Label: Dirty Hit
Released: 14th October 2022
At their very best. That’s what it says on the poster for The 1975’s upcoming tour dates. No shy, retiring modesty – not that they ever had much of that. No hiding behind concepts and ideas too big or bombastic for their less storied peers. Just one simple, bold statement scrawled with dismissive surety. The 1975, at their very best. And it’s true, too.
While The 1975’s self-titled debut might have polarised on release, approaching a decade later, its acolytes are more vociferous than ever. 2016’s ‘i like it when you sleep…’ doesn’t even split opinions. An era-defining record – Dork’s first Album of the Year – it forged the identities of a generation of neon-hued disciples. If you want a high bar to measure every record since against, you’d struggle to choose better. And yet, arguably, even that may not be their zenith. 2018’s ‘A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships’ was transformative – like the camera zooming out at speed, sucking in a world of influences, concepts, big statements and bigger imagery. With the standout ‘Love It If We Made It’, The 1975 set, reflected and became the narrative. For a while, it was hard to imagine how any band could ever match them. And, sure, while 2020’s pandemic-effected ‘Notes On A Conditional Form’ may not have entirely kept the momentum flowing in full force, it remains an album of brave, brilliant ambition – two intertwined pop culture playlists, swinging across the dial, plucking gold and silver sparkles like pop magpies lining their treasure-encrusted nest. An album that perfectly captures the wild insecurity, juxtapositions and mood swings of the period it was released, it remains the Covid-era record most deserving of a more considered re-evaluation.
And yet ‘Being Funny In A Foreign Language’ may just beat the lot. To paint those first four albums as training wheels would be ludicrous, yet from one specific perspective, their fifth might merit it. In their most considered and concentrated form to date, it’s a record that sees The 1975 embrace, process, understand and define exactly who and what they are. Not only that, but blessed with a confidence and freedom most bands lack, it goes on to find the raw chutzpah to level up, dragging the whole thing into a freer, breezier round. Like the attractiveness of someone who truly knows and owns who they are, The 1975’s latest evolution is irresistible.
Their traditional self-titled opener throws all rules to the wind, blossoming from an atmospheric starting gun to a chain of consciousness that becomes a song in its own right. From the duelling pianos and lyrical lift that calls back to LCD Soundsystem’s ‘All My Friends’ – a record that has influenced the band before – it’s fitting to kick off an album lending so much to The 1975’s concentrated identity with a call back to pre-written lore.
Self-reference only goes so far, though. While, on the surface, ‘Happiness’ might seem like The 1975’s template inked to perfection, it’s far more than that. Like a band jamming in the round, a freedom runs through ‘Being Funny In A Foreign Language’ that elevates, opening up new doors as it goes. ‘Oh Caroline’ sits proud amongst their greatest moments, the spirit of Lionel Richie’s ‘All Night Long’ twisted and turned into a track that draws together all strands and blends them together in perfect harmony.
‘Wintering’ is a not-quite-Christmas song that feels far closer to the real-life chaos of the festive period than any of the sleigh bell-laden classics – though Matty Healy won’t be getting many thanks from mum for a line that’s sure to become the new ‘selling petrol’, hollered back by the masses whenever aired live. It’s one of the last tracks on the record, ‘About You’, that really weaves the magic, though. Featuring guitarist Adam Hann’s wife, Carly Holt, on co-vocal duties, it’s a mirrorball finale to the homecoming ball. Icy crystalline shimmers playoff against warm emotional embers, still crackling from the fire. Timeless stuff, it’s a product of the stylistic flexibility shown over their last two records, allowing Healy and drummer-slash-producer George Daniel to create in a way that sits outside of the noise and chaos of 2022’s musical circus.
While a lot may be said about the presence of superstar producer Jack Antonoff on the squad list for ‘Being Funny In A Foreign Language’, any accusations he simply imprints his own sound upon artists stand no ground here. If anything, his influence has only inspired The 1975 to embrace their own internal mechanisms more – trusting instinct and tinkering less. The outside presence of BJ Burton for ‘Part of the Band’ seems far more apparent. A stunning turn to the left that anchors the album around it, it’s proof that The 1975 can still surprise while losing one of their innate brilliance. That it sits alongside more conventionally immediate songs and never feels like a potential skip proves its mettle beyond doubt.
A band who have always seemed to both attract and crave adoration, this more refined take – eleven tracks makes this their shortest album to date by far – seems best defined by just how secure it sounds within its own presence. Be it the slow-burning ‘All I Need To Hear’ and ‘Human Too’ or the hyperactive shuffle of ‘Looking For Somebody To Love’, each vignette remains uniquely theirs. The 1975 writing their name in big, bold type, it’s a brilliant edit of everything that came before, cast in the self-realisation and not-so-quiet confidence of just how good they can be. That tour poster tells no lies. ‘Being Funny In A Foreign Language’ is The 1975 at their very best.