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REVIEW: The 1975’s 'Notes On A Conditional Form' is a frustrating and rewarding listen


"Notes On A Conditional Form" is The 1975's fourth album. The genre-hopping work features 22 songs. Courtesy Photo

Recorded mostly on tour, The 1975's new record "Notes On A Conditional Form" is a long, chaotic work. The band visited 16 studios while stitching the album together. What follows is 80 minutes of genre-hopping that sometimes works. 

The 1975 has always been a band that I’ve judged simply on whether the music is fun to listen to. It’s a pop band, a vibrant, goofy one that crafts songs about anything. "Notes On A Conditional Form” isn't as fun or exciting as the band's sophomore effort "i like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it" and it's not as serious as the third record "A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships." It's a long, complicated record that features great tracks and some middling ones.

“Notes” is so far removed from the band’s other discography it feels like it’s flown in from outer space. The 1975 began experimenting with different genres on “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships” but you could still decipher the family resemblance to the first two records. “Notes” trades straightforward indie pop-rock for auto-tuned shoegaze (“Then Because She Goes”), country-emo (“Roadkill”) and a meandering, glitchy Americana stream of consciousness (“The Birthday Party”).   

Most of the songs on “Notes” flutter around for a bit too long, though. Sonic landscapes shift. The track “Nothing Revealed /  Everything Denied” opens on sparse, jazzy keys before frontman Matty Healy and a choir shout to the heavens. Healy then begins rapping which segues into a Twenty One Pilots-esque deep, distorted vocal monologue. The moments with the choir are exquisite but the rapping and the monologue don't work.

“Nothing Revealed / Everything Denied” epitomizes my views on “Notes” as a whole. There aren’t any bad songs on this record, but there are moments on a few tracks that are off-putting or should’ve been cut. 

Ravehead track “Yeah I Know” starts strong and stumbles, becoming overly repetitive. “Don’t Worry” features ear-splitting, distorted vocals that levitate too high over the music. “Having No Head” — a six-minute instrumental track — becomes a bit bloated with all the noise. 

On a 22-track album there are surely going to be weak spots, but “Notes” does contain some of the band’s best work to date as well. The producing tandem of Healy and drummer George Daniel really shines on this record. Songs are sleek, powerful, constantly thundering into new, unexplored territory. 

“Me & You Together Song” a jangle-pop, '90s inspired bop is a joy to listen to. Sunshine streams from speakers as Healy sings “I’ve been in love with you for ages.”

“I Think There’s Something You Should Know” is a glitch-pop track about imposter syndrome and depression. It’s an emotionally honest song for a band that has been criticized for a lack of authenticity. 

“What Should I Say” is a brilliant piece of house music and my favorite on the record. It’s a confident, electronic shout into the universe. It’s a fun, dancy beat. It’s all I’m looking for from the band. 

“Notes On A Conditional Form” is a symbol of a band at peak confidence. Healy and his bandmates consistently push the limits of the alternative umbrella, taking their music to wild, new vistas. And while it doesn’t entirely work, it ushers the band into a promising new era. 

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