The 1975 Search for Meaning on ‘Notes On A Conditional Form’


Izzy Schlegel

(The 1975’s “Notes On A Conditional Form” | Graphic by Izzy Schlegel)

By Oakley Burt, Arts Editor


“We had the opportunity to kind of be confident enough to make our most U.K. record and hopefully you guys understand that,” said Matty Healy, The 1975 frontman, while overlooking a sea of fans crammed into The Complex on Dec. 2, 2019.

Moments later, the white stage lights illuminating his silhouette would dim, only to be replaced by neon, fluorescent flashes of light and imagery as the band began performing “Frail State of Mind” — one of the first singles from their upcoming fourth LP. Now, nearly six months later — and 15 months after initially announcing the album — The 1975 have finally delivered their most U.K. sounding record titled “Notes On A Conditional Form.” Spanning 22 tracks and clocking in at 81 minutes, “Notes” is the band’s longest, uncentered and divisive album to date, but it’s a masterpiece nonetheless — a beautiful, sprawling, messy and earnest work of art. 

The 1975 first emerged in 2013 with their self-titled debut album. Since then, the band has consistently evolved both lyrically and sonically, challenging listeners to expect the unexpected along the way. Their emo-tastic eponymous first album put them on the map as pop-rockers with plenty of heroin-laced anthems to spare. Their lavish sophomore record, “I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It,” saw the group take a sonic turn to glitzy, ’80s, jazz-infused pop — with Healy tackling themes of addiction, celebrity, religion and more in his lyrics. Following was the daring, albeit commercially successful “A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships” released in 2018, which explores modern relationships — touching on politics and the Millennial experience in a technologically advancing world. “Notes” continues The 1975’s daring streak, experimenting with electronic pop, hard rock, indie-pop, dancehall and more — creating a kaleidoscopic record examining the complexities of life, searching for meaning. 


If “Notes” sounds scatterbrained, it’s because it is, but The 1975 pull it off well. The album doesn’t flow like a traditional album, instead, it moves in a nonlinear fashion both lyrically and sonically. The journey through “Notes” begins with “The 1975,” the ever-changing intro track that typically sets the precedent for the album. On “Notes,” the band shifted, recruiting climate activist Greta Thunberg, who delivers a somber, five-minute speech detailing our current ecological state. This message continues to “People,” an alt-rock revelation telling people to “Wake up! Wake up! Wake Up!” before we’re too far gone. 

The remaining 20 tracks shift focus, offering more introspective ideas and experimentation with sonic styles The 1975 had dipped their toes into on previous albums. The music on “Notes” creates its own narrative — a sprawling spiral into an isolated mind. “Go outside? Seems unlikely,” Healy sings early on in the garage style, electro-pop track “Frail State of Mind.” Here, the record dives further into isolation, but the solitude produces some of the most self-aware tracks from the band to date — unifying the vast changes in production along the way. This unification is seen from the acoustic song,“The Birthday Party,” where Healy admits, “I depend on my friends to stay clean, as sad as it seems,” to “Nothing Revealed / Everything Denied”— a cry into the void about fame with lyrics like“Life feels like a lie, I need something to be true. Is there anybody out there?”

As always, there’s plenty of love and sincerity on this record. The Brit-pop “Me and You Together song” finds Healy singing of family outings that will never come to fruition. “Tonight (I Wish I Was Your Boy)” sees him reflecting on love lost, singing, “Some things have their time, how can I be yours if you’re not mine?” The most sincere song, “Guys,” closes out the album, with Healy expressing his love for his bandmates singing, “The moment that we started a band, was the best thing that ever happened to me. You guys are the best thing that ever happened to me.”

“Notes” finds Healy, in search of personal truth in a variety of ways, whether it’s on the road touring — these are prominent themes in “Roadkill”— or talking to the internet girl of his dreams — like in the song,“If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know).” It’s an album that’s comedic and wistful with hints of fear, but it’s always honest and truthful. 

Final Verdict

“Notes On A Conditional Form” is a long, messy but intricate experiment — it’s thrilling to listen to.  Amidst the chaos and lack of cohesion in the traditional sense, the album is The 1975’s most earnest, self-realized work yet, and they’re just getting started. 

4.5/5 stars.


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