Album Review: The 1975 shines in new record

‘Being Funny in a Foreign Language’ is a delightful and surprising left-turn for the band


Photo Courtesy: Dirty Hit

1975 on set for the “Part of the Band” music video.

by Noah Lyons, Staff Writer

The 1975 is back and better than ever.

Two years after releasing their polarizing double-album “Notes on a Conditional Form,” the English pop rock band is switching up their sound. “Being Funny in a Foreign Language” (BFIAFL) utilizes a more lively, analog sound compared to their previous work. Lead vocalist Matty Healy and the band made an effort to include more live instrumentation rather than working tirelessly behind the mixing board.

To embark on this musical journey, the band had help from musical jack-of-all-trades Jack Antonoff. The Grammy-nominated Bleachers lead singer has worked with an all-star lineup of bands and artists throughout his career. 

He’s produced records from Taylor Swift, Lorde, Lana Del Ray and Clairo. Now he’s expanded his catalog to The 1975.

His stylish production and Healy’s charismatic delivery is a match made in musical heaven. Antonoff brings a classic sound to the album, while Healy writes effectively from a modern lens. Few tracks demonstrate this balance better than two of the singles, “Happiness” and “I’m in Love With You.”

The aforementioned “Happiness” is loaded with synths, saxophones and swagger. It’s a perfect representation of the record and the 1975’s new musical direction. “I’m In Love With You” is pure bubblegum pop, with an infectiously fun chorus that’ll be stuck in your head for days. Once the acoustic guitars kick in, you won’t be able to stay still.

“Part of the Band,” the lead single from the record, is an unconventional baroque rock piece with a full orchestra. The song doesn’t have a chorus but it holds together quite well. The lyrics, while odd, offer a stream of consciousness narrative. 

Lyrically, the album is a step up in the way that it steps back.

Healy isn’t worried about sounding too sincere or “cringe” on the record. Instead he pours out all his feelings, as cheesy and straightforward as it may sound. A common critique of The 1975 is an air of pretentiousness that clouds their image. With this album, the band keeps things simple and sincere.

That doesn’t mean Healy sidesteps challenging subject matter. The album touches on QAnon conspiracies (“The 1975”), isolation (“When We Are Together”) and school shootings (“Looking for Somebody to Love”). Healy manages to weave these themes and concepts together without making the record feeling disjointed.

Admittedly, the album does have some lyrics that miss the mark. Healy references his “cancellation” on three tracks throughout the record. In 2020, he promoted one of The 1975’s songs in the wake of George Floyd’s killing.

While his intentions may have been sincere, Twitter users complained about how he shifted the focus from the movement to his own music. In the heat of the backlash, Healy deactivated his Twitter.

Two years later, his career hasn’t suffered much at all. He’s making plenty of money and he still has a notable social media presence, sans Twitter. This makes his repeated references to his own “cancellation” ring hollow. 

The references, however, stay brief. This isn’t a Van Morrison situation here. 

I would be remiss to wrap up the review without mentioning the band behind Healy. Bassist Ross MacDonald is a standout performer, delivering groovy basslines that keep the record moving. MacDonald, alongside drummer and co-producer George Daniel, provide sublime harmonies on “Oh Caroline” and “Human Too.”

My favorite of the bunch is the harrowing ballad “All I Need to Hear.” Keeping in the mission of authenticity, the band recorded the track in one take. Healy’s lyrics are confessional and the song is simple and intimate, a sign of their maturity as a band.

“About You,” the second to last track on the album, is a fan favorite. Antonoff’s production style is on full display with soaring synths and heavily-reverebed lead vocals. It’s the emotional climax to their most personal record. 

Four years after their most divisive project, BFIAFL is leaner, stronger and more focused. 

The band has embarked on their tour “The 1975 at Their Very Best” this month. They aren’t lying; this record is the very best of their career thus far.