The 1975: Being Funny in a Foreign Language — Album Review
★★★★½ of 5
Throughout their career, The 1975 have never lacked the ABCs: the ambition to make music that’s sonically eclectic paired with maximalist production values; the boldness to sing about stuff that range from self-reflection to social commentary their detractors deem too hypocritical; and the chutzpah to pull their act off, often with style and — if we’re lucky — substance.
With today’s record on the spotlight, the band’s #BeingFunnyInAForeignLanguage, #The1975 have done it again.
And this time, they’ve done it almost perfectly.
Here are a few talking points.
When The 1975 released their album Notes on a Conditional Form in 2020, growing anticipation was soon replaced with tepid acceptance. That effort contained 22(!) songs, with a whole lot of different genres that really felt like a bloated project without any idea where to go. We even wrote about it as “either a celebration of musical diversity…or the perfect embodiment of the band’s lack of musical direction.”
Being Funny in a Foreign Language, thankfully, goes the exact opposite route. This is a succinct output, with lyrical themes that retained the band’s trademark cheekiness and penchant for reflection; but with a production that aimed for a more focused sound. Part of the success lies in the fact that the band commissioned Jack Antonoff to handle the production. And Antonoff, known for his ability to maintain a commonality among the songs in the whole album, did just that.
“Oh Caroline” and “Happiness”: The funky beats of “Oh Caroline” and “Happiness” are a homage to the band’s earliest works. Think of them as sonic sequels of “Settle Down” and “Girls,” respectively.
“Wintering”: Even an 11-track album can have a doozy or two, and this album is no different. “Wintering” is the biggest offender here. Thankfully it’s the shortest song in the record.
The Deepest Cut:
“About You”: Do stay for the penultimate track, “About You,” an anthemic synthwave tune that reminds me so much of David Bowie’s “‘Heroes’.” I don’t know about you, but this is a great ‘tunnel song’.
With their typical maximalist production values in their lengthy albums, The 1975 have never garnered consistent critical acclaim for their work. Their most ardent supporters would swear by the band’s overindulgence as ambition in play, while their detractors would dismiss them as overrated due to the very same tendency. Whatever the case, Being Funny in a Foreign Language puts all those arguments to bed — at least for the moment.
Fewer songs, a more defined sound, a level of honesty dialed a notch higher — for once I could say after listening to the whole thing that I wanted to listen to some more. And for what it’s worth, it’s among the highest, sincerest compliments I could ever give.