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The 1975 ‘Being Funny in a Foreign Language’ review: a true return to form

Generational rallying cries are replaced by dick jokes and tender romance on the band’s most straight-forward album yet

4.0 rating

By Will Richards

The album cover of The 1975's 'Being Funny in a Foreign Language'

Ten years ago, The 1975 began their breakout hit ‘Sex’ by quoting LCD Soundsystem’s era-defining single ‘All My Friends’, with the world being introduced to Matty Healy as a whinier James Murphy with more sex appeal. Fast forward a decade, and Healy has become a divisive pillar of British pop culture. At the very start of fifth album Being Funny in a Foreign Language, The 1975 call on ‘All My Friends’ again, this time replicating its iconic plonks of layered piano.

At 11 songs and just over 40 minutes, Being Funny is by far The 1975’s most concise and succinct record since their 2013 debut. Following the significant bloat of 2020’s 22-track behemoth Notes on a Conditional Form, the new record largely puts their ambition to touch every corner of the musical landscape on the backburner. Instead, they make the funkiest, catchiest pop songs they could write, set over Healy’s increasingly natural and comfortable lyricism.

Sprightly funk-pop hits have peppered every 1975 album since their debut, but in recent times have been buried between jazz standards and ambient interludes. Here, the jubilant ‘Happiness’ crashes straight into the equally ecstatic ‘Looking for Somebody to Love’ without pausing for breath, and this immediacy is welcome.

On the opening track, with the ‘All My Friends’ piano still rattling away, Healy is in a reflective mood. “I’m sorry about my twenties / I was learning the ropes,” he sings, self-analysing a time when he was “making an aesthetic out of not doing well”. While he has spent the last few years penning generational rallying cries (‘Love It If We Made It’, ‘People’), he sounds far more at home here singing “I think I’ve got a boner but I can’t really tell” with a chuckle on the eponymous track, or rhyming “socks and sandals” with “scented candles” on touching closer ‘When We Are Together’.

As is to be expected with Healy, he’s cripplingly aware of these two sides of his lyricism, the point where they meet and how they interact with each other. On first single ‘Part of the Band’, he sets off happily telling stories of “living my best life… before my cancellations” over a sprightly string section, before stopping himself. “Enough about me now!” he says, before adding in an exaggerated croon: “You gotta talk about the people, baby!” Maybe purposefully, the social commentary lyrics that follow, singing of “vaccinista tote bag chic baristas,” are some of the album’s clunkiest.

It’s on the likes of ‘Wintering’, a brisk Paul Simon homage where Healy meets old family friends in the supermarket and drives home for Christmas, making digs about his actor mum’s bad back and a 10-year-old obsessed with “fat ass”, that Being Funny works best, where they’re not trying too hard to be anything at all. In taking the pressure off themselves to define a generation and trimming the fat of their swollen recent work, The 1975 distill the essence of their appeal down into 40 superb, exhilarating minutes on a true return to form.