The 1975 are one of those bands that went from an interesting debut album, something that stuck out a little bit in the ‘alternative’ scene – before quickly solidifying themselves as not only an act to take notice of and an innovator of new territory, but also arguably one of the best alt bands of their time. From a couple of suburban London boys with a catchy tune called Chocolate, to one of the most involved and opinionated groups who some go as far as to call poetic – The 1975 are truly a hallmark act of the 21st Century – with much appeal to their cynical and honest lyricism and blatant frankness in interviews and conversations from frontman Mat Healy – a figure the soon learnt isn’t afraid to say what he thinks, through music or otherwise.
Being Funny In A Foreign Language sees Matty and co return for the first full-length album in two years, after the release of the 22-track Notes On A Conditional Form, which emerged during the height of the pandemic, and is consequently treated subconsciously as ‘the lockdown album’, leaving it a little overlooked after time as passed since the release. The band have always been a group known for ‘experimentation’, but in this new release, they paint an entirely new canvas – using borrowed ink, as they use all their past work to inform and influence the context and sound of the new music. Being Funny In A Foreign Language blends elements of each of their albums together, with some new unique ideas, introspective and sarcastic lyrics, simultaneously symphonic and stripped back, raw and polished.
Some songs will remind listeners of The Smiths, others Vampire Weekend, but each and every one is very much The 1975, and perhaps it’s best incarnation at that. Indie Is Not A Genre was blessed with a copy of the album prior to release, and have dived in to provide you with a track-by-track breakdown:
The first track continues the bands’ theme of self-titled introduction to every album. Sounds very Morrisey, both vocally and lyrically, but a bit more cinematic. Very good at simultaneously proving this band never stops progressing, but also doesn’t take themselves too seriously – there’s just something slightly comedic about it, but doesn’t stray from the themes of soothing ambience and familiarity that every avid 1975 fan years for during the radio silence between every album. The multiple transitions and sections of this song make the listener feel like they’re feeling in the anti-gravity of space throughout most of it, and it has a sort of undeniable cosmic feel, before the horns, reminiscent of Sincerity Is Scary, bring you back to earth in the perfect amount of time to keep it engaging.
The second song, Happiness, is a quick little return to Matty’s crooner era, and wouldn’t sound out of place on their 2016 sophomore album, I like it when you sleep for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it. To be more exact, this song sounds like it was written the same day as the lead single from that album, The Sound, but using the instruments off their 4th record, A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships. This unique blend of two of their more iconic eras. the bouncy, jazzy basslines of I like it when (…) combined with the more orchestral and harmonious elements of A Brief Inquiry (…), makes for a smooth and enjoyable piece, sure to please any fan of either piece.
Looking For Somebody To Love
The third song leans more into I like it when (…) territory and is consequently the quickest to get sick of – it’s backbone is built off a one-line hook that successfully gets stuck in your head, but not because of how catchy it is, but because it’s repeated so many times. The song feels a little hollow compared to the depth and flair of everything else on the record – and out of the 11 tracks on the record this is only one of two that feel a little like this. With all that said, lush layering and gorgeous pop production makes it nice to listen to – just don’t chuck this one on repeat.
Part Of The Band
The first single and initial taste of the new era, Part Of The Band, is one of the most distinctive tracks that can’t be compared to previous records. This may have something to do with the production credits – which are helmed by the masterful Jack Antonoff (Bleachers, Taylor Swift, Lorde, Lana Del Rey, Florence + The Machine, Kevin Abstract). Antonoff was a major contributor to the entire record, and touched production on each track, but his influence really shines through the most on this song, successfully sending the band in a new angle sonically, but still doing what Jack Antonoff does best – brings out the best in the artist, without changing the music. Despite being one of the greatest record producers of the 21st century, Antonoff doesn’t really have all that much of a ‘signature’, the way other greats like Mark Ronson, or Johnny McDaid might have. He does often implement an ambient orchestral element to some of the songs he works on, but that is something The 1975 have been doing for a long time, and some might argue, reinvented in pop music today. According to Matty, the involvement of a third producer for the entirety of the record was what saved it and made it one of their most impressive bodies of work yet.
He’s so good. What he does is identifies what an artist is really good at or where the truth is coming from.
