The 1975 – Notes on a Conditional Form
The fourth studio album from the young band hailed as the saviour of guitar and indie music in some quarters is a sprawling 22-song behemoth. It has certainly divided opinion quite flamboyantly, with verdicts ranging from an acidic one star to a breathless five.
The album starts in an eclectic way. Opening track The 1975 is a five-minute speech by Greta Thunberg set to instrumentation, an overly earnest and grating introduction. Follow up People is punky rock, while following that The End (Music For Cars) has the lush orchestration of a prestige film soundtrack. The effect is clearly meant to be disorientating and it is, but not in a mind-expanding way – it’s just incoherent. Following that are several glitchy, ambient electronic tracks. A comparison to Burial has been mentioned but that’s a reach. Burial is one of the most innovative producers of the last 20 years, producing music that genuinely sounds like nothing else on earth that also manages a dizzying emotional heft. These dubstep tracks are nice enough, but they sure ain’t anywhere near Burial and the comparison, frankly, enrages.
That’s not to say that there’s not good here as there is. A particular highlight is Shiny Collarbone, with vocals provided by dancehall artist Cutty Ranks. It’s fresh and summery. FKA Twigs provides vocals on another highlight, If You’re Too Shy, Let Me Know, adding a spectral choral element to the introductory strings that build into 80s synths. What Should I Say, also featuring her vocals, has a genuinely lovely, glittering ambience.
However, the sheer length of the album is off-putting. It’s a pick and mix of genres and influences in a surface, scattershot way. One hour and 20 minutes of running time is a big investment, and it smacks of a hubristic lack of editing. Front man Matty Healy is a divisive figure, clearly striving to be the voice of a generation. An interview before a gig in Dubai last year had him saying he would wear a T-shirt saying “God loves fags” – to show he’s principled, presumably. But if you disagree so vehemently with their human rights, why take the money to play there? Incidentally, he did not wear the T-shirt, but did kiss a male fan on the lips, and caught a flight out of there at 5am when there was a predictable furore.
The music does not match the ego. Even Leonardo da Vinci painted over some of his pieces. No one is too much of a genius to edit their work.
Notes on a Conditional Form is released on 22nd May 2020. For further information or to order the album visit The 1975’s website here.
Watch the video for If You’re Too Shy, Let Me Know here: