The 1975 - Notes on a Conditional Form
May 21, 2020
So we finally have our hands on the new 1975 album… and I have quite a bit to say about it. So buckle in because this may be a long one, I want to try to go in-depth, because there is a loot to digest here.

We all know and… love? The 1975, the band that said themselves that they were “inspired” by Radiohead on their previous album A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, an album that I didn’t like that much at first but did grow to like a little more (I will change my score I just haven’t got around to it yet). While it’s not the best album ever made, and definitely is no OK Computer, it’s still a solid release with some nice messages to it… but an OK Computer always needs its Kid A, right? Well you’ve all heard the comparisons by now “NOACF is The 1975’s Kid A!!!!!” This is going to be their experimental alt-rock, electronic masterpiece!
…yeah about that.

Notes on a Conditional Form is a very interesting album to say the least, it is definitely experimental but it feels more like a collection of demos than a fleshed out record. One of my biggest issues with their previous full length was the pacing and tracklisting; I was not a fan of where a lot of songs were placed, especially things like Love it if We Made it right before Be My Mistake, it doesn’t really work… well Notes both fuels and quells that rage. On one hand it has some really good placements for its songs, People coming right after the opener works wonderfully, and is probably the best decision they could’ve made with both tracks… it makes the pretentious and dull opener bearable just to have that transition send shivers down your spine. On the other hand however, there are a lot of songs on here, that feel tacked on, and don’t fit, not just where they’re put but on the album as a whole. The End (Music For Cars) while a really pretty song, doesn’t really fit coming straight after People, where does a song like Shiny Collarbone even fit on the album? Why isn’t Streaming just a part of The Birthday Party? There are a lot of questions here that don’t really get answered, because there is no answer, and it all leads down to the main issue with the album, and that’s Matty himself.

Now we all know Matty Healy don’t we? He’s… a character to say the least. We all know he can be quite… big headed, egotistical maybe, he sits on a high horse. What happens when you give someone who thinks they’re the most important, and influential person in the world total freedom to make a “statement”? Well you get this album. This album has 22 tracks, because Matty can’t accept that he may have made a “bad” song. This does sort of go for all The 1975 albums, but it’s most prominent here. NOACF is a lot of experimentation, but a lot of it did not need to be left on the album. There are some fun tracks like Yeah I Know which incorporate those experimental features well, and makes it exciting still, but then there are also tracks like Having No Head which is way longer than it should be and feels rather empty. There’s too much here and it gives me too little substance.

Now I should probably talk a little more in detail about the songs, instead of just going “this song is that, this song is this” because, that’s not how I do things. The issue is, a lot of these songs sound the fucking same. If you played me Shiny Collarbone and Having No Head I wouldn’t be able to tell you the difference; now that is the most apparent example of songs sounding the same, but there’s a lot of it on this album. Going from the beginning, we all know that the intro and People go together well, yes? Good. We all know that The End should not come straight after People, yes? Ok. Then we get Frail State of Mind, which is a single I’ve talked about before, as I reviewed the single, but the song itself is fine, it may have grown off me a little but I still enjoy it a lot and it works nicely. It fits. Birthday Party then is a nice follow up to FSOM, it’s slower-paced and feels like a trip on a cloud. It also fits the themes of both of those songs, that being drugs and parties. Going good so far, yeah? Ok then we get Yeah I Know, which has to be one of my favourite songs off the album, it’s also a song I have a lot to say about.

Yeah I Know is a song that I can fully say, was inspired by Radiohead. From the lyrics to the sound itself, it sounds very Thom Yorke esc, maybe even Kid A esc. Now you all know I’m not the biggest fan of Kid A, so take my opinion with a pinch of salt when I compare songs to it but, I can see the comparisons people are making, I can see it the most with this song (and maybe a few others). Yeah I Know features, seemingly random lyrics with a lot of electronic effects added to it, maybe not to make it feel robotic like Kid A’s title track did, but it makes it feel disconnected and disjointed, inhuman. Especially coming after The Birthday Party, a very human track, it works well! Another good tracklisting placement! I’m proud of you Matty. We then move onto Then Because She Goes, which is a shoegaze-inspired track it seems, and another one that flows quite nicely from its predecessor. It’s short and sweet, but fails to really feel like more than an interlude, an interlude into the best single from the album, and possibly my favourite song: Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America.

