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The 1975 – Being Funny In A Foreign Language

It’s diverse, its poignant, its production is sublime, Matty Healy has proved that he’s one hell of a frontman

The 1975Being Funny In A Foreign Language review

When you think of bands that have taken over the world over the last ten years, the first act that comes to mind is The 1975. The band have won three BRIT Awards and was nominated for the Mercury Prize for their 2016 and 2018 albums I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It and A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships respectively. They have grown a massive fanbase all over the world with their distinctive style, unlike any other band out there right now. 

I’m a fan of The 1975. I thought that their self-titled debut album was superb, I enjoyed I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It’s change of style and for doing something different, and I also really enjoyed A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships’s wonderful manner and technique, with that record producing my favourite song by the band so far, Love It If We Made It. However, none of these albums are perfect, and all have specific things that could have been done better, and their last album, Notes On A Conditional Form, released during the 2020 lockdown was an absolute trainwreck. Despite having two incredible songs on there in the form of lead single People and If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know), comprehensively, the overall length of the record, clocking in at 80 minutes, the quality of each individual song and the album’s style was a complete disaster. 

The band are about to release their highly anticipated fifth studio album, Being Funny In A Foreign Language and it’s fair to say that going into it, I have some mixed feelings. On the positive side, the two lead singles that I’ve heard thus far are certainly very strong and keep the consistency of the theme of the album, and with only 11 tracks, the album is half the length of their proceeding collection, Notes On A Conditional Form and is their shortest record yet, denoting to me that they’ve learnt from the car-crash of their last album, but I’m also quite pessimistic as if their last album was that bad, then surely that’s not something they can come back from. But one thing is for certain… Whether they release good or bad material, The 1975 can definitely keep me intrigued…

The album starts with their traditional introduction: The 1975, which is always reworked for every album to match the themeing. We’ve had indie, we’ve had electronic and we’ve even had a speech from Greta Thunberg about climate change, but this time we’ve had an orchestral piano piece, which sounds very different to any introduction we’ve had thus far, and it’s absolutely fantastic. It’s given me goosebumps and provoked tears, something that’s INCREDIBLY hard to do, especially with me and from the get-go of a record. This shows what this album is going to be instantly, and it does what any album is supposed to do, and it may be the best introduction to a record I’ve heard since The xx’s Intro to their self-titled debut in 2009, which I consider to be one of the best album intros ever made. Heading into Happiness, this is the second single from the album, and it’s brilliant. It’s influenced by the sounds from the band’s sophomore album, I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It, and it’s great. It has some fantastic orchestration within it, it’s a great singalong track, with frontman Matty Healy’s vocals sounding brilliant as always. I’m very impressed thus far.

Looking For Somebody (To Love) carries on the album’s themeing even more so, and we hear a style we’ve not heard The 1975 use before. They blend old-school Elvis Presley and Tom Jones’s vocal ability, performed effortlessly by Healy, with a modern-sounding indie sound provided by the rest of the band. This is a fusion I had never heard before and I love it. Maybe we’ll start hearing more stuff like this in the not-too-distant future, and it’s something I won’t be mad to see happen in mainstream music for sure. Part Of The Band is the album’s lead single and is absolutely gorgeous. It has some brilliant lyricism, but the stand out is the sensational instrumentation. This sounds incredibly sophisticated compared to what The 1975 usually does, and I love it, it’s grown up, it’s mature and this style works very very well! This was a perfect choice of lead single and I’m blown away by it, once again.

Oh Caroline is The 1975 channelling the iconic boyband sound such as Westlife and Boyzone, and it’s the last style I ever thought The 1975 would attempt, but it’s a style that works. It has the substance of a cheesy pop song but is elevated by its gorgeous production and Matty’s wonderful vocals, it comes across as a coming-of-age track with real affluence and it sounds wonderful. Carrying on this style is the third single from the record, I’m In Love With You, and this is also wonderful. It has a beautiful sound through it, and the instrumentation is once again the highlight. I will be honest and say that this song doesn’t stand up against the rest of the songs we’ve heard thus far, but it certainly doesn’t take anything away from the album and the sound it’s trying so hard to create, which is working very very well thus far. 

The album’s final single, All I Need To Hear is a gorgeous jazzy ballad, in which frontman Healy is the highlight here. His vocals are gorgeous and the rest of the band accompanies him with some gorgeous instrumentation. The song does have a basic formulaic structure, and whereas I’d usually criticise that, this makes me like the song even more. It’s brilliant! Wintering has some beautiful instrumentation and I can imagine it in a movie for sure. Matty and George Daniel’s lyricism tells a wonderful story and it’s fantastic. The song is even co-written by Jacob Budgen, who was the standout of the beabadoobee show I went to a few days ago (review here) and he also does a great job here too, seriously, that lad is starting to impress me more and more. This is certainly a highlight for me, and it’s a great addition to the album. Human Too channels James Blake in a gorgeous electronica ballad. The sound is gorgeous, atmospheric and a real delight to listen to. Its production is gorgeous and is some of my favourite production on any song I’ve heard this year, it’s just brilliant.

About You brings back the gorgeous string orchestration that we’ve been missing since Part Of The Band six tracks earlier, and wow. What a song. This is near enough a perfect track, its production is sublime, Healy’s vocals are through the roof and it’s written perfectly. The song also secretly features the Korean-American alternative pop band Japanese Breakfast, which showcases the band in a new way, exactly what musical collaborations are supposed to do. It’s fair to say that this is not only one of the best songs on the album, but one of the best tracks of the year. Moving into our finale, When We Are Together, we have a slow song to finish off the record, and what a song it is. Healy’s vocals stand out here, and the lyricism and style channel American musician Phoebe Bridgers, which I thoroughly enjoyed too. Everything about this song works perfectly, and it makes the perfect end to the album.

So, not only have The 1975 made their career-best work with Being Funny In A Foreign Language, but they’ve made what I believe is one of the albums of the year. It’s diverse, its poignant, its production is sublime, Matty Healy has proved that he’s one hell of a frontman and everything about this album is perfect. On Tuesday (11th October), Healy said via his Instagram story that if this album got any bad reviews, he would be “very very angry” at me and other journalists, but I don’t think he needs to worry about that because he’s impressed me more than the band have in the ten years I’ve known about them. This album is a musical polymath and it’s one hell of a treat for fans both old and new.

Ranking: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Highlights:

The 1975

Happiness

Part Of The Band

Wintering

About You

Tracklist:

  1. The 1975
  2. Happiness
  3. Looking For Somebody (To Love)
  4. Part Of The Band
  5. Oh Caroline
  6. I’m In Love With You
  7. All I Need To Hear
  8. Wintering
  9. Human Too
  10. About You [featuring Japanese Breakfast]
  11. When We Are Together