Today marks the release of the long-awaited final installment of The 1975’s “Music For Cars” Era: Notes On A Conditional Form. This release has been pushed back since 2019, with some singles such as The 1975 and People having been released as early as last summer. However, this mammoth album is the longest since their 2013 deluxe debut – The 1975 – and has clearly been carefully curated into the, somewhat disjointed, beautifully raw, creation – and it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.
The 22-track record addresses many themes: love and sexuality, existentialism, self-reflection, and even political revolution – but more than anything else, this record feels like a story of adolescence and dealing with the process of coming of age for both Matty and the band. It draws on key issues facing society in the modern era, unpacking, questioning and poking satirical remarks at it all over various backing beats from a multitude of genres. On first listen, this record seemed a little chaotic, like you’re riding on a rollercoaster of emotions in the dark, but I think that is what makes this release so good. It demands your attention and your time. The more I listen to it and go back to certain songs, the more it causes me to reflect, truly think about things, and listen. I suggest you too, stay up till 1am, put your headphones in, let yourself listen and give the album a try (pardon the pun).
The first track on Notes is, of course, The 1975, but is quite drastically different to what we’d usually expect from their self-titled track. Instead of its “Go down, soft sound” lyrics, it follows Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg through a powerful speech on the political movement towards climate change and how we need to act to combat it. The 1975’s choice to replace their introductory track with this symbolizes a development in them as a band and the message they want to convey to their following, putting more of their stamp on political activism and social responsibility. It ends powerfully with Greta urging “civil disobedience” and stating that it is “time to rebel”.
This transitions perfectly into the second track of the album People, which is a drastic shift from the whimsical, calm backing of The 1975 to the heaviest, shouty punk track of the record. It works well as the track sounds a bit like a bad dream but in the best possible way. The shouting paired with the screechy electric guitar makes you feel a little on edge and even a bit uncomfortable when listening to it, but makes it even more powerful as a message asking people to “WAKE UP” and perhaps realize the destruction happening around them in politics and wider society. It’s somewhat ironic that the album has been released in a time of global lockdown to varying degrees, with lines such as “I don’t like going outside so bring me everything here” encapsulating a feeling of isolation that will likely last for months to come. It’s also a good track to just have a good jump around to if you’re in the right mood.
The third track presents us with the first full instrumental on the album – The End (Music For Cars). It states the obvious in the title as this record is the concluding chapter of the “Music For Cars” Era, but the overall vibe of the track is very whimsical and grand but also sounds a little melancholic. It seems as though they reflected when making this track, celebrating the MFC era with orchestral accompaniment and even giving off a slight Disney-esque feel.
The fairy-tale strings flow nicely into the soft and delicate start of the fourth track Frail State Of Mind, which builds into a nod to garage music with its percussive beats and funky keyboard. It offers a juxtaposition of an upbeat, happy, and light melody against lyrics that focus on social anxieties and internal mental battles. Despite the uplifting build in the melody, the lyrics continually reflect the narrative of anxiety, following the story of someone who wants to be present in friendships, but isn’t in fear of bringing people down, singing “don’t wanna bore you with my frail state of mind”. I think it offers an insight into how Matty or some people who struggle with mental health may deal with their feelings – holding back and isolating themselves in fear of projecting their negativity onto their friends. It’s nice to listen to, but also makes you think – for me it’s a “sad but make it slap” kinda track. I like it.
It dissolves into Streaming, the second instrumental on the record which has a similar Disney vibe to it. Honestly, the whole record could probably be used as a soundtrack to a movie about an adolescent who’s trying to figure out who they are, where they’re going, and what they want from life. This track sounds a little like what I think it might sound like inside the internet, which I guess is fitting for its title.
You don’t even notice that you’ve gone into The Birthday Party until the drums start playing, it blends so effortlessly from the end of Streaming which just highlights how thoughtfully this record was put together. This track is a little whacky when you listen to the lyrics, but it’s oddly very calming. I feel like this would be a great track to listen to at the end of a night out when everyone is pleasantly buzzed and starting to wind down. It has a dream-like sound to it which makes it very chill to listen to. I personally don’t pay much attention to the lyrics aside from “does it go through ya when I’m talking to ya” which is kind of ironic and, for me, sums up this song. I’m listening but not really registering much, other than it sounds pretty and Matty’s voice is nice… and that I also wish I was a little merry right now.
