Is 'Notes on a Conditional Form' Any Good?
First, I wanna say that I don't particularly like reviewing music. Why? Because music is possibly the most subjective form of entertainment. With books, you can easily dig into faults with the story or character progression. In movies, you can rip apart the visual effects, the acting, or the writing. With music... it's hard. It's really all about personal taste. I can dislike a movie because it has bad acting, bad writing, or bad visual effects. However, if I dislike a song, it's really because... I dislike it. I, personally, find it hard to make arguments about why an album is good or why an album is bad because it all comes down to my personal taste. In my opinion, there is no bad music—there is only music that I personally do not enjoy. Most people can agree that a certain movie is bad. It's hard to find people who all agree that a certain song is bad. I also have a hard time listening to or reading album reviews myself. So often do I see reviewers stating, "If you like this album, then you're a..." or, "If you like this band, you need to..." That is not how reviews should be, but I come across it all the time. With that being said, let me attempt to review this album.
'Notes on a Conditional Form'
I want to state that The 1975 is my favorite band of all time. Am I bias when it comes to their music? Possibly. However, I am able to recognize why some people may not enjoy their music.
The band first gripped me when I heard their song "Chocolate." After hearing "The Sound" and "Love Me," I knew I had to get their two albums and see what they were about. So, I received The 1975 Deluxe Edition and I Like It When You Sleep and quickly fell in love. In fact, I Like It When You Sleep became my favorite album of all time, and I still stand by that. This band has gotten me through happy times, sad times, and everything in between. Their use of guitars and keyboards blows me away. A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships came out and I enjoyed it. It wasn't anywhere close to I Like It When You Sleep, but I enjoyed most of the songs on it. Inquiry really showed that the group did not want to stick to one singular sound. They wanted to explore many different genres... and now, Notes proves that fact even more. The singles—all 8 of them—did not give me any hints as to what the album as a whole would sound like. Needless to say, I had no idea what to expect.
As much as I love The 1975, I do think that Notes is their most incoherent album to date. While their previous albums presented a nice flow between songs—especially I Like It When You Sleep, but I could go on all day about that—this album doesn't always have that flow. This album reminds me of a greatest hits album that an 80s rock band would put out, where the songs don't really flow together because they were originally released on separate albums. I also think this album is too long. I originally thought I was gonna love the length—because, ya know, more bops—but then I heard all of the instrumental tracks, and, well...
With all that being said, I want to briefly talk about each track (and I mean as brief as possible), discussing whether I liked the song or didn't and whether the song actually (in my opinion) fits with the album.
Track by Track
The album opens with the usual "The 1975," but this time around we don't get "Go down / soft sound." Instead, we are given a speech by Greta Thunberg that tells us that we need to protect the environment. While this is an important message, I don't know if it was worth putting on the album. This and "People" are the only call-to-change songs on the album, so once it ended, I couldn't help but look back and think, "Was that really necessary?" It's just gonna end up being skipped by a lot of people, anyway. "People" is a fun ode to punk rock and really kicks off the album with a bang. However, I do feel like releasing it as their first musical single was very misleading.
Following "People" is "The End (Music for Cars)." Now, this album does mark the end of an era, according to the group. What that means we have yet to see. However, this piece is instrumental and highly orchestral, and if I'm being honest... it is a strange song to put after the angsty, guitar-heavy "People."
Following this is "Frail State of Mind," another one of their singles that I think is really fun to listen to. This is followed by "Streaming," another instrumental filler track that sounds like an orchestra warming up for a concert. I don't think they needed a filler here... but whatever.
Next is "The Birthday Party," which "Streaming" actually flows into. It's an okay song—nothing special. Strange lyrics, indeed, but if you listen to The 1975, you should be used to that. This is followed by "Yeah I Know," and all I can say is... "hit that shit, go hit that shit." Okay, I will say a little bit more. This song is super repetitive and electronic and is not my favorite. I will say that it does have a nice beat, though.
"Then Because She Goes" is the first song on the album that calls back to the rock of the early 2000s, mixed with Matty's altered voice in the background to make it a bit more modern. Following this is "Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America," a fun acoustic piece that talks about religion. Again, nothing special. After this, we are given "Roadkill," an homage to country music that talks about what life on the road is like. It also includes lyrics from "Robbers," so that's cool, I guess.
Next is their other callback to early 2000s rock, "Me & You Together Song," which I think is a fun bop to dance and sing along to. Then, they jump into a song that sounds very similar beat-wise to "Frail State of Mind," "I Think There's Something You Should Know"... again, nothing special, but I guess fun to vibe to. Following that is "Nothing Revealed/Everything Denied," where they sample their very own "If I Believe You." I actually really like this song, minus the odd autotuned speak-rap. Okay, I don't hate it, but it's strange.
Okay, let's speed this up. I actually like "Tonight," but this is followed by "Shiny Collarbone," a song I don't necessarily like and will be skipping a lot. "If You're Too Shy," is by far my favorite song on the album. I love it so much... I wish there were more songs like it on here. "Playing On My Mind" is a decent acoustic piece. "Having No Head" is once again an instrumental piece, and while it has more depth than the others, I don't see myself listening to it too much. "What Should I Say" is another electronic, ambient sounding piece that is... alright, I guess. "Bagsy Not In Net" is strange. "Don't Worry" is a really sweet song written by Matty's father, and he even sings on the recording. The album ends with "Guys," a sweet piece that shows just how appreciative Matty is of his bandmates. I actually really like the song.
Whew, we made it.
I'm gonna be quick here.
The album isn't anything special and its far from being anything close to ILIWYSFYASBYSUOI, yet there are plenty of enjoyable songs. I do think that the album is too long, and songs like "Shiny Collarbone" could have been left out completely. I understand if people do not like this album. However, I enjoy it for the most part and The 1975 is still my favorite band. I do want to praise each member of the band, including Matty's songwriting and George's talents in producing. I may not enjoy all of the songs, but I can at least admit that their production game is on point.
I'm not going to be giving this a rating. Just know that I mostly enjoyed it and that you should listen to it at least once—all the way through. The 1975 ended their "Music For Cars" era pretty generically, but I still think that Notes has plenty to offer to fans of all sorts of genres.
© 2020 Benjamin Wollmuth