Now again, this is a song I’ve talked about already, but I do want to reiterate that this is some of Matty’s best writing for sure, and Phoebe’s inclusion in the song is really nice too. It’s a song I can relate to, you know because I’m gay, and it’s also just a generally really melancholic song. It’s a really, really nice track. But there’s a but, this track coming straight after the shoegaze inspired interlude Then Because She Goes… doesn’t work. It’s a similar situation to Be My Mistake and Love it if We Made it really, in fact nearly identical. It just does not flow well! While this does work a little better, with how the previous song fades out, how this track opens doesn’t make it feel like it should come after. It would fit better after a song like The Birthday Party or even a song that comes later on in the album. It does however, fit well with the song that comes straight after: Roadkill. Roadkill is an odd song, it’s almost a western country-rock song that seems to centre around quite a… southerner. It’s a comedic song, and it’s almost a direct contrast to the previous track.

Jesus Christ being about repressed homosexual feelings and being too scared to act on them, then Roadkill seemingly being about living in a fucked world on your high horse. It’s meant to be a comedic song but in turn comes off as rather sad. Which I feel is the point (Matty kind of said that himself anyway so.) It’s a song that seemingly pokes fun at anxieties while also bringing them to light, something we all do, we all make fun of our woes to make them seem less bad. This then, again, transitions quite nicely into Me & You Together Song, another quite shoegaze-y track, and another single. It’s a song that fits sonically and thematically at this point. It’s another fun song, that pokes fun at clichés and even itself, but also seems to have an underlying point to it, especially being put in this run of three tracks. All three of these songs have a common denominator, they all deal with repressed emotions and feelings, and they also all seem to deal with homophobia in some way. While Roadkill deals with it in a lot less of a way, it still gives off that feeling of… homophobia. Jesus Christ is quite self-explanatory and Me & You Together explicitly talks about Matty being called gay a lot. A lot of this album seems to deal with repressed emotions, not being allowed to speak out because of how society treats people with problems. Other songs on here have shown that too like Frail State of Mind and The Birthday Party, and even People with its message of peace and tranquillity. Now this theme does sort of continue throughout the album but… I feel like it’s by this point a lot of the original vision was lost.

The album really should’ve ended at around this point, while there are still good songs after this point, it came to a good closing point, in a way. While it wouldn’t have been perfect it would be a lot better than the product we got in the end. I Think There’s Something You Should Know doesn’t seem to have a purpose to it, and instead is more of a show off of experimentation, and while it definitely sounds nice, it ultimately feels pointless, and that’s an issue with a lot of the songs on the second half of the album. They all feel pointless. I can safely give the first side of the album a 7 or even 8 for some standout tracks, it feels memorable and it pulls of its themes (somewhat) well. While I still have gripes with it, which I’ve laid out, it works. All that is thrown out the fucking window though once we get to this point.

