By: Brenna Mata
I’m lying in my room with a neon yellow light to suit the aesthetic of Notes On A Conditional Form, the fourth studio album by The 1975. Hailing from the United Kingdom, this genre bending band composed of Matty Healy, Adam Hann, George Daniel and Ross MacDonald has gained an astronomical amount of dedicated fans. You never know what to expect with each record release and that is one of the reasons why these fans deeply immerse themselves into the music. With NOACF there are 22 tracks that send you down a wormhole of your deepest, darkest feelings. There are messages of self-reflection along with the yearnings of connecting with those whom you love. It’s chaotic – but that’s the beauty behind it. I’m here to give you a (mostly) track-by-track review because honestly, I’m not sure how else to summarize a 22-track record.
What better way to self-reflect than with the opening track that features a monologue by environmental activist Greta Thunberg. ‘The 1975’ is an empowering note thanks to this. The band is known to express their political views through their music (as seen in their third studio album ABIIOR), views which seemingly align with that of their fans too.
Here comes the whirlwind of ‘People’, possibly the most rock n roll fueled song in The 1975’s entire discography. It’s astonishing the way Matty can channel this whole new person while still staying on brand with their sound. You would have never expected to hear those heavy guitar riffs by them, nor the screaming vocals, which I imagine would start a mosh pit at a show. Beneath it all lies a message though, “Stop f*cking with the kids.” I feel that the screaming vocals embody how Matty feels towards the antagonists of the song, so please stop f*cking with the kids people.
Now I won’t bore you to death with my analyses of their interludes (which are cinematic masterpieces). After listening to NOACF in order I came to the consensus that these songs helped transport you to a different place in time. Whether it was ‘The End (Music for Cars)’ that’s filled with a blissful orchestra of strings while a harp puts your brain at ease or ‘Streaming’ that made me feel like I was flying over trees as rainbows were imprinted in the deep blue sky. It comes down to personal interpretation to truly crack down the meaning of each interlude. To be quite blunt with you the one that stuck out most to me was ‘Shiny Collarbone’, which sounds super clubby like it should be played during a DJ set at EDC or Burning Man.
There was however a song that was released a few months ago that grew on me which is ‘Frail State of Mind’. The listening experience of it as a single versus as part of an album presented a gap of my first impression of it. Hearing it contribute to the album made it make more sense to me in terms of the explorational NOACF theme. Also, George is a genius with the drumming here.
We also get a seamless transition into ‘The Birthday Party’, a track that’s (most likely) a narrative of Matty discovering the tempting wonders of a house party. This song showcases a distinguishing character of The 1975’s sound mechanism of “talking singing” where Matty is clearly speaking to us (the listeners) while also making sure to emphasize his words through holding notes at the end of each verse. The song itself is all over the place, resembling the imagery of a party. Not to mention the comical line of “You know that I could sue ya if we’re married and you f*ck up again” that is harsh but delivered in one of their most peaceful tracks yet.
From there we get possibly one of the most trippiest tracks in this record titled ‘Yeah I Know.’ I give kudos to anyone who could identify what the meaning behind it is – because good lord I cannot. Trying to connect “Pick a card,” “Live on Mars, f*ck it up,” “Stop the tube, kick the head” together is like trying to solve a blank puzzle: impossible. I have the feeling that they made this song while they were high off something and it sounded more immaculate than it is while being sober.
I was glad to see things pick back up in pace though with the following track ’Then Because She Goes’, filled with guitars that are sending me into nostalgic moments of first listening to The 1975 as a fifteen year old (I’m now 21). Matty’s emotion-packed tone matches those guitars like peanut butter goes with jelly. I can also enjoy and appreciate their experimenting with autotune adlibs that make lines like “Oh wake up, I love you, I’m sorry that I did it, I love you” sound like it’s been filled with sweetness. It finishes abruptly and I remember thinking “Damn that was a good ass two minute song. I wish it were longer.”
‘Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America’ takes the cake for my least favorite track. I won’t go into too much detail because I can appreciate its contribution to the record but it just doesn’t have that 1975 spark in it. In every song I also try to find a deeper meaning or a connection of any sorts and for this song there isn’t any of that there. Not too sure this one will grow on me, so from now on I’ll just have to press skip on it.
