by Staff Writer Maggie Lai
English pop rock band The 1975’s latest album Notes On A Conditional Form may seem jarring at first but is nevertheless an attraction with its blend of musical styles and rejuvenating tracks. Arriving after two postponements, the band’s fourth album is the final installment of their “Music for Cars” era, which includes their previous album A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships. An unexpected but welcome change, Notes On A Conditional Form is a polarizing mix of everything from upbeat dance anthems to soothing melodies to angst-ridden rap verses.
The album strikingly deviates from The 1975’s feel-good ambient style, but the band manages to pull this change off beautifully. In the aggressive screamfest “People,” the blaring punk rock rhythm and lead singer Matthew Healy’s snarling vocals add to the staggering musicality of the album. The fiery track, suggesting that we must act on the issues around us or risk eternal doom, is a refreshing break from the lightheartedness present in your average The 1975 track. The band even goes a step further to experiment with several snappy rap verses. In “Nothing Revealed / Everything Denied,” Healy’s catchy sing-song rap adds pep to the album and keeps listeners from losing interest midway. Not only that, but Healy’s inclusion of the expectations and burnout of fame in his rap reveals a more raw side of him, showing fans that he in fact goes through the same issues as any other ordinary person.
Climate change activist Greta Thunberg’s sobering call for civil disobedience promotes a more proactive mindset in current times and encourages listeners to fight for their beliefs rather than simply submitting to authority. Placed right at the album’s start, the earnest monologue instantly creates an initial rebellious air to the album. The album eventually transitions thematically to more personal and emotional topics of the band’s, covering everything from tender romance to friendship to insecurity. The transition offers listeners a deeper inside look at the band’s struggles and triumphs, allowing fans to know the band on a more intimate level. The album’s final track “Guys,” for instance, is a heartwarming tribute to Healy’s fellow bandmates. Featuring sentimental lyrics like “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,” the mellow track is a fitting closing to the album.
To say that Notes On A Conditional Form is experimental is a no-brainer, but not all of the album’s differences are inviting. Healy’s voice is masked by an irritating autotune that persists for several tracks in a row and prevents his vocals from shining through. On top of that, several instrumental tracks like “Streaming” are dull and feel like they were included as mere fillers.
Although Notes On A Conditional Form might not be everyone’s cup of tea, it undoubtedly is a messy masterpiece worth a listen. Even with their differences, all 22 tracks of the album work together to create an invigorating experience for the listener. The album can lose steam at times, but the rich diversity of the band’s musical style paired with its powerful themes keeps the listener hooked every moment of the 80-minute album.