In an age where advertisers are told to keep their messages and sales pitches as concise as possible which has resulted in an increase in one-word titled LP’s and a surge of albums with seldom more than thirty minutes of music on them. The 1975 has proved you can be successful by being verbose. Their 2016 sophomore LP I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It was seventy-three minutes long, topped the charts and remained in the official charts for seventy-one weeks. Notes on a Conditional Form contains over eighty minutes of music across twenty-two tracks. With eight songs already in the public domain before this LP’s release; one must find out if The 1975 already put out the greatest gems from this LP or whether they have kept the best back.
Notes on a Conditional Form begins with The 1975 that comprises of incidental music to Greta Thunberg’s speech calling for civil disobedience in response to climate change. Initially released on 24 July 2019 with proceeds going to the grassroots movement Extinction Rebellion; The 1975 is the first of the band’s eponymous opening songs to deviate from the lyrics used in their debut album. The beautiful distorted piano music with Greta’s final words “Time for civil disobedience, time to rebel” provides the perfect opening for the next track: People. Heavy, angry and hard-core; People is the perfect soundtrack for rebellion and civil disobedience. People without the accompanying promotional music video gives this song more credibility; Matt’s unnaturally straight hair just doesn’t resonate.
There are several standout tracks across Notes on a Conditional Form including Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America featuring Phoebe Bridgers. This acoustic number declaring love for Jesus Christ, “he’s so nice”, insecurity, “I am just a footprint in the snow”, whilst also prompting questions about sexuality features an inviting and heart-rending horn section. Likewise, Frail State of Mind begins with a beautiful extension of the preceding tracks’ incidental music outside addresses mental health issues with a great cinematic mindfulness mix of dub, grime and synths. Frail State of Mind successfully allows a natural extension of The 1975 musical identity.
Other impressive tracks include The Birthday Party, Roadkill, Me & You Together Song and the penultimate Don’t Worry written and sung by Matt’s dad which would have made an ideal playout track. Like Frail State of Mind, The Birthday Party begins with an extension of incidental music from the proceeding incidental track evolving into acoustic backed song with bouncy bass and drums alongside a powerful, yet savvy, chilled brass section to ensure a calm, mellowing serotonin releasing effect.
Whilst The 1975 has undoubtedly produced some great tracks for this LP and continue to be courageous and fearless explorers. Much of the remaining material is unable to compete on the same level, or when it occasionally does; it is not suitable for this album. Often some of the songs attempt to do the same thing and are surplus to requirements. For instance, Playing on My Mind is weaker lyrically and musically to Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America. The fault does not lie with too many songs being released too far in advance or that the songs released were the strongest; it’s that the band attempts to encompass too many sounds across too many genres that do not fit together on a single LP release. If Notes on a Conditional Form was created as a double album separating the plethora of experiences they wanted listeners to feel; a more consistent and powerful experience could have potentially been experienced.
The call to action, to unite listeners and raise awareness of social issues including mental health seems to evaporate into the void. The quartet often mistakes themselves as DJ’s and spend too much time trying to mesh unknown, bizarre and miss-matched sounds or perform heavily extended dance mixes (which are often listened to when people are not looking to be galvanised and awoken by activists like Greta Thunberg but are instead seeking to be in a state of “Having No Head”).
It appears The 1975 tried to make a thought-provoking album which also tries to make people forgot and be disengaged with the world and its precariousness. Sadly, despite the evident sound engineering and deft musicality throughout; these two antithetical concepts do not sit well together on Notes on a Conditional Form. Despite this, the songs which work including and not limited to Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America and Frail State of Mind should not be overlooked.