Review Being Funny in a Foreign Language: Is the Latest Version from 1975 Poor or Great?


On “Part of the Band”, the first single from the new 1975 album, Being funny in a foreign language, vocalist Matty Healy asks the question that’s been on everyone’s lips since the band rose to prominence in the mid-2010s. “Am I ironically awake? he sings. “The target of my joke? Or am I just a skinny, average, post-Coke dude calling out his imaginary ego? »

It’s easy to answer some of these questions: he’s definitely skinny and – come on, let’s take him at his word for just a second – the butt of his own joke. “Post-coca”, also: Healy is a recovered drug addict, having been off heroin for four years, and entering a much more stable period of his life than what he has revealed in interviews to have been a turbulent decade in his twenties. Medium? Barely – 1975 are an award-winning, stadium-selling band with millions of dedicated global fans. Although their synth and bubble bath pop has been dismissed as “meandering”, “pretentious”, “self-involved” and many similar adjectives, they unquestionably tapped into something – a feeling or a mood – in a difficult way. to identify. .

As far as I know, it’s not because they’re so “ironically awake”. The first single from their latest album, Notes on a conditional form, features an edited version of environmental activist Greta Thunberg’s “our house is on fire” speech, over reflective piano. Here, on the opening track (it’s a tradition that the first song on every 1975 record is called “The 1975”), Healy sings, eyes rolling: “It’s cynic/This Adderall/And vitriol/And young people drinking Aperol”. He continues in the vein of AI software designed to produce 1975-style lyrics: “I can’t sleep because the American Dream has bought all my self-esteem while /QAnon has created a legit scene, but it was only a few. guy in the Philippines”. OK, maybe “ironic” would be a little generous: let’s go with a little pained, definitely nonsensical, and maybe “post-woke,” which Healy can have for free, for rhyming purposes.

Yet as much as the 1975 lyrics sum up the absolute state of everything, their music is relentlessly uplifting and often euphoric. After a slightly unexpected opening of dissonant piano and a voice reminiscent of plaid-shirt lover Bon Iver—an artist worlds apart, aesthetically, from Healy’s skimpy-tie playful sleaze— Being funny in a foreign language is stylistically consistent with the band’s previous output. It’s a nice way of saying that everything sounds pretty much the same: here are the familiar shimmering refrains with thick major chords with strings, saxophones and synths. On “Looking For Somebody (to Love),” Healy turns his attention to a “supreme gentleman” — the nickname of so-called incel Elliot Rodger who murdered six people in 2014 — with “a gun in his hand.” It’s an upbeat, catchy song structured around its titular chorus that might be seen as a flippant twist on the subject of mass shootings, but you get the sense that the 1975s surge of electro-optimism is well-meaning. : they see the humanity in everyone, even people who engage in misogynistic killings. (Before we get really worried, though, Healy concedes, “Maybe it’s just all screwed up.”)

There are choppy strings and a country voice reminiscent of American pop band Haim on “Part of the Band”; “Wintering” is surely a chance for Christmas #1 (“I just came for the prank/Not arguing over nothing”). But these exceptions aside, Being funny in a foreign language is a characteristic mixture of synths and romantic nostalgia: a film by Molly Ringwald with Elf Bars. The sound of 1975 is then The 80s that we can almost give them the “ironic” badge just for being called the 1975 – but it’s also somehow hyper-modern, smoothed to the consistency of the most perfect royal icing by expert producer Jack Antonov. Everywhere there is devotion (“Baby, I’ll do whatever you want”), desire (“She’s insatiable that’s what she is/Her body is like modern art), and a desire If the incessant sound of this record – and its catalog – of prom, rainy days and high end is the group’s drawback, it is also its strength: at the end of the album, which slows to a more steady pace, we are firmly established in the land of 1975.

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And where is it exactly? It’s an 80s school room decorated with tinsel curtains as envisioned by the bored suburban TikTok generation. And yet, it’s also a seedy green room littered with hair cream, menthol cigarettes and cans of Tuborg. But that’s not all. Once again, 1975 produced a record both maddeningly mediocre and bubbly addictive – full of soaring refrains that could be received as cynically or as sentimentally as you like. And that, to me, is their genius.

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[See also: The many myths of Kurt Cobain]


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