The 1975's 'Being Funny In A Foreign Language': album review
The most conventional 1975 album yet from the pop-indie band who are anything but conventional
Friday marked the release of The 1975's fifth studio album. In what is unexpectedly a short album, their shortest ever in fact, is possibly their most cohesive. If not, it is definitely the most '1975 sounding' 1975 album so far - if you know, you know.
Despite this bold claim, it does a complete u-turn with the first track, eponymously titled 'The 1975'. All of their openers have this same title and the first three albums even featured the same lyrics, differing only in their production to align with each album’s distinctive style.
The fourth ditched this method entirely, featuring a spoken word on the climate crisis from activist Greta Thunberg. As fans waited for an album that would showcase 'The 1975: At Their Very Best' (their aptly named upcoming tour), it wasn't unreasonable to think they'd return to the same, original intro format. Instead, the lyrics are totally new and much longer than the usual eleven lines.
The first single, 'Part of the Band', is a self-reflective witty song with commentary on drug abuse and so-called 'tote bag chic baristas'. For most people, this is a rogue choice for the first single, perhaps the second single 'Happiness' a disco-esque track full of sax and synths would make more sense to an outsider. But for The 1975, this is standard procedure. Healy explains on Spotify that, like the first singles of their previous albums, 'it is a starting statement'. Because the man who has been named Gen Z's Morrissey couldn't release an album without a statement somewhere in there.
'Looking for Somebody (To Love)' is an electronic dance tune, perhaps with a dash of 80s inspo. The lyrics you ask? Well, according to their Spotify, it's about school shootings. Quite the contradiction. Healy is renowned for writing extremely energetic songs with deceivingly upbeat melodies that are about the most serious topics you can think of. 'Oh Caroline' has this same feel with Healy himself labelling it as a 'deceivingly dark melodic pop anthem'.
Continuing to show their abilities to write a pop hit with a catchy chorus, 'I'm in love with you, I-I-I-I', the band released their third single accordingly titled, 'I'm In Love With You'. It's that melodic repetitive track, often about being infatuated with someone, that always seems to get the most attention and feels so quintessentially 1975 (see 'The Sound', 'TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME', 'Me & You Together Song').
Is all the conventionality of the album playing it a bit safe? Perhaps. Their last album, Notes On A Conditional Form was the model for an experimental album, spanning twenty-two songs long with no two tracks the same. But the album didn't always have the most positive reception, some claimed it was too long, too confusing and not at all cohesive. You almost can't blame them for going back to their roots on this one.
They quite literally did go back to their roots with 'About You' which Healy views as a 'continuation of Robbers', the ultimate fan favourite from their debut album. It has that same edge that the first album had throughout, the moodiness of a couple who feel they are the only two people in the world. The song also features Carly Holt on the bridge, guitarist Adam Hann's, wife adding the other perspective of this melancholy feeling.
Whilst there is certainly a fair share of pop melodies, the album is not complete without a few slower tracks such as 'All I Need To Hear', a confession of love reminiscent to the acoustic 'Be My Mistake' from their earlier discography. 'Human Too' is another of the more laid back songs about recognising, despite our differences, we're all humans and deserve a bit of slack for our mistakes. The soothing vocals from Healy on this one are particularly warming, a talent of his that is often overlooked. The only break in the slower feel of the latter half of the album is 'Wintering' all about Christmas, even though it seems a bit early, it is a welcome addition. Their clever lyricism is one of the band's selling points, evidenced with this song all about the mundane aspects of Christmas time that make it so special, offering some relatability to fans.
The band has led us on a journey of sorts, starting with the highs and the ‘Happiness’ of all encompassing love with energetic tracks. They slow this down on the latter half of the album to show how relationships begin to fray and fall apart. ‘When We Are Together, an acoustic folk song, rounds off this feeling with Healy expressing how he still relies on that love to ‘feel better’, even after it has ended.
The album is incredibly well thought out. It’s chronological, cohesive, and conventional. They didn’t take many risks here, unlike previous works, but that doesn’t render it a bad album. After all, they did recruit Jack Antonoff to produce it. A high profile producer who has worked with the likes of Taylor Swift and Lorde on some of the best (and Grammy winning) albums.