No need to fear though, no album is ever truly perfect. NOACF is pretty damn close, though. Especially with ‘Roadkill’ where my home state of Texas gets a shout out! Maybe not in the most ideal way, but “Well, I pissed myself on a Texan intersection” is a knee slapper and head bopper. I love the super western twang in the guitar riffs, so thank you electric guitar legend Adam Hann. The yeehaw intensifies the more I keep listening to this feel good driving-in-the-middle-of-nowhere song.
‘Me and You Together Song’ takes the cake for the most adorably written song. Every time I hear it I can see the music video in my head of the 2000s decorated rooms and outfits the band wears. It encapsulates that hopeful feeling of loving someone you can’t have right now but you could at some point in life. Hann’s guitar flows in through your ears like a cold breeze outside while Matty is serenading along with you. Who on earth wouldn’t be able to get in their feelings when hearing “There’s been no way, for me to say, that I felt a certain way” (the answer is those who have no soul and hate everyone).
I’m so excited that we’ve finally arrived at the 13th track: ‘Nothing Revealed / Everything Denied.” As I compose this article I can confirm that I’ve listened to this song at least ten times today. Where to even begin. The foundation of the production is magical right off the bat. Those piano chords get at your heart and once Matty is joined by a choir you know that you’re in for a treat. Only The 1975 can go from a soulful opening verse to his autotuned “talking singing” to a darker, unhuman like voice. I love this band so much because they can incorporate any musical element into their sound and that’s who they are – experimental yet still on brand. “Life feels like there’s something missing, maybe it’s you?” Gives me the chills.
‘Tonight (I Wish I Was Your Boy)’ hosts an immaculate rhythm and melody that gets your brainwaves going. Matty is pretty straightforward in his words, wishing he was with this girl “tonight.” He owns up to his mistakes which I applaud him for because you normally don’t hear someone be so upfront about it. Also we finally get a taste of saxophone towards the end which has become a staple of every 1975 album.
Majority of 1975 fans could and would argue though, that ‘If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)’ is indeed the greatest hit from NOACF. The way that guitar slowly comes in like you’re being transported back to the 1980’s (cue 1975 jokes). It’s a modern 80s inspired pop masterpiece. I have to get up and dance every time it comes on, there’s no other option y’all. Not to mention that we also get a true saxophone solo from John Waugh himself! This song is the moment. Goodnight. Every other song is cancelled.
I get campfire vibes from ‘Playing On My Mind.’ Sitting outside on wooden logs with your best pals and other friends in front of a glowing flame. There’s a reminiscing moment of your past that I think really ties in this record for me, the way it’s stripped down acoustically. I can genuinely feel the expression in Matty’s voice about having that urge to connect with someone you love.
‘What Should I Say’ is groovy and gives me a glimpse of Daft Punk influence. I would stick it far outside the circle of the NOACF theme, but that’s not to say it isn’t a great work of art. That bass line is hitting though, shoutout to my mans Ross MacDonald. This would be a great song to play while driving around downtown after a night out.
Meanwhile, ‘Bagsy Not In Net’ is one of those songs you play at 3am and start crying in the club for no reason. The orchestra that accompanies the vocals is quite depressing yet glorious at the same time. “Do you wanna leave at the same time” is repeated throughout, putting emphasis on wishful thinking towards a loved one that may not be on the same page as you.
Matty is joined by his father, Tim Healy, in this tear jerking piano ballad. ‘Don’t Worry’ is exactly what you’d expect it to be about: don’t spend forever doubting yourself because of the hardships you face because there are people who care about you who will help you get through it. Right on the first listen I cried at how perfectly put together the piano and vocals were. A bittersweet moment I must say. Not to mention that this is the second to last track, what a perfect way to send me off.
It has been an unexplainable yet enjoyable experience of hearing Notes On A Conditional Form. In the final track Matty really captures just how much he loves Ross, Adam, and George, the ‘Guys.’ You can’t help but think of your own friends when listening and think about how much they mean to you, and how times change as we all grow older and spread out into our own lives. This track wraps up this album perfectly in a sense that it looks back at the band and their history, and how they got to where they are today. I feel as if I’ve been watching a compilation video of The 1975 in my head and as ‘Guys’ comes to an end, I shut down my computer with a better understanding of my feelings towards myself and the ones I love. “You guys are the best thing that ever happened to me.”