Being Funny in a Foreign Language
Dirty Hit Records
Since the rise of the '2014 Tumblr' aesthetic on social media, particularly on TikTok, Instagram and Pinterest, The 1975 have found themselves back at the centre of online discussions alongside such contemporaries as the Arctic Monkeys, Sky Ferreira, and Lana del Rey, as well as an aesthetic centred on American apparel skirts, Doc Martens, and cigarettes.
To an outside viewer this would make their return to music following 2020s ‘Notes on a Conditional Form' (an album that had …mixed reviews,) a play to the crowd, a way of delivering the songs that their fans would love-but similar to their contemporaries who have outgrown their old aesthetics, the new album ‘Being Funny in a Foreign Language’ doesn’t contain an updated version of ‘Robbers’ or ‘She’s American’ and is genuinely a stronger album for it. The first hint of this change is on the opener, aptly titled 'The 1975', which unlike the previous albums doesn’t begin with minimal instrumentation and the reverberated vocals whispering '...go down, soft sound', but a genuine call out to their fans as Healy remarks about how 'I’m sorry if you’re livin and you’re seventeen', the sensation of 'feelin apathetic as you’re scrolling through hell' and 'mining bits of yourself you think you can sell'.
Whilst their last album began with a swerve from the usual opening clichés by choosing to have Greta Thunberg deliver a speech about climate change, this album welcomes you in a much more sympathetic and connected way. Matty Healy has broken past all the cynicism that had defined his early lyricism and it has become explicitly empathetic and emotional- whilst this could be attributed to the band aging or Healy fully recovering from the heroin addiction that bled through past albums, the end result is still the same as the band is at its most mature and lyrically adept. But the band does not exhaust all their lyrical witticism on the opener as the album is very able to balance simple declarations of 'I’m in Love With You' and have it hold equal weight to the random, witty remarks of '...the cows wearin’ my sweater' and “Dad’s an 'Otis Redding at a wedding’ type guy” that work to build on the world within the song- the band isn’t simply looking for words to fill blank instrumentals but crafting real intricate stories of love, friendship, and social collapse.
Whilst Matty Healy is a figure who can often be deemed as deeply pretentious on this album he manages to turn those pretensions into brilliant commentary and remarks on the world around him that feels deeply earnest. However, despite the fact that Healy can often be framed as the only entity driving The 1975 there needs to be a special mention to producer Jack Antonoff. Although Antonoff appears to be on a mission to produce every available there is, he still manages to bring forward those unique tinges that make The 1975 so celebrated. There is much to enjoy in the soft guitar on ‘Wintering’ (which feels inspired by LCD Soundsystem),’ and the electronic, 80s-infused 'Happiness' that could easily soundtrack a nostalgic movie montage.
If there is still a sense of uncertainty about the quality of the album then skip to the closer ‘About You’ a simple tale about a lost relationship that has a deep emotional weight. The guitars and the strings reverberate around it each other, swelling as accompanying trumpets drown out Healy and a female singer whose cries of '...do you think that I’ve forgotten about you?' are submerged under the emotion of the instrumentation.
Whilst The 1975 are a band that sometimes seems bloated or self-important in their music on ‘Being Funny in a Foreign Language’ they are able to craft a concise and emotional album that is their strongest in years.