fri 14/06/2024

Album: The 1975 - Being Funny in a Foreign Language | reviews, news & interviews

Album: The 1975 - Being Funny in a Foreign Language

Album: The 1975 - Being Funny in a Foreign Language

A skittering, self-aware pop band settle down

The 1975 are always looking for a way to corral Matty Healy’s ambition, to bring focus to his scattershot mind, to perhaps after all manage a generational address commensurate with his half-serious dreams of what a band can still be.

It was telling how easily their previous, sprawling double-album Notes On a Conditional Form (2020) tallied with lockdown’s insular alienation, Healy and co-writer George Daniel surrendering to a sense of rudderless drift with archly shrugged shoulders, seeing deficient attention and affectless ennui as promising themes. Being Funny in a Foreign Language is, after 20 years of being The 1975, a contrasting attempt to stand still – relatively relaxed, largely played together in a room, with an unfamiliar, strong producer, Jack Antonoff (Lana Del Rey, Taylor Swift) holding the reins. Four years since Healy quit heroin, and with lead guitarist Adam Hann a new parent, it’s the sound of settling down; of arriving at their destination, and admitting what they are.

Opener “The 1975” gushes an album’s worth of jittery bon mots over staccato pianos: “I think I’ve got a boner but I can’t really tell…I’m sorry about my twenties I was learning the ropes…the American Dream has been buying up all of my self-esteem…I’m sorry if you’re living and you’re 17…” Dismissing QAnon in a couplet, Healy flushes his mastery of streams of texting consciousness, doom-scrolling portents and conversational rap flow from his system at the start, ending in warm, Mike Post-style strings.

Healy wears layers of self-awareness, maybe the last lyricist to nod to our by now intrinsic “post-modern lens”. Being Funny in a Foreign Language dabbles in decades of AOR as smooth saxes smooch, from the Hall and Oates soul of “Happiness” to the lost synthpop soundtrack smash “Looking for Somebody (To Love)”. “All I Need to Hear” tunes up as Stones-like country-soul, the steel guitar and gospel piano seeming to emanate from Villa Nellcôte’s basement in 1971, and ends with Healy as a convincingly sensitive piano man, Billy Joel for the new breed. “Human Too” sees him delicately reverbed, his falsetto cresting and cracking in a post-James Blake confession of loving need. There’s a dreamy fuzz around him in the hazy, shoegaze-pop hybrid “About You”, a languid unmooring from familiar sounds.

“When We Are Together” lets Healy’s harmlessly cutting cleverness loose again, toying with cultural pressure points in a cautionary romantic tale (“It was poorly handled, the day we both got cancelled…”). It’s his breezy lightness of touch, his airy skipping between styles and sentiments which lets this attempt at mature substance breathe.

There’s a dreamy fuzz around him, a languid unmooring from familiar sounds

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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