You know that guy in the pub that sits back smugly and tries to tell you that The White Album would have made a killer single album? That guy is really going to hate Notes On A Conditional Form. Who knows, if you are expecting a straight ahead pop record (but why you would expect this from a band who have never been ‘straight ahead‘ is a whole pot of crazy), 45 minutes, chorus, big chorus, ballad, epic ballad, fade, then again Notes On A Conditional Form may not be for you.
If you‘ve already skipped to the bottom to see my score, you‘ll know I am on the other side of the fence (or The Wall, if you want to continue the comparisons…) to this. Notes On A Conditional Form is big, sprawling, occasionally humourous, mostly depressed, sometimes psychotic. Hell, there are even a couple of 3 minute pop gems that those who jump off the train early might miss.
‘The 1975‘, the song, makes a return, but now it has Greta Thunberg ranting and raving over the top and this seems to be the only time the band join the flagwaving Bono or Stings of the world – the only good thing about it being at the start is you can pretend that ‘People‘ is the opener. Simple. Oh, ‘People‘ is glorious, like Ginsberg‘s Howl over some Nine Inch Nails backing and the main hook “I don‘t like going outside so bring me everything here” certainly plays differently in this post-Covid world.From this snarling classic, Healy steps back into cinematic prose with the instrumental ‘The End (Music For Cars)‘, which as the title nods to, is the end credits for this two album collection. Just, you know, not at the end. It is John Williams beauty, you can imagine floating through space with this is as the sonic soundtrack.
‘The Birthday Party‘ is my favourite track so far, a classic Matty story of getting wasted and partying except the twist is “Listen, I‘ve got myself a missus, says there can‘t be any kissing…”. We learn other things about Matty here, from the strange (he can‘t shit in hotel room toilets) to the ridiculous (Going down to hotel lobbies and asking for things he knows they don‘t have), all driven by a hell of a beat and a super huge rhythm.
There are many moments here when Goldie seems to be a massive influence, from the manic “Shiny Collarbone” to the alienation, confusion and late night fear of ‘Yeah I Know‘. The Streets are also a corner stone, with ‘Nothing Revealed / Everything Denied‘ at home on Mike Skinner‘s first two albums, which is a compliment as they are both priceless genius. This song again finds Matty defusing his image “I never fucked in a car, I was lying.” and also doing a little piano lounge Sinatra/Elton Johnisms in its intro before it hits its Streets stride. Multiple genres in a single song now? This album just keeps on giving.
Want some Byrds-esque thrills the type of which Teenage Fanclub has been trying to perfect for 30 yrs but Healy knocks out of the park, first attempt? ‘Then Because She Goes‘ takes this route and later ‘Me And You Together Song‘ takes the same lane, but also realises it is borrowing from The Wannadies, hence its knowing title. It‘s wonderful.
For more yearning, check out the Princeisms of ‘Tonight I Wish I Was Your Boy‘ and the John Hughes soundtrack kicker that is ‘If You‘re Too Shy‘. For a quieter piece of loving, ‘Playing On My Mind‘ is a wide open heart bounding, beautifully lilting ballad “The truth is that I still adore you”, Matty drops his guard here and it is one of the albums most affecting pieces.
I haven‘t even mentioned the fantastic ‘Roadkill‘ which would be at home on their sophomore release and this is classic 1975, the irony that the thing that sounds the most different to the rest, is the thing that sounds exactly like themselves in the past.
Notes On A Conditional Form sounds incredible strolling through the dark evening with big headphones, a giant sound seemingly made to be experienced alone. Matty Healy once again proves himself one of the most interesting and original frontmen out there and I‘m sure his honesty will be taken for pretension by some out there, but those people don‘t deserve a star as fantastic as him or an album as superb as NOACF. Drift in, drift away. Keep that ‘Album Of The Year’ podium warm…
🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 / 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