The 1975 took almost three years from 2020’s “Notes on a Conditional Form” to release a new album. While its predecessor was a 22-track eclectic mix of sounds, “Being Funny In a Foreign Language” is a concise 11-track record full of string sections, synths and radio-ready guitar. Producer Jack Antonoff, whose recent production credits include Clairo’s “Sling” and Florence + the Machine’s “Dance Fever,” was enlisted as co-producer.
Intro song “The 1975,” like every intro is named on a The 1975 record, is a jarring synth and bass-driven medley of some of lead singer and lyricist Matty Healy’s best one-liners. Regarding Healy’s backlash from the past years, he sings, “I’m sorry about my 20s, I was learning the ropes / I had a tendency of thinking about it after I spoke.” The closer is repeated as Healy’s voice echoes, “I’m sorry if you’re living and you’re 17.” It is a bold line that closes an even-bolder album opener — and their best one to date.
Lead single “Part of the Band” is a striking choice for a first slice from an album. With primarily strings-oriented production until the chorus (featuring assisting vocals from Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner), the song goes back and forth between baroque and mid-tempo alternative throughout. That is, until the end of it, where the two combine into a sound that blends extremely well. Lyrically, the song is a jumble of Healy’s peak wit. He opens with, “She was part of the Air Force, I was part of the band / I always used to burst into her hand.” Coming from another songwriter, it would be a surprising choice. Coming from Healy, it is not. His unabashed style of writing is one of, if not the complete, highlight of “Being Funny.” While on previous albums it may have come off as trying to achieve shock factor, on this one, it feels natural.
While the majority of the first half of “Being Funny” is full of ready-to-be pop hits (“Happiness” and “I’m In Love With You”), the final few tracks take a step back from the pop production for some of the rawest songs made by the band to date. “All I Need to Hear” is a quiet plea to a lover to confess their feelings. Healy sings, “Tell me you love me / That’s all that I need to hear.” Perhaps the focal point of the record, “About You” is a dreamy ode to remembrance. Featuring a stunning guest appearance from Carly Holt, wife of The 1975 guitarist Adam Hann, the song is reminiscent of their 2013 single “Robbers.” On the bridge, Holt sings amidst the chime of what sounds like jingle bells, “There was something about you that now I can’t remember / It’s the same damn thing that made my heart surrender.”
The 1975 have gone through various phases over their years as a band, whether it was their Tumblr-famed first two studio albums or 2017’s media-infused “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships.” “Being Funny” is their most concise project yet. While it touches upon various topics and scenes, deep down it is an album about love and what it means to love. Healy’s lyricism is an insight into both the intimate and bigger moments of relationships that create one of the band’s best and most romantic albums to date. 4.5/5
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