Review: The 1975 – Being Funny in a Foreign Language

The 1975
Being funny in a foreign language

Dirty blow
Street: 10.14
The 1975 = Bon Iver + The Beatles + Drive Like I Do

The new 1975 album, Being funny in a foreign language, is really. fucking. good. He strikes in every possible way; the feeling of a satisfied craving – pure ecstatic pleasure. It’s nostalgic but completely new. It’s over 20 years of musical experimentation that the band have gone through, condensed and packaged into a neat, easy-to-digest 43-minute package – the natural evolution of their sound. And, it’s fucking amazing.

Being funny in a foreign language is The 1975’s fifth studio album, released on their own independent label, Dirty Hit. For current fans of The 1975, To be funny is particularly enticing: it’s bizarre and experimental, atmospheric and euphoric, dance-y, rock-n-roll and stripped-down acoustics. Basically, this album is very British. With sounds worthy of the Beatles, especially with their use of string instruments, they have managed to capture and enhance decades of musical innovation. For those new to the band, this album is a fantastic introduction to what the leader Matty Healey and the crew—Adam Han (guitar), Ross MacDonald (low) and George Daniel (battery)—get to. Their pop sensibility is unmatched, radiating through this collection as they manage to accomplish both originality and universality.

Formed in Manchester in 2002, The 1975 have known their British rock and been experimenting with their own sound since they were teenagers. Before releasing under this name, the four went through a handful of different projects, name changes and musical phases exploring expressions of rock, punk, house and synth. With The 1975 they landed somewhere in the vein of contemporary 80s Brit-rock pop, but ultimately they pioneered a whole new sound that makes them unnecessary (ironically, given that a box is the band’s logo).

Moving away from their trend towards more specialized, harder-to-listen to, and lyric-heavy albums, To be funny takes a more simplified approach. The change is most clearly visible with the subject – previous albums contain songs covering all sorts of topics, ranging from addiction, grief, postmodernism, politics, depression, angst, nihilism – you name it. To be funny it all boils down to love and empathy. It’s a conscious shift: The opening track, titled “The 1975,” gives listeners a warning, “I’m sorry for my 20s / I was learning the ropes” and repeats the lines, “It was about time / This is what it looks like.” Healy is here with new wisdom, acknowledging how far he (and his fans) have come, then inviting us to dance along to a lighter, happier The 1975.

“Happiness”, the next track, is the perfect follow-up: a catchy jazzy instrument with 80s pop elements, quirky synths and buttery Healy falsetto, the song makes you want to grab someone and dance in the kitchen. The third track is equally delightful – “Looking For Somebody (To Love)” has Beatles “Twist And Shout” energy, a lively concoction of guitar, trumpets, claps and keyboard. But where this song is melodically upbeat, in classic 1975 fashion, the lyrics are a shocking discussion of school shootings. You realize you’ve danced ecstatically to the story of unjust violence and come to a complete halt in your tracks, truly called.

My favorite song on the record is “Human Too”, a slow, pleading melody. Healy’s voice is charged with emotion as he sings, “Oh, don’t you know I’m human too? / Do you know you’re human too? The simple piano and hushed trumpet create a nice uplifting vibe that could fit well on their previous album, I like when you sleep, because you are so beautiful and yet so oblivious.

“About You” is the most washed out and atmospheric track on the album, with some elements of the sound on cold gameit is ghost stories. It builds to a euphoric climax, and as the saxophones flow, you think the album is ending. But, like a lullaby, the acoustic song “When We Are Together” arrives, and this nostalgic ballad with a handful of string instrumental sections draws you to a peaceful close with the hopeful promise of more to come. These are the ellipses of this album, which stretch as if to say that they will continue to live, to learn and to share all this through music as they go.

The 1975 is the best of contemporary art. Under Healy’s direction, they explore social criticism and post-modern expression. They are sometimes irreverent and ironic, but they refuse to shy away from the authentic human experience of sentimentality and the search for meaning. They keep the two in tension and create really beautiful music. With Being funny in a foreign language, these small town British boys have really grown up and seem to get better with age. –Katie Hatzfeld

Read more coverage from The 1975 here:
Review: Le 1975 – Notes on a conditional form
The 1975 @ The complex with I don’t know how but they found me 12.02