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The 1975 - Notes on a Conditional Form (Album Review)

Wednesday, 03 June 2020 Written by Graeme Marsh

Since they first appeared with their self-titled debut in 2013, the 1975 have progressed from indie-rock boyband to global stars through the medium of catchy pop songs, bridging the gap between industry buzz and guilty pleasure.

‘Notes on a Conditional Form’, their fourth studio album and the second part of their ‘Music For Cars’ release cycle following 2018’s ‘A Brief Enquiry Into Online Relationships’, has already spawned a crazy seven singles. But the thing is, even with a whole EP’s worth of material out there pre-release, we didn’t get the full extent of what’s going on here through the singles alone.

The album is a sprawling, incoherent mish-mash of 22 tracks ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Unfortunately, the sublime is rarer than its companion.

The four tracks opening the collection are an odd combination, and one not likely to win many admirers. Firstly, a spoken word introduction by climate activist Greta Thunberg warns of imminent disaster. It’s an important sentiment delivered in an eminently skippable manner, while a couple of pointless ambient interludes follow, split by the raucous, punky People.

Only the prim and proper would baulk at the odd swear word but this song is groaning under the weight of expletives. Sadly, there are plenty of other moments here afflicted by Matty Healy’s lyrical laziness. It’s said that people who swear with every other word have little of value to say, so maybe that’s a neon clue as to the 1975’s current status. 

The Birthday Party (more like a slowed down Beloved than anything Nick Cave) blurts “fucked up” throughout its running time, Yeah I Know’s warped vocal effects are interspersed with more gratuitous expletives and Nothing Revealed/Everything Denied’s bar-room piano feel and multi-vocal structure give way to “I never fucked in a car”. It’s certainly not the music that lets any of these songs down. 

Another side to the bloated running order is found in a slate of soppy love songs. Tonight (I Wish I Was Your Boy) is perfect for teen longing via a strange kind of Aswad filter, and the minimalist piano-led Don’t Worry, underpinned by a hopeful “darling, the love will shine through”, plough the same furrow with mixed results. Radio-friendly closer Guys, meanwhile, investigates platonic love by celebrating the band’s friendships.

The catchy indie-pop of Then Because She Knows is a great cut, as is an exquisite duet with Phoebe Bridgers, Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America. It’s a track that echoes Bear’s Den’s acoustic perfection with some stunning vocal performances.

All in all, though, there’s just too much going on here. Who in their right mind is going to sit and listen to a 22 track album these days, when most people just want to delve into their own Spotify playlists? To be frank, ‘Notes on a Conditional Form’ is so eclectic that it might easily serve the same purpose.

The 1975 Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sat July 10 2021 - LONDON Finsbury Park

Click here to compare & buy The 1975 Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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