that have soundtracked my teenage years whilst filling my subconscious with questions and ideologies surrounding sexual encounters, mental health and how we are living in a digital age with little to no desire for interaction in physical form.
That being said ‘Notes On a Conditional Form’ which is the fourth studio album from the Cheshire quartet misses the mark and could easily be perceived as Matty Healy’s attempt at fuelling his ever growing ego whilst not checking his privilege however I believe it’s the latter.
He deconstructed his ego and wrote self exploratory songs questioning his beliefs, lifestyle, friendships and mental health whilst embracing a sense of naivety. The problem is to get to those points in the album you have to listen to out of place musical interludes that ruin the structure and make the 80 minute album feel like it’s going to drag on forever with the only saving grace being drummer and producer George Daniel knowing how to make them sound listenable. The amount of musical interludes are the only thing that let the body of work as a whole down.
The lyrical songs are undeniably progressive and some of the best The 1975 have ever released. ‘If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)’ is a refreshing and uplifting look at different degrees of intimacy and how it changes within a romantic setting. ‘Frail State Of Mind’ explores mental health and how Healy has a certain resentment for social situations. It’s one of the few songs I feel I can relate to, with the first verse presenting my own anxiety to the point where it almost feels like they got inside my head. Matty admits going outside “seems unlikely” with social anxiety causing him to watch the phone ring without answering it, something I do every day.
The single “Guys” is a platonic love song that explores the friendship within the band as Matty proclaims The 1975 “was the best thing that ever happened” to him. Although I love how it depicts platonic friendship as you rarely find this in a love song I’m not sure if it was worthy to become a single and since we are on that topic “Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America” should be a bonus track at best.
The album itself certainly has musical masterpieces that anyone could only ever dream of writing. The honesty that Matty Healy has presented should be commended and celebrated as well as George Daniel, Ross Macdonald and Adam Hann all being congratulated on making some of The 1975’s most progressive musical pieces that have roaring baselines, perfectly timed drums and keyboard with the element of great guitar.
All in all though they’ve given a great body of work that includes songs with exceptional talent but it just missed the mark with too many musical interludes that felt like an afterthought to make the album longer and took away from what could have been an incredibly intricate body of work. They’ve somehow become misguided and still been able to pull off an album that some bands would fantasise about creating.
Matty Healy once said “all these kids at the moment are living out their lives soundtracked to The 1975 and I think it’s because…they just, they get it” and for the most part he’d be right.
Sometimes confusing but totally worth a listen.