The 1975 review, Notes on a Conditional Form: New album is a parade of smug self-indulgence

This album was apparently made with a ‘zero f***s given perspective’ – perhaps if the band cared a little more the result wouldn’t be a smug farrago in which each track grates against the next like rusted gears

The 1975’s new album is the first dud of the summer, a 22-track parade of stream-of-consciousness self-indulgence
The 1975’s new album is the first dud of the summer, a 22-track parade of stream-of-consciousness self-indulgence

Matty Healy is a man of contradictions. Read any two of his recent interviews and you’ll probably find him blithely disagreeing with himself. To his fans, The 1975 frontman is a shamanic figure who stands apart from artists afraid to speak their mind. To others, he’s a preening pseudo-intellectual speaking from a soapbox carved out of privilege and narcissism. However you feel about him, though, his rock’n’roll charisma and ear for a great pop melody has helped his band produce one good and two great albums, win multiple awards and sell out a string of arena tours. With their follow-up to 2018’s Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, however, they’ve released the first dud of the summer, a 22-track parade of stream-of-consciousness self-indulgence.

As is his way, Healy offered multiple statements in the build-up to Notes on a Conditional Form’s release, calling it both the “best” 1975 album and the one made with a “zero f***s given perspective”. Perhaps if they’d cared a little more the result wouldn’t have been such a smug farrago in which each track grates against the next like rusted gears.

In between the nonsense – meaningless orchestral interludes and indistinguishable dance tracks inspired by Jon Hopkins and Bonobo – there are flashes of promise, mostly in the instrumentation. Even this is lost to inconsistent mixing – unsurprising, given NOACF was written largely on tour and recorded in 16 different studios. Grasping for authenticity, the band have chosen to leave in the creak of a piano stool and scratch of a guitar string on the Phoebe Bridgers collaboration “Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America”, only to undo it with self-consciously naive lyrics (“Soil just needs water to be/ And the seed/ So if we turn into a tree/ Can I be the leaves?”).

Healy tends to borrow heavily from his favourites – he’s admitted in the past that “the way that I write music is that I listen to a song I love and I copy it”. Single “People” pays its dues to Fugazi – particularly 1998’s End Hits – in that it’s a paint-by-numbers replication of their ramshackle energy. “If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)” lifts outrageously from Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, from the propulsive shuffle rhythm to the twinkling synths, while the intro on “Tonight (I Wish I Was Your Boy”) uses a vocoder pitch that is pure Kanye West. “I think I f***ed it royally,” Healy sings on the latter. He’s not wrong.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in