The 1975’s albums are usually exclusively produced mostly just by Healy, and the band’s drummer George Daniel, in what Healy has described as “a really closed off [process]”. Other production credits extend further to include BJ Burton from Bon Iver, and Sabrina The teenage DJ. Healy has also detailed that until Antonoff became initially involved in the record, it felt more like “some kind of continuation of ‘Notes [On A Conditional Form’] for a little bit”. Part Of The Band does not have that quality to it, and makes a point of proving the groups confidence and level of comfort in paving a lane that is 100% their own, as Matty’s lyrics return to the kind of societal deconstruction he is famous for on tracks like Sincerity Is Scary and The Birthday Party. Lines like ‘Way before the paying penance and verbal propellant and my cancellations’ may be interpreted by some as just a pretentious elitist ‘pick me’ man trying to be quirky and different with his lyrical vocabulary, but if that isn’t what good songwriting has always been then I’m not sure how else to describe it. There is something poetic about the way he effortlessly details sexual fantasies and truths in lines like ‘I always used to bust into her hand/In my imagination/I was living my best life/Living with my parents’, that some listeners wouldn’t even pick up on casually listening until they looked up the lyrics. This furthers Matty’s intentions, which rather than shock-appeal, is more closely aligned with analyzing the world he lives, and in some contexts, participates in, as he doesn’t hold back in scrutinizing his own faults and idiosyncrasies. He takes this a step further than usual, by addressing the criticism of his character and the type of music the band makes, with the lyrics “Am I ironically woke? The butt of my joke? Or am I just some post-coke, average, skinny bloke calling his ego imagination?”. This is the kind of honest and undeviating self-evaluation you would struggle to find in any other band, much less one of a similar stature of The 1975, demonstrating their value in the industry. Matty is, indeed a quirky and different man, as he is a songwriter, but that’s not why he does it, he does it because no one else will, and he’s prepared to be that person for our generation.
Oh Caroline sounds like it belongs on the band’s self-titled debut, but was reworked to be less derivative of that record, with piano more reminiscent of a Billy Joel progression than the synthy blossoming tones we usually expect from the Wilmslow four-piece. It is a slow starting, anthemic love song with a bridge section you would not expect from the band. Oh Caroline is the best song off the record according to Matty’s dad, British comedy actor Tim Healy.
Oh Caroline is gonna fly. This is their best album, proud dad […]Tim Healy
While one wouldn’t exactly accuse the band of ‘dumbing it down’ for this one, it is – the least convoluted track from them lyrically in a long time and contains the most ‘mainstream’ songwriting structure on the album – with a repetitive catchy hook that is easy to pick up after one listen. If asked for a standout track, the choice would be between this one or the final song in the project.
I’m In Love With You
The third single off the project, I’m In Love With You, is the most ‘dancey’ of them all, returning again to that confident, bright and colorful dance-pop sound the band embodied on their sophomore album. Perhaps the shallowest member of the tracklist, it leaves a little to be desired, but one still wouldn’t go as far as to call it a ‘filer’ track, just one of the most skippable (second only to Looking For Somebody To Love in that regard). This is the track that you get halfway through for the first time and think to yourself ‘I’m not feeling this one’, but by the end of the third or fourth play you are feeling the opposite. It grows on you with it’s lulling tones, and the simplicity of the hook, though at first glance mediocre, is actually part of what makes it so compelling, and stops you from ever pressing skip.
All I Need To Hear
The final single, All I Need To Hear sounds like a Paul Simon song. A stripped back piano ballad of Matty sentimentally singing about how “I don’t need the music”, after the lyrics directly state that music was the only and most important thing he had in his life after his last breakup, with the opening lines I get out my records/when you go away/when people are talking/I miss what they say.
The song went viral within fanpages and forums after it debuted in an acoustic solo set by Healy in October 2021, when he performed a surprise opening set for Phoebe Bridgers during her Reunion tour – which was where Being Funny in a Foreign Language was first announced. At the time, the song was untitled, and Healy enjoyed telling a story about it’s sonic nature to “sound like a cover”, after he details George hearing it for the first time and not believing he wrote it.
It feels like one of those songs where it’s like I’ve stepped out of the Matty-ness of everything
The singles off the record earned a bit of mixed response from critics, with The Needle Drops Anthony Fantano, the biggest and most influential independent music critic right now, likened Part Of The Band to a “rambling, washed-out Vampire Weekend”. This takes a bit of a stab at how close The 1975 hold a few of their inspirations, and shines in cultural references and layered storytelling.
