Our long road to the 1975’s new album Notes On A Conditional Form continues. The album was first announced alongside its predecessor A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships back in May 2018, but following a couple delays the band began rolling it out in earnest last July. First, there was the latest iteration of their usual intro “The 1975,” then “People” (which was just covered by SWMRS and Fidlar), “Frail State Of Mind,” and most recently “Me & You Together Song.” (Each of the actual singles ranked amongst our favorite songs in their respective weeks.) They’ve also debuted a couple others onstage. Now, the 1975 are back with another one called “The Birthday Party.”
While all of these songs do pretty different things, you can sort of trace a pattern that echoes the rollout for A Brief Inquiry. “Give Yourself A Try” and “People” are the lead singles that upend your expectations for the next 1975 album. (If you recall: Prior to the raucous “People,” “Give Yourself A Try” still registered as a surprising, rock-oriented 1975 left turn with a Joy Division riff.) “Frail State Of Mind” is basically the older, wearier brother of “TooTimeTooTimeTooTime.” The only problem is “Love It If We Made It” and “Me & You Together Song,” which don’t line up with each other or their other counterparts. But if, perhaps, the next single is “If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)” — one of the songs they’ve debuted live — that’ll give us our “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)” ’80s jam.
That makes “The Birthday Party” the “Sincerity Is Scary” of the bunch, but like “Frail State Of Mind,” it’s the sort of blearier-eyed update. Trading the soul- and gospel-tinged aspects of “Sincerity,” “The Birthday Party” is like the 1975’s take on a conversational, deconstructed internet country ballad. Matty Healy sings in a matter-of-fact tone over flickering banjos and background atmospherics. Who knows what Notes On A Conditional Form will sound like at all — it’ll evidently sound like a lot of things — but some of these new singles, “The Birthday Party” included, suggest it might sound a bit more sobered than previous 1975 albums.
Narratively, that seems to be the space the song exists in as well. It’s a sort of free-associative journey through relationships and sobriety, Healy singing about staying clean (or struggling to do so), and crossing paths with friends and strangers partying and having dead-end interactions, all of it coming together in a kind of wan, late-night document of listless twentysomething life. There’s also the part where he sings about running into a friend named Greg who informs him: “I seen your friends at the birthday party, they were kinda fucked up before it even started. They were gonna go to the Pinegrove show but they didn’t know about all the weird stuff so they just left it.” So there’s that!
In an interview alongside the single’s debut, Healy also suggested that future plans entail a “Matty record” and a “George record,” implying they would each make solo albums and produce them for each other. He also previewed the studio version of “If You’re Not Too Shy,” calling it “the most 1975-y 1975 song in the world.”
“The Birthday Party” is also accompanied by a video, directed by Ben Ditto and Jon Emmony, who also worked on the “People” clip. Here’s what Ditto had to say about it:
It was truly inspiring to work with The 1975 on this project, combining digital craft with true emotion and a subversive and multilayered narrative. Matty and I have a shared fascination with the underbelly of Internet culture and how that impacts modern life, and we looked to address this from several directions and created an engaging and beautiful piece of filmmaking to contain these messages and their performance in a revolutionary way.
The video features Healy going to Mindshower, a “digital detox center.” There, he encounters not only characters from internet meme subcultures, but also his bandmates — rendered as avatars created by 3D scans, complete with motion capture. A press release states that the images and setting of “The Birthday Party” video will be a part of the upcoming Notes On A Conditional Form tour “in an immersive way.” Check it out below.
Notes On A Conditional Form is out 4/24 via Interscope/Dirty Hit. Pre-order it here.