Photo: Burak Cingi
by Elliot Rieth Music Pop Rocks

The 1975 | Notes on a Conditional Form

July 30, 2020

Notes on a Conditional Form is a marathon of an album and the latest evidence of The 1975’s status as a singles band.

With Notes On A Conditional Form, The 1975’s fourth studio album, the British foursome has stretched their established artistry and crafted an album that is their most (self-consciously) experimental yet, for better or worse. NOACF presents a complex soundscape that can be reasonably described as both lovely and drawn out, featuring a runtime of just under 90 minutes, making this their longest album to date. In other words, NOACF is a marathon compared to the standard indie pop album. It begins rather jarringly, an almost-five minute speech from climate change activist Greta Thunberg suddenly followed by the off-kilter, punk-inspired, and generation-specific call-to-action, “People.” After this emphatic opening, The 1975 seem inclined to lean back into their synth-based indie roots, while still attempting to continue the pattern of musical growth borne out across the past three albums. Indeed, many of the standout tracks here, which include “The Birthday Party,” “Guys,” and “Me & You Together Song,” all bask in the softer side of the band’s sonic spectrum.

The lead-up to the album’s release is also noteworthy, reinforcing as it does some familiar charges against the group. In the months prior to NOACF’s release, nearly all of the album’s most striking tracks were released as singles, an unremarkable and expected occurrence – generating interest through an album’s most accessible tunes, enticing listeners to explore a record in its entirety rather than settling for spotify and radioplay of select tracks, is a strategy so obvious as to barely merit mention. Except, that is, for the floating criticism decrying The 1975 as a singles band, and their latest album does little to disabuse listeners of this notion: most of the non-single tracks here are relatively forgettable, including some lengthy instrumental interludes, and at the bloated length of NOACF, it’s a reality that may leave plenty of listeners unsatisfied. To its credit, the record is one branded as an experience, and in that regard, it delivers. There’s an indefinable quality to the work, something the group has long aspired toward and which lends it a certain flavor. So while Notes on a Conditional Form does very little to change the narrative, for fans of The 1975’s previous efforts, there are moments here to appreciate, if one is able to muster the stamina.

Published as part of Pop Rocks | Q2 2020 Issue – Part 2.