Wintering is a track many speculated to have some connection to the Sylvia Plath poem of the same name, but is instead a feel good, comically honest celebration of family and all it’s idiosyncrasies – as Healy details how he only comes home for Christmas to eat the stuffing, and how he’ll have to get his mum a chair because her back hurts – before returning to this point with the words Now mum’s not a fan of that line about her back she said it makes her sound frumpy and old/I said ‘WOMAN! YOU ARE 64 YEARS OLD!’. It is a beautifully happy song that you cannot help but smile at, and shows the most comfortable and content of Healy mentally, as he seems to be having fun with it, As he specifically says Now stop the percussion I wanna have a discussion directly after the drum pattern ends in the bridge of the song. It has the same sort of appeal Paul Kelly’s How To Make Gravy gives nearing the Christmas period, but more Matty, and a lot shorter and less story-driven. Sonically, the rougher acoustic sound of finger plucking sounds very much like The Birthday Party, but the end of the riff has a brighter, almost-country music tone to it. It’s these tiny little details throughout the record that give that extra little unique flair of cohesiveness to it all. This song was slated for release under the Drive Like I Do project, which is a moniker Healy spoke about a great deal post-pandemic in a sort of reincarnation of the band before they became what is now known as The 1975 – a good way to potentially drastically switch up things artistically without facing backlash for doing something different. Healy recently stated the project, which is currently a mini-album or EP of sorts simply got pushed back to make room for Being Funny In A Funny Language to be released on time and have it’s own deserved moment.
Human Too is VERY reminiscent of A Brief Inquiry (…), with the repeating lyrics ‘don’t you know I’m human too’, not sounding out of place directly after Be My Mistake or It’s Not Living (It’s Not With You). It addresses issues that fly over the head of casual listeners, with the line sorry about the bomb thing, that’s overdue, I’m sorry that I quite like seeing myself on the news a direct reference to the backlash Healy faced in 2016 after triggering viwers by detonating a (mock) suicide vest in the music video for People,
The verses differ vocally from the hook, sounding intentionally reverbed and maybe even recorded on a different mic, as if it was sung in a roomy bathroom – an interesting effect that breaks up the record. Further into the track panning vocal layers on the hook help to do this even further, with some LANY-esque vocal double production creating a really nice ambient setting. These kinds of details are best experienced with headphones for full effect, unlike much of the rest of the record translating to speakers or in the car quite smoothly.
The second last song opens sounding like it’s the outro, with a great atmospheric symphony, and Matty’s same deep, wide-sounding vocals that made the iconic opening track of their first album. The lyrics read like a letter or a postcode to a past love – that one might only to never send. The track is definitely one of more artistic expression that something fans of the catchier pieces from the band – it stretches out to nearly five and a half minutes, despite having the least amount of lyrics out of any song on the album.
When We Are Together
The last track brings us back to the bluesy sounding strumming we became familiar with in The Birthday Party and more recently in Wintering – but includes the added folk-rock string component of violin riffs that make the instrumental sound very similar to something of Passenger circa 2014. It is one of the more poignant and less sarcastic songs lyrically, though this doesn’t see Matty dropping his signature writing style – just simply doing it less bitterly, reading like an apology almost, and is enough to make you cry at his blunt honesty. A standout line is I’m better at writing’ was just a way to get you biting, oh the truth is that our egos are absurd/I thought we were fighting but it seems I was ‘gaslighting’ you. I didn’t know that it had its own word. A gorgeous vocal harmony and cadence some might compare to The Strokes- this is easily the most similar track to those of Notes On A Conditional Form, but contains a warmer aura to it, one that wraps itself around the listener like a blanket, and makes you stare out the window unthinkingly, simply drawing in the messaging of the lyrics and pretty textures on the instrumental. The perfect track to close the project on, and a soft reminder that these are a group of men who are calm and content in their work and legacy – which is honestly the strongest and most important message of all throughout this album, and is pushed home so superbly with When We Are Together.
Overall, the album is their most refined, concise, and polished album yet. The 1975 have never been rough around the edges sonically, but there’s something about these 11 tracks, their shortest tracklisting to date, with their albums ranging from a busty 15 to an almost bloated 22 tracks, that really sets it apart as a body of work from everything prior.