Fair play to The 1975, they let the listener in gently but also not at the same time on their fourth studio album, Notes on a Conditional Form. The latest release from the English pop rock quartet opens with a calm yet urgent plea by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg to acknowledge and combat the global climate crisis, bringing despair and hope together in equal measures. Followed up with frontman Matt Healy’s guttural vocals in People, Notes on a Conditional Form sets itself up to be a hard-hitting rallying cry for the modern generation.
After these first two tracks, however, the overall tone of Notes on a Conditional Form suddenly settles itself. Instrumental interludes like The End (Music for Cars) and Having No Head break up the album and provide some charming orchestral elements. There is also some pleasantly smooth guitar and bass work from Adam Hann and Ross MacDonald respectively, shining through in the slightly jazzy, slightly soulful Nothing Revealed/Everything Denied.
There are hints of several genres found throughout Notes on a Conditional Form, which is not in itself a bad thing. The 1975 are well-known for crossing musical boundaries, after all. The trouble is that such an approach takes careful balancing, and there are a few instances where the songs feel too disjointed. What starts off as a powerful call to arms for the planet quickly becomes lost and out of place in a record focusing mostly on the theme of love: young love, unrequited love, even a nod to LGBTQ+ love in Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America.
With 22 tracks on offer, Notes on a Conditional Form allows itself plenty of room to experiment with its many themes and genres. Standout tracks include the 80s-style If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know) which even throws in a bit of saxophone to give it that proper New Romantic feel. That being said, by throwing so many different elements into the mix, many of the songs on the album end up drowning each other out.
On the first listen, Notes on a Conditional Form comes off as something of an acquired taste. On the whole, though, there are enough little gems scattered throughout this chaotic album to merit second, third and fourth listens.