It’s been a long time coming, but here, in May 2020, we finally have the conclusion to The 1975’s third ‘era’ – Music For Cars, which began with their third album, the momentous A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships. This fourth album began its journey into our ears almost one year ago, with the release of the band’s eponymous track featuring a speech from Greta Thunberg. With the steady drip of singles leading into the album’s eventual release on Friday, the sound of the album became more and more of a question mark. Each of the tracks was pretty strong, but the stylistic variation was almost enough to trigger audio whiplash.
We are now able to listen to the complete work, and those initials fears about whether the group would be able to wrangle those singles into a cohesive piece have been proven somewhat correct. Notes On A Conditional Form is a much messier album than its predecessor, a 22-track, 80-minute long epic that never quite hits the highs of Brief Inquiry. While there are more than a few standouts on offer here, the album as a whole feels bloated, losing its pace and leaving a somewhat negative aftertaste in its wake.
That’s not to say that the album is a write-off however. The raindrop-like instrumentation found on some of the Brief Inquiry tracks returns on the opening track and again on Frail State Of Mind, the standout of the pre-release singles. The Birthday Party is another peak on the album, a deep dive into the life of lead singer Matt Healy which marries its exquisitely relaxing atmosphere with some plainly spoken lyrics discussing topics ranging from ‘poser’ lifestyles online (Then drink your kombucha and buy an Ed Ruscha / Surely, it’s a print ’cause I’m not made of it) to his hotel-based toilet antics. Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America might be the prettiest track on the album, an ode to gay/lesbian love featuring Phoebe Bridgers.
Possibly the best moment however, comes in the instrumental track Having No Head, drummer and producer George Daniel’s brilliant six-minute piece coming in to land as the album begins to reach its end. Starting off with simple piano over a gentle ambient track, it propels forwards toward an exciting electronic conclusion, tying together the best parts of the Music For Cars era into one big showstopper. This is The 1975 at their finest, and is a clear sign of Daniel’s talent as a producer.
With so many highlights on the album, it’s a shame that these peaks get bogged down with all of the unfocused clutter which should have been left on the cutting room floor. The long middle section from I Think There’s Something You Should Know through to Shiny Collarbone could be completely cut and we wouldn’t be missing much. The album descends into a long wait here for the next speck of light, killing the pace and contributing greatly to the sense of exhaustion the listener feels upon finally finishing it. It’s also somewhat telling that in order to get to The Birthday Party, the third main song on the album, that you have to first make your way through two instrumental tracks and a speech. While these beginning tracks each add something to the album, you can’t help but feel a little fatigued by the time you’ve gotten through them.
Inside this 22-track monster lies a much better 11-track album which would feel like a much more worthy follow up to the brilliant Brief Inquiry. Here’s hoping that next time we’re here with The 1975 they’ve learned to edit themselves a little – they have the talent, they just need to harness it better.
|Having No Head||Shiny Collarbone|
|Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America||I Think There’s Something You Should Know|
|Frail State Of Mind||Tonight (I Wish I Was Your Boy)|