BILLY MORRELL praises the reinvention of the Manchester-based band whose latest album, Being Funny in a Foreign Language, is a return to form
Four Number One albums and twenty years in, at this point, The 1975 are well established in the music industry, and if you go by their own definition, ‘the greatest band in the world.’
From their emo-pop debut back in 2014, to the critically acclaimed A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships in 2018, which saw a huge shift to more intimate tracks, the band has always been wildly successful in maturing and re-inventing themselves with each album.
Being Funny in a Foreign Language is no different.
44 Minutes: Short but Sweet
From the eponymous opening track, an homage to LCD Soundsystem’s ‘All My Friends’, a song the band has sampled a number of times before, we get their status update on the social and political state of the world. Whether it’s confusion on the double standards of female beauty, or how ‘some bloke in the Philippines’ was able to create mass breakdown and shift US politics with QAnon, simply put, The 1975 is ‘Sorry if you’re living and you’re 17.’
As you traverse through the 44 minutes of music, their shortest album length yet, even the most casual listener will hear something familiar to their previous albums. Songs like ‘Happiness’ retain the band’s iconic 80s-inspired guitar riffs. While in the same vein, ‘Looking For Somebody (To Love)’ exists as something of an homage to 80s pop, instead using synths to drive the false sense of positivity the melody brings. The lyrics, however, detail toxic masculinity and the link with American school shooters.
Healy Really Feelie
While there is a lot of discourse surrounding the band’s frontman Matty Healy (be it for eating a raw steak on stage, kissing fans, or the ‘problematic’ persona he embraces), his songwriting talents are unmatched by many of today. His undeniable wit comes through on indie-folk song ‘Part Of The Band’, which served as the album’s lead single. On one line, Healy subverts expectations by saying “I like my men like I like my coffee. / Full of soy milk and so sweet he won’t offend anybody”, building on his earlier views and perception of masculinity. Kindness and gentleness.
Similar humour can be found on the holiday track ‘Wintering’, where he paints a picture of his Christmas. Playing with images such as his father (the iconic Tim Healy) singing Otis Redding, and his mother (the just as, if not even more iconic, Denise Welch) rejecting being called ‘frumpy and old’, to which Healy points out that she is 64. Beneath the clever one liners about various members of the family and references to the over-exposure to sex that children face (“John’s obsessed with fat ass and he’s 10 years old”), are soft drums and an acoustic guitar which help to create the festive feel, while reinforcing the album’s core of pop music.
Throughout the album, the presence of industry-giant Jack Antonoff cannot be ignored. He certainly helps The 1975 retain what makes them incredible, while also using his vast experience in making hits, both for his solo project Bleachers, and for others like Taylor Swift and Lorde, to help make the band better. The first time they have used an out-of-house producer since their self-titled debut, Antonoff helps to bring consistency and cohesion, while also allowing the band experiment with pushing the boundaries of genre, something they have been known to do in the past, now with more refinement.
A Thrilling Conclusion
The final tracks serve as the highlight of an album which is already incredible. With help from the tender guest vocals of member Adam Hann’s wife, Carly, these songs chronicle the ultimate demise of the relationship that sits at the centre of the album. ‘When We Are Together’ is perhaps the most intimate track the band has ever made, and gives an overview of the relationship, as well as the emptiness and self-reflection that Healy was left with in the wake of its failure. The track serves perfectly to close off, before the ‘All My Friends’ riff from the opening begins to play once again in the final moments, perhaps alluding to the cyclical nature of relationships and their inevitable failure, at least for the 33-year-old frontman.
Being Funny in a Foreign Language certainly serves as a more cohesive follow-up to the band’s previous attempt, Notes on a Conditional Form, where they tried everything from country rock to UK garage in the space of a 22-tracks, making for an hour and 20-minute-long oversaturated mess of an album. Maybe it’s the reigned in length, the well-constructed narrative, or help from Jack Antonoff, but with this album, everything just seems to… work. While admittedly, the mixing can occasionally feel flat, the songwriting and composition show that The 1975 are far from finished, and can continue to excel as pioneers, re-inventing themselves along the way. Even if they need a little help from others.
The album is available to listen to on all major streaming platforms.
Written by Billy Morrell