Review: Notes on a Conditional Form by The 1975

Published

Credit: The 1975

Ciara Higgins
Writer

Ciara Higgins provides a critical take on the newest album from rock darlings The 1975.

​After releasing the stunning album that was A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships, I found myself wondering how The 1975 were going to kick it up a notch with their latest release. My hope for another great record was established upon their release of first single People but gradually deteriorated as more singles were brought out, and the release of the album on 22 May was the proverbial nail in the coffin. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a terrible album by any means, but despite a hefty 80-minute run-time, it truly falls short.

Inconsistency is the first word that springs to mind; I think I managed to get a whopping four-in-a-row of songs I actually enjoyed, but that isn’t great news when the album features 22 songs. The ever-present introductory track The 1975 differs this time round with activist Greta Thunberg delivering a monologue regarding the climate emergency. I wouldn’t skim over it during a first-time listen, because ultimately what she says is true, but when you hear it once you could probably just ignore it.

​People is easily my favourite single to have emerged from this album cycle, and remains one of my favourites after hearing the rest. Definitely an unexpected but entirely welcome sound from the band, and trust me when I say that it’s an absolute banger played live. Coming in at only two minutes long, the group manages to avoid a potentially repetitive situation, but I could quite honestly listen to it all day. Despite how great a tune this is, it sticks out like a sore thumb in an album mostly filled with mellow and repetitive pish. The following track, The End, acts as an airy musical interlude, something with which the album is lightly littered – see Streaming and Having No Head. They aren’t necessarily bad songs, but they seem to act as an attempt to cover up the inconsistencies of the album, tending to take their place as extended intros/outros.

Another previously released single, Frail State of Mind, features some lovely irregular rhythmic patterns throughout, introducing themselves in the beginning and acting as the lopsided foundations for a pretty solid song. The verse melody is not unlike TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME featured on the band’s previous album, and in fact I feel that this song would have quite comfortably fit in that record.

The Birthday Party follows yet another musical interlude sandwiched between singles. This one didn’t receive the best critical reception, but I personally find it quite relaxing. The harmonies layered over Matty Healy’s vocals at the beginning and end and the saxophone outro are what make this track for me; it has the essence of a quiet walk on a cloudy day, and I find that quite therapeutic.

This is the point in the album where things go disappointingly awry. Yeah I Know is just a lacklustre regurgitation of a previous song, I don’t quite see the point in even writing about it. Because She Goes and Roadkill are certainly not bad tracks; they have a sound that I find comforting and familiar, but they are essentially filler songs in an album filled with filler songs. Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America has lovely lyrics, and I love an acoustic number, but I feel that for a duet the track is sorely lacking in harmony, especially in the chorus where there is such obvious opportunity for a satisfying harmony – a true instance of musical blue-balls. Not to mention its title is godawful.

While the album features the disappointing yet sufferable, there’s no avoiding the following tracks: Me and You Together Song and I Think There’s Something You Should Know. The former would not be out of place as a musical overlay for a cancelled Nickelodeon sitcom, and the latter is, yet again, a poor excuse for a continuation of Frail State of Mind. If you end up listening to the album, you’re safe to steer clear of these ones; you won’t be missing much.

On the plus side, the following four-song segment does everything right. Nothing Revealed/Everything Denied has an undeniable groove to it. The choir feature almost makes up for the lack of harmony previously mentioned, and the chord structure of the piano part is gorgeous. Tonight (I Wish I was Your Boy) continues the same head-bobbing groove as the previous track while maintaining its solidarity as an individual song. I absolutely love the brass underneath the vocals; the icing on the cake. Shiny Collarbone is, for Glasgow club-night regulars, 100% a Flat 0/1 reggae night tune. It’s easily one of the coolest on the album, but it was quite rude for The 1975 to get me so in the mood for a night out when we aren’t allowed.

If You’re Too Shy Let Me Know is also a great tune for dancing. Despite its clear 80s-style influences, it fits in well with the rest of the album, and isn’t a copy of previous releases. The presence of the sax makes the song, but I reckon it would still be a pretty solid track without. It’s definitely reminiscent of their first album, but upgraded in a very stylistic manner.

From this point on, the album is once again incredibly boring and disappointing. We have reached the four-song peak of the record, and from here on it’s a rocky descent with no view. The final six tracks present the listener with essential carbon copies of previous songs, a cute but dull song about loving your pals, and a six-minute interlude filled with shit-all but a drop equivalent to stepping off a sloped kerb. I expected so much more from them before listening, but it’s truly a monotonous way to conclude an album.

Overall, I don’t rate this record highly at all. Individual songs are fantastic, but there’s too much shite to ignore on this one. The only consistency that the album shows is a copied and pasted percussion line; the connections between songs aside from that are scarce and thin. As far as I’m aware, the band are taking a break for the foreseeable future, and after hearing this album, I don’t have much excitement for a return.