The 1975 Scale Back with ‘Being Funny in a Foreign Language’


The 1975 (Photo by Samuel Bradley | Courtesy Billboard)

By Megan Fisher, Arts Writer


There’s a case to be made that The 1975 created the sound of 2014. For a certain age, the debut self-titled album of the British group was a defining piece of work, a flashpoint to a specific point in time. Now, it has been almost 10 years since hits “Chocolate,” “Sex” and “Robbers,” and The 1975 have gone on to fill arenas and release sprawling albums, including one that begins with a speech from Greta Thunberg over ambient electronic sounds.

The 1975’s latest album “Being Funny in a Foreign Language” allows for a comparison point to chart the group’s growth, letting us see what has changed and what has stayed the same. It is a work of maturity, where there is nothing that the group has to prove. Clocking in at forty-four minutes, “Being Funny in a Foreign Language” is focused, confident and cohesive. 

Trims Away the Excess

Working with Jack Antonoff, producer for Lorde, Taylor Swift, Carly Rae Jepsen and mastermind behind Bleachers, The 1975 is able to trim away the maximalist, self-serious flourishes that defined their previous works, such as “Notes on a Conditional Form,” and bring their music back down to earth.

“Being Funny in a Foreign Language” is as stripped back as The 1975 will ever be able to get. It’s a return to the form of their early works and the singles of 2014, aided by the skill and loose confidence that comes when a band has been performing together for decades. With thumping ’80s synth, jittery saxophones and irresistible, soaring hooks, the group returns to their iconic and beloved sound. The lyrics from Matthew Healy are sharp, flippant and sly, such as when he rhymes “vitriol” with “Adderall.”

The 1975 from “Part of the Band” Official Music Video (Courtesy of The 1975 Official Vevo)

’80s Influence

The eponymous opening track is present and accounted for, made out of a chiming waterfall of piano chords rather similar to LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends.” Healy laments the travails of youth and experiencing life through a digital screen, singing lines such as “I’m feeling apathetic after scrolling through hell, I think I have a boner but I can’t really tell.” “Part of the Band” is a clear-eyed, string-laden self-reflection in which Healy confronts his past drug addiction and wonders whether he’s “fake-woke” while still being pretentious enough to reference Arthur Rimbaud. The buoyant, jangly pop tunes, “Looking For Somebody (To Love),” “Oh Caroline” and “I’m In Love With You” show the Bleachers influence from Antonoff by way of ’80s Bruce Springsteen and the Traveling Wilburys.

The influence of ’80s music is evident throughout the album, from the glossy saxophone runs and infectious pop hooks. The jubilant earworm “Happiness” could have been recorded by Steve Winwood. In comparison to previous albums by The 1975, Healy keeps the social commentary down, but not entirely. For example, “Oh Caroline” and “Looking For Somebody (To Love)” are both about incels, and the opening track references QAnon. The album is concluded with two lovely ballads, including “About You,” a shimmering, shoegaze song about seeing an ex once again that Healy duets with Carly Holt, wife of the groups’ guitarist Adam Hann. 

Streamlined and tight as a drum, the songs of “Being Funny in a Foreign Language” form a cohesive unit. Healy does continue his habit of reminding you of his celebrity, but “Being Funny in a Foreign Language” doesn’t feel like gazing at a navel. Perhaps it was due to the presence of Antonoff in the studio, but this is The 1975’s first album in a long time that is first and foremost concerned with giving people good beats to bop around to. 


[email protected]