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Smooth Bananas: The 1975’s ‘Notes on a Conditional Form’ provides an eclectic listening experience

English pop/rock fusion band the 1975’s “Notes on a Conditional Form” has a little something for every music lover from the decidedly simpler “Birthday Party” to the poignant and complex spoken word track “The 1975.” 

The album was released in May 2020 after a long recording period of Aug. 2018 to Feb. 2020. This is the band’s fourth studio album, and it blends features of many different genres from more traditional pop and folk to more modern dance and electronic music. The album is approximately 80 minutes long and features 22 tracks, seven of which are singles. 

The album opens with a pointed message delivered by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. She reads a climate essay dedicated to the dire nature the world is currently in with regards to man-made climate change. She is underscored by a complex array of quasi-noise made of repeating figures, moving in cycles to new material. The band desired to make a “modern statement” according to Apple Music with the album’s opening track and it can certainly be said they did it. The unapologetic nature of Thunberg’s words is a nice contrast to the white noise-like background music. 

The album’s composition is quite varied in terms of the personnel and the types of sound the band employs to get their message across in their music. For example, in the song “The End,” underscored as “Music for Cars,” the track is entirely instrumental and not just instrumental, but entirely orchestral. There are obvious acoustic sound tricks being employed but the sound of a live orchestra playing what would be more at home on a film score than an English pop album is refreshing. The track also has the benefit of having an easy structure to follow with themes evolving into one another and chord progressions smoothly transitioning to one another without being boring or cliché. 

In addition to “The End,” the album features several different aesthetics. Some songs seem more at home on an album by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts than for the 1975 but one of the tracks in question, “People,” immediately follows the opening track so the angst and frustration in the track’s rough exterior are warranted to drive home the point of climate destruction. Additionally, there are several tracks that give off an easier listening vibe that one might hear in a teen comedy or romance movie. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because it’s incredibly rare to have an album where every song is a knockout, but it should be noted that as the album goes on, these specific aesthetic divisions become less and less varied within their own domains. The band also ventures into folk music, dance music, light electronica and house music. 

Ultimately, the band took their time with this album and it shows. The varied musical textures and tapestries on display in this album serve the band’s position well. The album shows a heavy amount of artistic maturity and clear experimentation. “Notes on a Conditional Form” receives an A rating. 

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