Back in 2011, in a wave of woozy post-dubstep emanating from South London and further afield, a handful of music journalists tried to make “nightbus” a thing. The premies of this unimaginatively titled sub-sub-genre was simple – music that would be most at home bleeding into your ear canals from tinny headphones, as you tried not to dribble on the stranger next to you on the nightbus home. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it didn’t really take off.
If The 1975 had released ‘Frail State Of Mind’ back then, it likely would have been lumped with the nightbus tag. The latest taste of ‘Notes On A Conditional Form’, which frontman Matty Healy has previously described as being a “nighttime” record, is prime back-of-the-N29-at-2am listening. It’s a little clubby, like the thump of distant garage ringing in your ears the morning after, but also layered with the same ambient soundscapes of pioneers like Burial and Jon Hopkins. The result is something a little disorientating – much like your head might be as you race through the city in search of the next house party or an excuse to call it quits and crawl into bed.
In Healy’s case, his particular nocturnal state here seems to be set to pranging out. In each of the three verses (there’s no real chorus here), he’s apologetic about his mental state, reassuring the people on the other side of the conversation that he’s gonna dip to “save you time”. It’s in the last verse that we really get into his head though. Everyone else is removed from the dialogue and we’re left with just him and his internal back-and-forth. “What’s your biggest lie?” he asks before his true feelings come tumbling out. “I’m sure that you’re fine/I haven’t felt alright in quite some time/You know they’ll leave if you keep lying.”
Interestingly, Healy’s cadence and flow here is almost exactly the same as on the much brighter and sunnier ‘TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME’. That song’s chorus saw the frontman going round in circles about how many times he’d called another woman. ‘Frail State Of Mind’ opens with him singing about his phone too. “I’m sorry that I missed your call,” he apologises. “I watched it ring/Don’t waste her time.” Could the two tracks be linked by more than just vocal melody and rhythm, but be part of the same storyline?
The 1975’s latest also bears similarities to ‘I Like America And America Likes Me’, the politically-charged track from ‘A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships’ in which Healy tackled gun control and “being young in the city”. Part of the latter experience in major metropolitan environments, whether in the UK or abroad, involves fear to some extent – the fear of being shot, stabbed, mugged, assaulted, or other.
It’s unclear exactly why Healy is feeling the way he is in ‘Frail State Of Mind’ or why he “always get[s] this way sometimes”, but, if anything can ruin a good night out or set off a mental collapse, it’s anxiety and dread. In that way, The 1975 have once again made something that speaks very realistically to our modern condition.