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February 2020
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The 1975 - Frail State of Mind

The latest taster of 'Notes on a Conditional Form' is yet another masterclass in stylistic brilliance from The 1975.
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The 1975 - Frail State of Mind
Published: 5:00 pm, October 24, 2019Words: Stephen Ackroyd.

As the end of another decade comes round, the retrospectives begin to trickle through: best tracks of the last ten years, lists of icons from across a generation - all of that kind of thing. But while some may get caught up in long-dead genres, forgotten names or cultural movements since evolved, there's one band more than any other who have steadfastly refused to ever become stuck in a single moment.

Fact is, it's easy to make a convincing argument that The 1975 are the band of the 2010s. Arriving with a blast of divisive guitar pop, leather jackets and earworm-like bops, with each record they've found a way to shift their internal gears. 'i like it when you sleep...' found them grasping critical acclaim with both hands, while last year's 'A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships' marked them out as a band able to shift with the mood at will - diverse, challenging and never less than essential. Though a cohesive strand joined their earliest whispers and most recent triumphs, what they'd become by the time that third album arrived was something far, far greater than anyone dared have predicted just a few years earlier.

And yet, even now, as they gradually roll out their quick turnaround fourth full-length, 'Notes On A Conditional Form', there's no sign of them settling down. The self-titled first taster - the latest evolution on their now traditional album-opening title-track featuring climate change activist Greta Thunberg - was an agenda-setting triumph. The second, 'People', was an explosive device; an intense, screaming blast of throwback rock pushed through The 1975's high-resolution filter, all adrenaline, shock and awe. With the rulebook in tatters, the only expectation of what could follow was a lack of any expectation at all.

While that latest offering, 'Frail State of Mind' doesn't pack that same immediate stop-whatever-you're-doing punch of 'People', in so many ways, it's equally - if not even more - impressive. A lesson in drummer George Daniel's production brilliance, it's proof that those suggestions of a nighttime record influenced by a fine lineage of British musical excellence were anything but hollow.

Definitively still The 1975, those trademark vocal melodies remain steadfast and true as the hallmarks of UK Garage sit proudly above - all chopped vocals and distinctive beats. Think a distant twice-removed cousin of 'A Brief Inquiry...''s 'TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME', but much more introspective, passed through a whole new filter, and you'll be half way there. A magpie-like talent for lifting iconic sounds from across the spectrum abounds; always authentic but never forced or empty. Previously described by frontman Matty Healy as a song about social anxiety, it's a track with a vulnerable side too. Often almost apologetic, but full of empathy and self-awareness, it's the counterpoint to the outward-facing aggression of what preceded it.

That 'Frail State of Mind' and 'People' come just a couple of months and - if the album's iTunes listing is to be believed - with just one song between them on 'Notes...' is just another sign of quite how able to sum up the zeitgeist The 1975 have become. In a genre-free world of fluid expression, the decade drawing to a close and their peers remaining chained to easily predictable identities, they're a band able to sail under whatever winds their inspiration provide. When it comes to summing up the sound of the last ten years, you can leave those lists on draft. The 1975 can do that job and more all by themselves.

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