While at this point in the album I don’t have as much of an issue with the track placements, more so because I feel most of these songs shouldn’t be here in the first place. I Think There’s Something You Should Know and Nothing Revealed/Everything Denied are songs that sound nice, but ultimately feel useless. Nothing Revealed especially. This song features more lyrical content, and does seem to expand on the themes given earlier, but it makes it feel a lot more bloated, it also features a rap-like section which feels really… weird. Matty assumes everything he does and makes sounds amazing, and if people don’t like it then they don’t understand, but that’s not the case. You can make something that sounds objectively bad, but still be good; take The Caretaker’s Everywhere at the End of Time. It is not a fun listen, and can even be harrowing at a lot of times, but it is still a good listen, it is still a phenomenal project. Matty thinks he’s the next Thom Yorke, and tries to flaunt that off to everyone, and that isn’t more apparent on this album.
May 21, 2020
We know that Kid A could’ve been a double album, but it was cut down to just 10 tracks, and those 10 tracks are (supposedly) some of the best pieces of music of all time. This album is 22 tracks… I think you can see why Kid A was cut down. Tonight (I Wish I Was Your Boy) is another love-y song that, again is nice, but feels ultimately unnecessary. I do like it, and it does harken back to the older 1975 sound, it reminds me a lot of I like it when you sleep’s sound. It was at around this point of the album where I sort of realised where this was going, a lot of these songs are going to start to sound the same, and if you like that sound then good! I just don’t, I just find it dull.
May 21, 2020
Skipping Shiny Collarbone because I have nothing to say about it we get another single, If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know) which is another favourite of mine. To begin… this song has the fucking intro attached to the song why couldn’t you have just done that with The Birthday Party? Why make it a separate track when here you didn’t do that? What’s the point? Artificially inflating the tracklist to make it seem like the album is longer than it actually is? Either way, If You’re Too Shy is a very good song, sounding like some of The 1975’s best songs, sounding very 80s and very 1975. It’s what they do best really.
May 21, 2020
It’s at around this part of the album things sort of pick up again. Songs like You’re Too Shy and Playing On My Mind seem like they fit back on this album, they feel like they’re on the same record as songs like Yeah I Know and The Birthday Party, while still sounding quite different from them, they don’t drift too far from the original themes and don’t get lost in their own experimentation. We then get to Having No Head. A song that is so painfully unnecessary it hurts. You can make a good ambient track, they obviously exist, look at the interludes in Deathconsciousness, or Treefingers in Kid A. You can make good instrumental interludes and have them be effective. This is not that. This is a 6 minute experimentation that goes nowhere and ultimately feels like a waste of time.
May 21, 2020
If it’s meant to feel atmospheric then it’s far too late in the album to do that now. It goes back to my original point of, this feels like a collection of demos that Matty decided were all amazing, instead of actually picking the best songs, he instead uses all of them because they’re all the best to him. This is probably the most painfully unnecessary song on the album just due to its length alone.
May 21, 2020
As we now get to the end of the album, it picks up again, after the huge shit-stain that was Having No Head we do get some more solid tracks before the end. What Should I Say, while is another song that feels like it drowns itself once again in experimentation, it doesn’t feel too overwhelming, and it works nicely. I think it’s also due to where the album is placed, it is at the tail-end of the album, making it a little more memorable than the songs in the dead centre, the songs I disliked the most, because they were unmemorable and felt unnecessary… because ultimately they were, weren’t they? They’re in the middle of the album so you don’t remember them.
May 21, 2020
The best songs are reserved for the front and backend (minus Having No Head). Bagsy Not in Net is another more ambient style track, but features vocals, and it actually works! It’s probably the only other ambient-like track I enjoy off the album (the other being The End). It works quite nicely, and while maybe it doesn’t really fit here with everything else, at least it isn’t a bad song. Finally we get to Don’t Worry and Guys, both songs that work excellently not just with each other but at the end of the album.
May 21, 2020
Don’t Worry is a heartfelt ballad with Matty and his father, which really is quite heartfelt. The writing is really good and the overall emotion of the track is powerful. It reminds me a little of Sometimes from Time ‘n’ Place. It’s a song that works exactly where it’s placed, and I wouldn’t change anything about it. Guys then, the closer, was the only single I never listened to, as I didn’t want to spoil the closer for myself, so I went into it blind, and I’m glad I didn’t spoil it because it’s a really good closing track. It works really well coming after Don’t Worry and is a melancholic closer that feels just right for the album. It’s nothing grand, it’s nothing huge, it’s not a massive statement, it’s just a feel good song about missing your friends, which couldn’t be more relatable in today’s world, where we’re all locked indoors, forced to listen to The 1975.
May 21, 2020
And with that, The 1975’s long-awaited follow-up to A Brief Inquiry is finished, an 80-minute album that… really doesn’t need to be 80-minutes. It has a lot of filler to it, but it still retains some gems in its singles but also some of its new tracks. Before I close I do want to write up a sort of “ideal” tracklist, a tracklist that I feel would work best for this album. This wouldn’t make the album an automatic 10, but it would definitely up my score:

The 1975
Then Before She Goes
Frail State of Mind
The Birthday Party (with Streaming included)
Yeah I Know
Bagsy Not In Net
The End (Music For Cars)
Me & You Together Song
Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America
If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)
Playing On My Mind
Don’t Worry
May 21, 2020
As you can probably see I did remove a good handful of what I’d feel are useless tracks, now you could argue and say that the two ambient tracks I left in are also useless, but I feel like they works quite nicely, especially after a couple listens.
But that’s the end of my long tangent on why Matty Healy is really egotistical and needs to know when to not put a song on his album.

Favourite Tracks: People, Yeah I Know, Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America, If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know), Don’t Worry, Guys
Least Favourite Tracks: The 1975, I Think There’s Something You Should Know, Nothing Revealed/Everything Denied, Shiny Collarbone, Having No Head
May 22, 2020
May 22, 2020
Absolutely great review. Love the idea of making a tracklist...ok imma do it lol
6d ago
I agree totally with this review and I didn't even like the singles tbh. It really didn't need to be 22 tracks long, and the only reason it is that long is to fuel Matty's ego. Great review
6d ago
The reason I love this album is because it’s so preposterous. That extremely ambitious and heady energy would’ve been lost if the album Was 10 tracks. I say bring the 30 song deluxe edition! (Btw, great writeup!)
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