Yeah I Know is the next track, which doesn’t have many lyrics – well, lyrics that are legible or make much sense. It has a happy, soft techno feel and I think it sounds a little like a retro game that you’d play at an arcade. It’s another track on the record that doesn’t require much thought, just lets you sit there and think and get a bit lost in your own head. I think this would be nice to listen to whilst driving late at night.
Next we have the beautiful indie-rock track that is Then Because She Goes, which is one of my favorite songs on this record. In the right mood I could definitely see myself commencing sad boy hours to this, maybe shedding a tear or two, or alternatively listening to with my windows down whilst driving home from the beach. It’s quite soft lyrically, where Matty discusses how “when you leave I cry on the inside” and professing his love repeatedly for a girl. It’s over too quickly in my opinion but, nevertheless, it’s beautiful and a little sad, and oh so very soft.
Continuing the soft feel, we then have the stripped back acoustic Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America which offers a whimsical and satirical take on higher belief and the problems that are encountered within it. There are snippets of sarcasm where self-proclaimed atheist Matty sings “fortunately I believe, lucky me” potentially pointing out how people blindly follow religion to give themselves a purpose. His voice blends so beautifully with the feature on this track, Phoebe Bridges, who harmonizes with him effortlessly and makes me feel all floaty. Both their verses offer themes of loneliness and homosexuality, singing “that’s a feeling I can never show” when Matty is talking about loving a boy he knows. Similarly, Phoebe sings about hiding her love for her neighbor Claire, where she “masturbate the second she’s not there”. I think it’s a very pretty record that unpacks a fair bit in a short space of time; the longing to belong to something greater and how fortunate they are to believe whilst simultaneously hiding who you are perhaps due to said belief. It’s very peaceful and pretty – it makes me want a hug.
Roadkill is a funny track for me. The first set of lyrics threw me off-guard with Matty singing about his “tucked up erection”. I love the subtle country sound of this record, and it makes me feel happy. It follows Matty self-reflecting on his busy life and his career, the opinions facing his music, and some of the struggles he has with dealing with his feelings. It’s quite sweet towards the end where he sings “you, I’ve been waiting for you” and while it’s unclear who he’s actually referring to, the sentiment is really lovely.
Me & You Together Song feels super nostalgic to me and I’m not really sure why. Its happy indie rock melody is paired with romantic lyrics, talking about childhood sweethearts “fell in love with her in stages”. It seems to paint a picture of modern-day romance and young love, where the line “we went to Winter Wonderland and it was shit but we were happy” is one I’m sure a lot of young people can empathize with. It’s a fun and cute track that overall feel to me is sweet but in a blunt and honest delivery. It makes me laugh and smile at the same time.
The record then leads us onto I Think There’s Something You Should Know which brings back topics of mental health and personal image. The melody reflects similar garage and techno vibes that other tracks on the record have, where Matty reflects on the ups and downs people have with mental health, sometimes getting “a moment when you feel alright” whilst in others wanting friends to “please ignore me, I’m feeling sorry for myself”. It shows a bit of a thought process on the different feelings people go through, going back and forth with their mental health and how you can go one step forward and two steps back sometimes. It builds nicely during the second half into a more intense beat and the lyrics demonstrate that mental health can be challenging and manageable at the same time.
Nothing Revealed / Everything Denied gives me all the gospel vibes I could want in a 1975 record. It unpicks Matty’s ego a little, where he talks about some of the lies he’s said to seem cool in the past and now can’t “find what he’s looking for” as his life “feels like a lie”. It features a distorted voice which gives a bit more depth to the track and overall sounds like a pretty rendition of an existential crisis.
I love the next track. Tonight (I Wish I Was Your Boy) is so pleasant to listen to. It uses the same “sad but make it slap” theme from earlier, talking about themes of unrequited love and romantic advances gone wrong to an upbeat funky melody. It brings to the surface how no matter how hard you want it to, sometimes love just doesn’t work out and the other person won’t try, but it doesn’t make you want them any less. It’s just a bop and makes me feel a little lonely, but I’ll forgive them for that.
