Since forming during their formative school years in 2002, The 1975 have proved to be, arguably, one of the most influential bands of the 2010s thanks to their distinctive aesthetic, ardent fanbase and unique sonic approach. For a band that has reached such dizzying heights, frontman Matty Healy’s famous knack for quintessential lyricism can still summarize why people either love or hate him because, whether he’s attempting to nail down the fraying outline of post-modernity or writing pounding ‘80s synth ballads about being loved, there’s a relentlessness to his lyrical mind where it’s obvious little is off bounds. He isn’t scared to say it how it is. Whilst dipping their toes into a myriad of sounds over the last decade, with their last LP Notes On A Conditional Form touching garage, country and pop, their eagerly anticipated fifth record Being Funny In A Foreign Language scales back the all-consuming ambition noticed in their latest works and sports a more confident, mature sound that is a triumphant embrace of the soundscapes that made the quartet a Tumblr-era success.
Opening the record with the traditional self-titled track, “The 1975” is a fitting beginning to an album lending so much to the bands concentrated identity. The once accounted for “Go down / Soft sound” that has lived on the bands first three projects has now evolved into a series of frenetic piano chords taking heavy doses of inspiration from LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends.” The eponymous track blossoms from a cartoon-sounding gunshot to a chain of consciousness where Healy is caught up in the excavation of his past: “We’re experiencing life through the postmodern lens / Oh, call it like it is / You’re making an aesthetic out of not doing well / And mining all the bits of you you think you can sell.”
Boasting a sound reminiscent of their earlier works, already released tracks “Happiness” and “I’m In Love With You” showcase what The 1975 do best. The tracks, which build around repeated one-line refrains that make for catchy hooks, are full of spunky production that melds together jazz with twinkly pop nostalgia. The dance floor anthem “Happiness” is driven by the interlocking plucky guitars, smooth synths and enormous stabs of a Bruce Springsteen-infused melody where Healy’s verses ooze with polarizing charm whereas “I’m In Love With You” seems to pick up where “The Sound” left off with lead guitarist Adam Hann’s gorgeous guitar work.
Imbued with the same sparkly ‘80s pop sounds heard on “If You’re Too Shy (Just Let Me Know)”, where the record truly shines is where it’s the darkest. On darkly disturbing tracks “Looking For Somebody (To Love)” and “Oh Caroline” Healy expresses vulnerability whilst also being a man on a mission. The synth-laden “Looking For Somebody (To Love)”, which is aggressively upbeat and has producer Jack Antonoff’s musical fingerprints all over it noticed by the Bleachers-esque bounce, draws a satisfying irony with its conceptual and musical contrasts as it simultaneously explores the heavy subject of male violence whereas “Oh Caroline,” full of plinking guitar melodies, touches on suicide in the instance of wondering how much ones life is worth.
In short, Being Funny In A Foreign Language recollects the teenage jubilance of their debut album on a maturer level but is still yet to beat it. Despite its concise, compact nature, the record still only scratches the surface and only seems defined by how secure it sounds within its own presence. That’s not to say it isn’t a solid addition to their discography, it is. But, perhaps in focusing inwards, The 1975 have lost something we can’t pinpoint that their first two records had. That being said, the band have managed to expand on every sound they have dabbled with in the past in a very concise way and Being Funny In A Foreign Language feels like the right step after pushing experimental excess to its logical conclusion with Notes On A Conditional Form. Like all of their projects, the fifth record has something for everyone and, by adding a fresh coat of paint to sounds they’ve already perfected, The 1975 have longevity on their side. We can still only hope for a full callback to their first two albums though.