The 1975 – Being Funny In A Foreign Language

One of the UK’s most important contemporary bands, The 1975, are rejuvenated and at their most cohesive on fifth studio album, Being Funny In A Foreign Language.

Matty Healy, George Daniel, Adam Hann and Ross Macdonald AKA The 1975, proved to be arguably one of the most influential bands of the 2010s thanks to their inspired, emotive, and inimitable sound. For a band that has reached such dizzying heights, it’s funny how the group were mocked by a handful of critics and music publications during their self-titled era. Nevertheless, The 1975 continued onwards undeterred and thus came their sprawling magnum opus (in my humble opinion) I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It in 2016. Undoubtedly it was from that point that Healy & co were recognised across the globe. Fast forward to the start of the Music For Cars era in 2018 when the four-piece dropped their acclaimed third studio album and potentially most easily accessible project yet, A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships. The succeeding record was 2020’s Notes on a Conditional Form. An LP which felt somewhat over cramped and bloated but contained their most eclectic range of songs with some real standout pieces.

You might be thinking ‘why the brief history lesson?’ Well, that’s because their highly anticipated new record, Being Funny In A Foreign Language (BFIAFL), couldn’t have been made before this point. The 1975 are now masters of their universe, they’re more confident, maturer, and know exactly what makes a quintessential 1975 song. This new record is an exercise in offering a snapshot of the band at this point in time and highlighting what The 1975 does best. When you think of their musical identity, most would conjure up thoughts of 80s-inspired sonics, lyricism that is deeply introspective with a focus on modern life and love, saxophones, experimental beats, layered production, and much more. All of those things are fundamental to the band’s core and they’ve distilled all of this into a record which feels tight, focused, and fresh, without treading the same old ground. Having eleven tracks on a record is normally quite a lengthy affair for most bands when releasing bodies of work but for The 1975 this feels like a more refined and smaller offering. Produced by Healy, Daniel, and renowned producer/Bleachers frontperson Jack Antonoff, it’s certainly the group’s shortest record yet but it’s all the better for it. They’ve trimmed the fat, stripped everything back and every track feels essential to the body of work.


Being Funny In A Foreign Language’s Artwork

On every album so far, they’ve always opened with the introductory tune entitled The 1975. Although the first three records each contained the same lyrics of “Go Down, Soft Sound” and so on, interestingly they’ve always sonically reworked the song around the themes of each of the albums. Yet, from Notes On A Conditional Form onwards, the much-beloved opener has become an entirely new beast. Notes contained an important message and stark reminder from environmental activist, Greta Thunberg, on the ongoing effects of climate change. Now on BFIAFL, The 1975 is a lush four-minute piano-led track with swirling strings. It’s impactful, perfectly fits the themes of the record, and has the opening lyrics of: “This will get bigger ‘if you know what I mean’, I’m sorry if you’re living and you’re 17, I heard it’s en vogue to be super thin – but ‘your friends aren’t thicc so they can’t come in!” Just wait for the guitar and saxophone to kick in at the end of the track before it leads onto a fan favourite single, Happiness.

Happiness was the second track to be released from the record as a single and it’s easily one of the most radio-friendly tracks on the record. It’s a classic example of the band’s capabilities to produce an effortlessly mainstream euphoric pop sound. It feels like the natural successor to previous hits such as If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know) and She’s American for example. It’s also extremely fun. Catapulting from the funk-laden and celebratory grooves of Happiness, the album pivots to the more urgent sounding, Looking For Somebody To Love. It’s a snappy, faster-paced, synth-pop affair and clocks in at just under three minutes.  For its upbeat exterior, it’s a rather dark song that chronicles toxic masculinity whilst looking for love. Healy’s final line on the song is: “But the boy with ‘the plan’ and the gun in his hand was looking for somebody to love“. Changing the pace again, the folk-rock Part Of The Band is still perhaps one of the most interesting songs on the album, it’s entirely different to what has come in previous eras but it’s packed to the brim with cinematic strings, jokes, and some of Healy’s most enthralling lyricism. There’s also the odd trademark deprecating line in there as well.

Shifting to the best song on the album (yes, I really said that), Oh Caroline is an all-out 80s ballad. It’s dramatic, anthemic, and thematically about all-consuming love (but it’s not quite reciprocated). I genuinely think this might be a fan favourite. The vocal delivery, layered nuances, the splices of clean guitar tone reminiscent of the first two LPs, slinky bass, and the drum delivery are all spellbinding. It’s crucial this goes in the new live set once the band commence their world tour next year. But the big question is: will the crowds sing “‘Getting cucked’ I don’t need it” like the Harry Styles fandom scream “Leave America” during the Love On Tour shows? Up next is I’m In Love With You. When I first listened to the record a month ago I purposefully attempted to avoid all singles as I like to enjoy listening to albums in their entirety in one sitting with as many surprises as possible (I had heard Part Of The Band as my willpower wasn’t as strong as I thought). I’m In Love With You stood out as another undeniably catchy song and I adored that Fleetwood Mac-esque (Listen to the start of Fleetwood Mac’s track, Everywhere) synth which comes in before the infectious chorus hits.

Offering up tenderness, a sense of sincerity, and stripped-back bluesy guitar, All I Need To Hear is a strikingly beautiful song. It was the third track to be released as a single and in my opinion, Mine walked so All I Need To Hear could run. If we ever needed a new Christmas song then The 1975 have made one in a style which is somewhat reminiscent of their self-titled era with a folky twist. Fans will undoubtedly be playing Wintering on December 23rd at the very least but it’s hard to imagine where this track would fit into a live set not close to the festive season. Human Too is a slow-paced, emotive, and soulful track with bucketloads of charm. It acts as a pleasant palate cleanser between Wintering and the penultimate shoegaze track, About You. It’s a track that is a barrage of sound with its plucked strings, warm reverb and soft vocal delivery. The female vocal just over halfway through the track gives the song a new edge which adds to the experience. As this record features primarily only instruments they could play in the studio and less production-based equipment, it makes this song even more impressive.

Closing the record is the bittersweet tune When We Are Together. The country-tinged track focuses on the fallout of a relationship and sees Healy uncertain about his belief in love. It ends the record in fitting fashion thanks to its steady drumbeat, banjo, and western-style fiddle. The record climaxes in a wall of sound that goes full circle right back to the opener. If anything, Being Funny In A Foreign Language is a body of work that feels like a well-deserved victory lap for The 1975. It makes for a refreshing and thrilling listen and undeniably it proves why they’ve been and still are such an integral part of the modern music scene.


Being Funny In A Foreign Language is out this Friday. Follow The 1975 @the1975

Review by Cameron Poole

Photography by Samuel Bradley

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