Review: The 1975 – Being Funny in a Foreign Language
National Music Reviews
Being Funny in a Foreign Language
The 1975 = Bon Iver + The Beatles + Drive Like I Do
The 1975’s new album, Being Funny in a Foreign Language, is really. fucking. good. It hits in every possible way; the feeling of a satisfied craving—pure, ecstatic delight. It feels nostalgic yet entirely new. It’s the 20-plus years of musical experimentation that the band has gone through, condensed in a neat, easily digestible, 43-minute package—the natural evolution of their sound. And, it’s fucking incredible.
Being Funny in a Foreign Language is The 1975’s fifth studio album, released under their own independent record label, Dirty Hit. For existing fans of The 1975, Being Funny is especially mouthwatering: It’s weird and experimental, atmospheric and euphoric, dance-y, rock-n-roll and stripped-back acoustic. At its core, this album is very British. With Beatles-esque sounds—in particular with their use of stringed instruments—they’ve managed to capture and enhance decades of musical innovation. For those new to the band, this album is a fantastic intro to what frontman Matty Healy and crew—Adam Hann (guitar), Ross MacDonald (bass) and George Daniel (drums)—are getting at. Their pop sensibility is unmatched, shining through this collection as they manage to accomplish both originality and universality.
Formed in Manchester in 2002, The 1975 know their British rock and have been experimenting with their own sound since their teens. Before releasing under this name, the four went through a handful of different projects, name changes and musical phases exploring rock, punk, house and synth expressions. With The 1975, they’ve landed somewhere in the vein of ’80s brit-rock contemporary pop, but ultimately, they’ve pioneered a wholly new sound which makes boxing them in a pointless endeavor (ironic, considering a box is the band’s logo).
Stepping away from their tendency toward more niche, harder-to-listen-to, lyric-heavy albums, Being Funny takes a more simplified approach. The shift is most clearly seen with the subject—earlier albums feature songs covering all sorts of topics, ranging between addiction, heartbreak, postmodernism, politics, depression, angst, nihilism—you name it. Being Funny boils it all down to love and empathy. It’s a conscious shift: The opening track, titled “The 1975,” gives a disclaimer to listeners, “I’m sorry about my twenties / I was learning the ropes” and repeats the lines “It’s about time / This is what it looks like.” Healy is here with newfound wisdom, acknowledging the journey he (and fans) have had, then inviting us to dance along with a lighter, more joyful The 1975.
“Happiness,” the next track, is the perfect segue: An upbeat, jazzy instrumental with ’80s pop elements, quirky synths and Healy’s buttery falsetto, the song makes you want to grab somebody and dance in the kitchen. Track three is just as delightful—“Looking For Somebody (To Love)” has The Beatles’ “Twist And Shout” energy, a lively concoction of guitar, trumpets, clapping and keyboard. But where this song is melodically upbeat, in classic 1975 fashion, the lyrics are a shocking discussion about school shootings. You realize you’ve been ecstatically dancing to the story of unjust violence and stop dead in your tracks, truly called out.
My favorite song on the record is “Human Too,” a slow and pleading melody. Healy’s voice is packed with emotion as he sings, “Oh, don’t you know that I’m a human too? / You know that you’re a human, too?” The simple piano and hushed trumpet create a beautiful, uplifting vibe that could fit nicely on their previous album, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it.
“About You” is the most washed out and atmospheric track on the album, with some elements of the sound on Coldplay’s Ghost Stories. It builds to a euphoric climax, and as saxophones trickle off, you think the album is concluding. But, like a lullaby, the acoustic song “When We Are Together” comes on, and this nostalgic-feeling ballad with a handful of stringed, instrumental sections drifts you into peaceful closure with the hopeful promise of more to come. It’s this album’s ellipses, trailing off as if to say they’ll continue to live, learn and share it all through music as they go along.
The 1975 is the best of all things contemporary art. Under the direction of Healy, they explore social critique and post-modern expression. They’re irreverent and ironic at times, but they refuse to shy away from the genuine human experience of sentimentality and a search for meaning. They hold both in tension and create genuinely beautiful music. With Being Funny in a Foreign Language, these small-town British boys have really grown up, and they seem to just keep getting better with age. –Katie Hatzfeld
Read more coverage of The 1975 here:
Review: The 1975 – Notes on a Conditional Form
The 1975 @ The Complex w/ I Don’t Know How But They Found Me 12.02
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