Shiny Collarbone offers a trance-like, techno vibe and features indistinguishable dancehall MC-ing to give it a bit of dimension. This wouldn’t be my go-to track but I can imagine listening to this somewhere like XOYO on a night out. I prefer the latter half of this track where it breaks down a little as I find the percussion relaxing, but overall I don’t have too much to say for this one.
The 80’s feel, indie-pop anthem that is If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know) is just so good. It makes me feel like I’m in an episode of Stranger Things and I love it – well, if Stranger Things was about cam girls. The hook and chorus are so catchy I was too busy singing “maybe I would like you better if you took off your clothes” to realize it was about a cam girl until after around the 5th listen. This record just makes me so happy, and the lyrics are interesting in the sense they talk about a cam girl which is quite taboo, but it probably isn’t too far off what modern-day virtual relationships are like. The sax solo in this is a joy to my ears and the whole song is so bubble-gum 80’s I can’t, and won’t, stop listening to it and dancing around my kitchen.
Playing On My Mind finds Matty reflecting on who he is and the relationships he has with people in a stripped back, acoustic track. As an overthinker I feel seen by this record as a lot of topics Matty brings up are similar to the nonsensical things that I tend to let play on my mind. It reopens sad boy hours, which I welcome, and talks a little about relationships in the digital age, with “let’s find something to watch then watch our phones for half the time” and “I won’t get clothes online because I get worried about the fit, but that rule don’t concern my relationships”. Like a lot of the tracks on this record, it overthinks and presents a narrative of relationships and how they differ in the digital age, connecting but not really and contemplating some bigger pictures of life.
Having No Head is the final instrumental on this record and starts off pretty light and twinkly with some piano. It builds and changes over the 6 minutes, into something that makes me think about technology and sounds like I’m in the internet at one point, then listening to progressive house and techno the next, then I end feeling like I should be in a club. Its progressive and I don’t completely understand what it’s all supposed to mean but it let me sit back and digest the rest of the songs for a while before moving onto the next.
What Should I Say is quite a techy pop track, with some dance vibes. The only lines I can really make out are the ones at the beginning where it says “they’re calling out your name”, “what should I say”, and “tell ’em the things that you taught me”. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense but it is nice to listen to and I like the backing melody a lot – it sounds tropical and makes me wish I was on holiday.
Bagsy Not In Net has quite a dramatic feel, with lots of strings and bassy percussive undertones. Matty sounds like he’s far away and his vocals have been toned down in this, which makes me feel like I’m listening to this in a club bathroom. It seems subtly romantic to me in a way, with Matty asking “do you wanna leave at the same time?”. It’s relaxing to listen to and another track that seems over pretty quickly because you kind of lose yourself in the beat of it.
Don’t Worry is the penultimate track on Notes and really tugs on my heartstrings. It’s pretty stripped back with a clear piano melody, while Matty and his dad, Tim, sing about love, mental health, pain, and sadness over the top of it. It’s very comforting to listen to with lyrics like “don’t worry darling” and “the sun will shine through” offering a hopeful outlook. It feels like a modern, slightly distorted, lullaby and it makes me feel emotional.
We end the album with what, I think, is the most meaningful track on this whole record, Guys. It’s just… so soft? Hearing Matty talking about how much he loves the guys and reflecting on some of the memories they’ve had together makes me feel emotional. I’ve followed The 1975 since their 2013 debut and seeing them grow as people and artists have been such a blessing. It makes me feel nostalgic listening to it and, due to the current Covid circumstances, makes me miss and appreciate my friends even more. If The 1975 were to have a film or documentary made about them, this would HAVE to be the end credit song, it’s so wholesome and the line “you guys are the best thing that ever happened to me” just makes me sob uncontrollably.
Well, we made it through all 22 tracks and my nonsensical rambles that accompanied them. Overall, I think this album is deliberately a bit all over the place but, at times, perfectly put together. It makes me feel and contemplate, which I found myself enjoying a lot. It feels like more than an album, more like a movie soundtrack reflecting on both Matty and The 1975’s journey and experiences. It talks about real-life issues and the distortion between the real world and the world online. It’s beautifully put together and feels to be a worthy end to the MFC era. Notes On A Conditional Form is the nostalgic, self-reflective, coming-of-age album I didn’t know I needed, but I am so grateful for it.
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