Image: Chuff Media

Being Funny In A Foreign Language is a return to form for The 1975

Since the beginning of their career, The 1975 have prided themselves on not staying still, on always changing their sound – on continuing to evolve in new directions they previously never would have considered. And this mentality is what brought them to their 2020 album Notes On A Conditional Form. However, rather than being the groundbreaking project they envisioned it to be, it ended up being an incohesive mess of pretentious nothingness. The album made fans question whether the Manchester four-piece had finally taken it too far, with fans longing for the indie pop-rock of their first two albums. Twitter subsequently became a breeding ground for countless tweets of “Bring back the old 1975”.

The sound may be a familiar one, but it’s one the band has come to master

The band listened, and made what is the most ‘1975 sounding album’ to date. What’s more, they named their upcoming tour The 1975: At Their Very Best. Bold? Yes. But arguably, Being Funny In A Foreign Language lives up to the name. The album is their shortest to date and is packed with hits from start to finish with everything from upbeat, 80s-inspired pop numbers (‘Looking for Somebody (To Love)’ and ‘I’m in Love with You’), to jazz-pop nuggets of joy (‘Human Too’), to atmospheric, hazy pieces reminiscent of their instrumental tracks from previous albums (‘About You’).

Sonically, the album feels less like a progression and more like a return to their previous style, perhaps seeking comfort in the box of familiarity. The band know they can make upbeat pop, so they choose to do it, and they do it well. However, it is impossible to shake the feeling that the album feels like a recycled version of their old material. ‘I’m In Love With You’ is a dancey, colourful pop song which feels like a mishmash of ‘If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)’ from Notes, and ‘She’s American’ from their 2016 album I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It. Similarly, the jazz-infused fan-favourite ‘Happiness’ is also a mix of ‘If You’re Too Shy’, and ‘She’s American’. The symphonic instrumental in the atmospheric ‘About You’ (which features vocals from Korean-American singer Japanese Breakfast) harks back to their 2014 standalone single ‘Medicine’. There are more examples of this, however, each song still hits the mark. It is difficult to pick the best songs off the album because all 11 are consistently good. The sound may be a familiar one, but it’s one the band has come to master. 

The intellectuality has vanished and in its place are moments of cheek and humour

What is also striking about the album is how easily they have left behind the pretentious façade of some of their previous work. The band no longer need to pretend they are great—they know they are. Of course, they still cannot help themselves from including the odd faux-intellectual line or two, including a reference to the French poet Arthur Rimbaud and his lover Paul Verlaine on ‘Part of the Band’, or a line about “experiencing life through the postmodern lens” on the titular track.

However, for the most part, the intellectuality has vanished and in its place are moments of cheek and humour. On ‘Wintering’, an upbeat song about returning home for Christmas, vocalist Matty Healy sings: “I’ll be giving my chair to my mum ’cause her back hurts”. And in case the sentiment was not clear, he continues: “Mum’s not a fan of that line about her back she said it makes her sound frumpy and old / I said ‘Woman! You are 64 years old!’”. It’s charismatic, funny, and packs a punch.

Being Funny In A Foreign Language is the capstone of the band’s career thus far: it combines their debut album’s carefree attitude, the showstopping glam pop of I Like It When You Sleep, the heart-warming ballads of A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships and the comedic moments from Notes. Confident in their ability to make a stellar album, Being Funny In A Foreign Language sees the band embrace what it means to be The 1975 at their very best.

Recommended listening: ‘Wintering’


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.