The 1975’s “Notes On A Conditional Form” Is A Journey Of Introspection, Self-Referentiality And Out-Of-The-Box Thinking

The 1975 album provides us with a hyper-realistic picture of today’s society as they weave an ode to Gen-Z 

British rock band The 1975‘s “Notes on a Conditional Form” (NOACF) is probably one of the most criticized albums of the year. From The Guardian claiming NOACF “lacks quality control,” to the Telegraph calling it “a good short album, buried inside a muddled long one,” you may think The 1975’s latest release is somewhat of a delusion. Well, not really. Actually, it is the complete opposite.

Music Review

By Giulia Leo / Staff Writer

“Notes on a Conditional Form” consists of an hour and twenty minutes of no-skip songs. It is an introspective, extremely self-referential, emotional, out-of-the-schemes album. If you, like me, have been a fan since their “black and white era” (when they released their first, self titled album), NOACF will feel like a trip down memory lane. 

The album, released on May 22, begins on the same note as the previous three ones, yet an interesting twist is added. The band has always opened their albums with a track called “The 1975.” It is a constant in their works, a way of saying “welcome to The 1975 world.” In each of their former albums, the track presents the same lyrics, but the instrumental part is always different, in order to match the vibe of the new work. It is a symbol of the band always re-inventing itself, yet remaining the same.  

However, this is not the case of NOACF.  

The opening track, “The 1975,” features a speech by Greta Thunberg, whom Matty himself defined “the most punk person [he’s] ever met,” about climate change. 

It might not be the most interesting track of the album from a musical point of view, but that is the entire point of “Notes on a Conditional Form:” to re-invent music. The 1975 is clearly making a statement about how music can’t avoid being political anymore, because it is the voice of a generation that needs to be political in order to survive. 

The next track is “People.” 

The song is a boost of energy, yet, it must be said, I wasn’t really expecting a punk, almost-metal tune after the sweet voice of Thunberg. The first line consists of leading singer Matty Healy screaming in your ears: “Wake up, wake up, wake up/ It’s Monday morning.,” So if you’re looking for an aggressive alarm for your early online classes, I’ve got the song for you. Jokes aside, we are in front of another very important track –ideologically speaking – and it was The 1975’s plan all along to have this song play after Greta’s speech. It is meant to be a wakeup call, a crude representation of issues like conservatism, the obsession with the internet and the general feeling of distrust in young people. 

“The End (Music For Cars)” is the third track, and it is the first of many instrumental songs. If you have been a The 1975 stan for long, I am sure “The End (Music For Cars)” sounds familiar to you. It is indeed an orchestral version of “HNSCC” from their first album, “The 1975.” 

There are no words to describe what I feel when “The End (Music For Cars)” comes on. The 1975’s first album has been the soundtrack to my early adolescence, and “HNSCC” takes me back to those sunny summer days spent at my beach house, drinking soda and reading a good book, surrounded by the people I love the most: my family. “The End (Music For Cars)” brings those memories back to me, but also reminds me that all things have to change in order to keep existing. “The End (Music For Cars)” is therefore a reminder that change is necessary, and not always negative. Change may also mean that those seeds you planted years before may now turn into flowers. “The End (Music For Cars)” is a beautiful, beautiful sunflower. 

More instrumental songs from the album include “Streaming” and “Having no Head” (tracks 15 and 18). Between the two, “Having no Head,” which is entirely the work of drummer George Daniel, is definitely the most powerful. An incredibly interesting visual has also been released for the song, in which Jacolby Satterwhite tried to digitally re-imagine “Luncheon In the Grass” by Manet in the key of a tribute to Breonna Taylor

There is no doubt that track four of “Notes on a Conditional Form” was the theme song of quarantine for me, combining serious and relatively sad lyrics with a very happy and energetic instrumental background. For instance, my early days of staying home during lockdown can be summed up in the first lines of “Frail State of Mind:” “Go outside? Seems unlikely.” Although the song was written way before the spread of COVID-19, the lyrics of “Frail State of Mind” encapsulate a certain sense of anxiety and social awkwardness that accompanied me through my days of self-isolation. However, the electronic/pop-ish instrumentals made it a song I often danced to in my bedroom. “Frail State of Mind,” together with “The Birthday Party,” “Me and You Together Song” and “If You’re too Shy (Let Me Know)” were, most definitely, the songs from NOACF I jammed to the most. 

Although the catchiness of those songs is undeniable, and they surely are in my top five of the album, to me, the most special tunes are the ones I listen to less often. For instance, “Antichrist” was my all-time favorite track from their first album, “The 1975,” and my way of keeping it special was only listening to it when it came on shuffle. 

Well, “Nothing Revealed/Everything Denied” is NOACF’s “Antichrist.” The piano instrumentals and Healy’s almost spoken vocals, together with the gospel choir singing the chorus, and the high level of self-referentiality, make this song the true highlight of the album.  

If “Nothing Revealed/Everything Denied” alludes to “Sex,” “Love It If We Made It” and “Heart Out,” track ten of NOACF, “Roadkill,” refers to one of the band’s top hits, “Robbers,” which is also referenced to in “A Change of Heart,” a single from The 1975’s second studio album “I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It.” 

I don’t know about you, but the abundance of self-referentiality in this album makes me picture The 1975’s music as a continuum, a never-ending story that will keep unfolding as their music keeps playing. 

Now is the time for a couple of honorable mentions.  

First of all, let’s talk about “Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America,” because it really is necessary to do so. The song, together with “Nothing Revealed/Everything Denied” is one of the deepest tracks in terms of introspection. It discusses the issue of sexuality in relation to religion and questions whether it is fair that a loving God imposes boundaries in terms of who one should be allowed to love. The song also features one of my favorite lyrics from the album: 

Fortunately, I believe, lucky me / Searching for planes in the sea, and that’s irony / Soil just needs water to be, and a seed / So if we turn into a tree, can I be the leaves? 

The 1975, Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America 

The second honorable mention must be “Guys,” the last track on the album. The song couldn’t be more juxtaposed to “Girls,” from “The 1975.” Healy wrote the song as a tribute to his bandmates, who he identifies as the true love of his life. He sings: 

The moment that you took my hand/ Was the best thing that ever happened, yeah/ The moment that we started a band/ Was the best thing that ever happened to me 

The 1975, Guys

To tell the truth, The 1975 was the best thing that ever happened to me. And “Notes on a Conditional Form” is a nothing but a confirmation of that. 

NOACF is an album that needs to be understood to the fullest, in order to be appreciated. That is why many music critics negatively reacted to The 1975’s latest release. The reason why the album was seen in such an adverse light is that NOACF was written in the form of a conversation between the artist and the fans. It is, therefore, meant to be messy, long and shape-shifting, because it is meant to be representative of and speak to a messed-up, confused and continuously evolving generation.

My rating for “Notes on a Conditional Form” is (drum roll):

Rating: 5 out of 5.