Image: Mara Palena

‘Notes On A Conditional Form’ review: the 1975 deliver warm, nostalgic experimentation

Rating:

After a long year of sporadic single releases, the 1975’s much-anticipated Notes on a Conditional Form is finally here: it fills a gap in our lockdown lives with warmth and nostalgia for better times.

After their third album, A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships, was released in 2018, the band announced that their third and fourth albums would be part of a new era entitled ‘Music for Cars’. With many of the record’s songs capturing the nostalgic feeling of driving around with your friends, windows down and blasting music in the summer, it’s easy to see where the inspiration for Notes came from.

In an album that looks back nostalgically to the past, it’s vital to consider how our future may be cut short if we don’t change our ways environmentally

I was lucky enough to see The 1975 live in Birmingham in February- just weeks before gigs began to be cancelled – and the band performed a few songs from Notes on a Conditional Form. ‘If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)’ stood out both then and now as one of the most memorable pieces: the lyrics are classic 1975, with an eighties rhythm making it perfect for the concert’s setlist and as an early album release.

To get the best feel of Notes, it’s worth skipping to the end: the final song, ‘Guys’, is a love letter to friends and a nostalgic look back at the friendship of the band members. Complete with images and videos of the band throughout the years, it was a heart-warming and personal addition to the record.

‘Guys’ is an ode to the beauty of friendship

Nostalgia and youth are major themes throughout the album and ‘Guys’ emulates this beautifully. “The moment that we started a band was the best thing that ever happened” is a lovely expression of gratitude for how much the band has grown and learned over the years. Although this song is the album’s last, it feels like the reason for the Music For Cars era.

Appreciation for the band’s friendship is the driving force behind their nostalgic look back at their youth and past lives. “This has got a lot of our identity in it”, said Matty in an interview with BBC Radio 1. Especially when so many of us are missing our friends right now, ‘Guys’ is an ode to the beauty of friendship and really brings a tear to the eye.

Notes on a Conditional Form sees the 1975 at their most experimental

The first track on the album, entitled ‘The 1975’, was also impactful to be heard live. With the voice of Greta Thunberg discussing the devastating impact that humans have had on the planet and our responsibility to motivate change, along with the graphics of climate change’s global devastation, the song was incredibly powerful. I love that the band decided to work with Thunberg: they are spreading such a vital, crucial message and in an album that looks back nostalgically at the past, it’s vital to consider how our future may be cut short if we don’t change our ways environmentally.

‘People’ is the second song on the new album and probably one of my favourite 1975 songs ever. It’s chaotic, it’s shouty and it’s different to anything they’ve released before. It fits in perfectly with the political vibes of ‘The 1975’, and creates similar messages to Gil Scott-Heron’s ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ – we are all so tuned out of the reality of the world, instead obsessed with trivial and shallow things.

It has been suggested that ‘People’ is in homage to the band’s love for US cult groups like the Queens of The Stone Age, with Matty noting influences by “Converge and Minor Threat and Gorilla Biscuits”. The song may also be in reference to the current US political climate: Matty said that the song was written on the day that the Alabama abortion bill was being discussed.

Much of the tracklist is so cinematic that it could be part of a film soundtrack

Notes on a Conditional Form sees the 1975 at their most experimental, playing with orchestral, choral themes but also with hip-hop, RnB and club beats. ‘The End (Music For Cars)’ is cinematic and epic, and ‘Having No Head’ is another story told through an instrumental with the orchestra combined with techno beats.

‘Bagsy Not In Net’ is certainly has the best title, resonant with anyone who grew up in England playing football with their friends. Notes On A Conditional Form also dabbles in jazz, with ‘Don’t Worry’ focused around the piano also featuring a choir. Much of the tracklist is so cinematic that it could be part of a film soundtrack.

Although the album looks back nostalgically at childhood and friends, this one seems to be about growing up and making changes

The defining sound of Notes can be found in ‘Frail State of Mind’: the heavy bass and drumbeat appear in songs throughout and this track features all the central ideas of the album. It’s a brilliant piece. Matty stated that the song is about the anxiety we all experience, linking into the political tones that kick off the album, as well as incorporating the record’s nostalgic edge.

Anxiety is something that many people suffer with and the same people who appreciate the references to small-town youth in ‘Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America’ and ‘Guys’ will also resonate very heavily with the references to mental health difficulties.
‘Frail State of Mind’ defines the chaos and anxiety surrounding this album’s themes, illustrating the more reflective and nostalgic elements of the album’s sounds.

My favourite track from the album is ‘The Birthday Party’, where dreamy, country and western energy collides with beautiful lyrics. Although the album looks back nostalgically at childhood and friends, this one seems to be about growing up and making changes. “Listen, I got myself a missus, says there can’t be any kissing” sums up the song’s tone, suggesting Matty has grown up and away from the things that did him harm when he was younger.

‘Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America’ is a charming, acoustic piece, fitting in with the American South nostalgia they are going for in ‘Roadkill’ and ‘Playing On My Mind’ – a song that harps back to some of the sounds of the first album, like ‘Sex’. ‘Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America’ looks back at a youth spent feeling confused about sexuality: “I’m in love with the girl next door” and “I’m in love with a boy I know”.

The sense of nostalgia, craving for summer and love letter to friendship is what I love most about the album

We still get some of that classic 1975 sound in the new album, however. ‘Then Because She Goes’ feels like very raw, original 1975 and in many ways ‘Me & You Together Song’, with its heart-warming lyrics, could also be a feature on The 1975.

Notes on a Conditional Form combines so many of the different sounds that The 1975 have become famous for over the years whilst still experimenting, and that’s what makes it brilliant. The sense of nostalgia, craving for summer and love letter to friendship is what I love most about the album. “I kind of wanted to make a record that reminded me of that time in my life” was what Notes was for Matty, and I think for many people it will be the same. For me, being away from my friends and it being so close to summer, this album is the perfect substitute.

We recommend: 
– ‘The Birthday Party’: dreamy, country and western energy with beautiful lyrics.

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2ggitti6kPhCgALkzhFe9V?si=879Esa_kRBqivhCfGd3zqAhttp://

 

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