Just when you thought The 1975 couldn’t get more adventurous, it releases a metal song calling for people to fight back against the political issues plaguing the world in “People”; a track that makes you a part of your own western film, culminating with its controversial second line in “Roadkill”; three instrumentals; enough electronic tracks to last a lifetime; and more in its 22-track, 80-minute journey, Notes On A Conditional Form.
While the hottest British band in the world can be credited for not shying away from experimentation and always finding a way to surprise, there comes a point when The 1975 needs to take a breather. The Manchester quartet knew what it was doing when it released the album’s seven singles because they epitomize what the band stands for: either making contentious political statements via the re-released “The 1975,” which isn’t technically a single but was released first, and “People”; or simply churning out groovy hits via “Me & You Together Song” and “If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know).” However, when you expect fans to sift through 22 tracks like that, you have to make it worth their while. That could’ve been done if half of the tracklist, particularly the abundance of fillers, was omitted.
The 1975 may never again achieve the grandeur it did with its sophomore LP, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it, and that’s OK. The four guys will continue to experiment — after all, if all its content were the same, it would get boring after a while — but Notes On A Conditional Form is just not it.
It’s hard to know what was meant by “Yeah I Know,” a sonically simple electronic track that’s horrible yet infectious in its own right. “Tonight (I Wish I Was Your Boy),” even on the year’s most bold album, doesn’t feel like it belongs. “Streaming,” however, deserves more than its 92-second runtime, as its orchestration is a beautiful reminder of life’s wonders. The 1975 may have released its worst album to date, but there are still plenty of gems to cherish.
Here are the best five tracks from Notes On A Conditional Form:
5. “Nothing Revealed / Everything Denied”
With the same intro as 2016’s “If I Believe You,” one of The 1975’s most brutally honest tracks in its catalogue, “Nothing Revealed / Everything Denied” lets listeners know immediately that it’s about to be three-and-a-half minutes of a beautiful ride. Alongside the London Community Gospel Choir, frontman Matty Healy pleads for something to bring him back to reality and be his muse: “Life feels like there’s something missing; maybe it’s you / Is there anybody out there?” Entrancing synths and glimmering keys pull Healy’s vocals forward, and his frankness is admirable.
4. “Don’t Worry”
“Don’t Worry” was written by Healy’s dad, Tim, when the frontman was a boy, he said in an interview with Beats 1. All these years later, it has stayed close to Healy’s heart, so much so that they sing it together and create one of the band’s most emotional moments to date. The father-son duo remind each other they’ll always be there for one another, even through all of life’s troublesome moments: “When you wake up and don’t know what day it is / When the pain flows through your heart and your bones / Don’t worry, darling, ’cause I’m here with you.” The piano is soft but nonetheless impactful, and it’s definitely a tearjerker through and through.
3. “I Think There’s Something You Should Know”
Healy again maintains his bluntness on “I Think There’s Something You Should Know,” which divulges what it’s like to not feel like yourself. Behind stimulating electronic instrumentation, Healy, even as one of the most recognizable faces in the world, finally reveals what’s been building up in his mind and damaging his mental health: “Feeling like someone, like somebody else, who doesn’t feel themself / Paying for their wealth with their mental health.” He says in the refrain he doesn’t “wanna be someone else,” but he knows it’ll only get better if he speaks up about it.
2. “Playing On My Mind”
Behind a folksy acoustic guitar and Phoebe Bridgers on backing vocals, “Playing On My Mind” finds Healy yet again asking himself the tough questions. Besides asking questions that he can’t possibly answer (“Will I get divorced when I’m old?”), he continues to go back to an old friend or lover he hasn't gotten over: “I think it’s strange that I still call you when I’ve got nothing to say / The truth is that I still adore you, and nothing matters anyway.” It’s a great reminder that celebrities who seemingly have it all still struggle like every other human.
1. “Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America”
“Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America” is simply one of the most important songs ever written. Alongside Bridgers, Healy sings of how he must hide his bisexuality because he doesn’t feel accepted: “I’m in love, but I’m feeling low / For I am just a footprint in the snow / I’m in love with a boy I know / But that’s a feeling I can never show.” While Healy is straight, he has shown time and time again that he is an ally of the LGBTQ community, and writing from the viewpoint of a bisexual man while including a notable bisexual woman to sing along with him solidifies it. It’s the best song of 2020 thus far, making it the best on Notes On A Conditional Form.