“Music for a No-Filter Generation:” The 1975’s “Notes On A Conditional Form”/by Ben Stanzell
The 1975 have been my favorite band since I first heard them in fall 2016. Since then, they have journeyed from a nostalgic, ‘80s pop-rock pitched band to somewhere between The Strokes and Jimmy Eat World, and then something that resembles music like The Police to Brian Eno and it seems everything in between.
When I first heard their fourth studio album, “Notes On A Conditional Form”, on the day it was released, it only further solidified my belief that they are the greatest band of the modern age. The record is brilliant, imaginative, introspective, emotional, and raw — all things that make this band unique and special.
NOACF combines elements from every genre without feeling cluttered, and I want to emphasize — every single genre. It has a real tenacity about it while being very humbling. The album feels like it’s in a paper bag, not quite knowing what it is, but the band pulls it off and creates something that doesn’t sound like it was written in a studio. It’s something that sounds like a piece discovered or found, something pre-existing.
All of their records are lengthy, but NOACF crosses a new threshold with 22 tracks. To give this album justice, I wish I could discuss each song individually, but there are not enough pages in the newspaper. So, I will hit on a few of my favorites.
We see Matty Healy asking questions on this album while sonically touching the entire spectrum of the music that influenced this band. The 1975 are masters of surprise, change, and timing. This album is kicked off by a statement from Greta Thunberg where she restates her position on the need to act on the climate emergency while accompanied by melodic, ambient music in the background.
“People,” the following track, wastes no time with pleasantries. The boys shove themselves in your face with a heavy, desert-rock guitar riff as Matty Healy demands people to wake up because the world is literally on fire. Already undeniably one of the best and most elastic vocal performers of his generation, Healy has never sounded so alive: barking, shrieking, and snarling, ripping his vocal cords to shreds. If there’s still any question about whether The 1975 is a rock band, “People” will put that debate to rest.
“Frail State of Mind” speaks to the condition of anxiety that too many of us feel and face too often. It is filled with the band’s signature drum pocket, written and performed with a lot of sensibility, and feels personally addressed to the listener. It makes you feel okay for leaving your friend’s house by 8 p.m. or staying in for the night.
“The Birthday Party” is about the interesting social minutiae of house parties. Healy reflects on society’s relationship with intoxication and issue-avoidance, reflecting on a birthday party preceded by a time of Healy’s life he regrets. The music video to this track is set in a virtual world called Mindshower, a conceptual digital detox world the band created. It has a sound of its own, truly.
“If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)” lands later in the album. It is their highest charting single to date in the U.K. It alludes to the sound they introduced themselves with: a glittery ‘80s arrangement, a saxophone solo, and a sleazy hook you won’t forget. Healy sings of an online relationship. Is it love? No. Will it last? Does it matter? Probably not. Let’s dance.
As you reach the hour mark, the music styles take a creative turn. “Shiny Collarbone” is as British as it gets. It’s a garage beat with sample lyrics from Jamaican artist Cutty Ranks. You think, “Wow, they just did that. They just went there.” It’s unbelievable to say the least.
“I Think There’s Something You Should Know” is about feeling a sense of identity loss and unease with who you are. It is also very British, hitting an electronic pop that U.K. dance clubs will likely love to sample.
“Nothing Revealed/Everything Denied” is an angsty hymn with a choir singing, “Life feels like a lie, I need something to be true,” followed by Healy rapping, or “flowing,” as he says.
“Don’t Worry” is a very unique song because it is the only 1975 song that the band did not write. It was written in the ‘90s by Matty Healy’s father, Tim Healy. It’s a piano ballad by both father and son, written about Healy’s mom who was battling depression at the time. Healy says he remembers listening to his dad play it on the piano as a kid in Manchester.
Finally, Healy gives an authentically touching depiction of the band’s formative years and love for each other in “Guys.” In the song, he sings, “I started wetting my eyes because I’m soft in that department,” which is very on-par for this song because you might want to grab a tissue.
This album is a symbol of the band’s confidence at its peak. They constructed a genre-hopping masterpiece that I believe will age very well. Available on all platforms, check out this revolutionary piece of art, “Notes On A Conditional Form.”