It’s fair to say The 1975 are one of music’s most divisive groups; the lovers really love; the haters really hate. Since 2012 the quartet, formed during their formative school years, have released some of the most exciting, innovative and daring music. Blurring lines between every genre that exists, The 1975 have dipped their toes into a myriad of sounds, with last LP ‘Notes On A Conditional Form’ touching on garage, ambient, country and of course – pop (among other things). This eagerly anticipated fifth record from the outfit comes in the form of ‘Being Funny In A Foreign Language’, an obviously pretentious title but hey – what did you expect.
In the past The 1975 have been a close-knit group in terms of collaborators, but this time the group have joined forces with serial collaborator and pop heavyweight Jack Antonoff, known for his collaborations with Taylor Swift, Lorde and Lana Del Rey, among others, and his own band Bleachers. Antonoff’s production is often rooted in nostalgia which is evident across much of the record. Single ‘Happiness’ is a classic 1975-bop, an 80s leaning dancefloor anthem, built up with interlocking plucky guitars, steady four-on-the-floor beats and smooth synths. Frontman Matty Healy once again shows his knack for a hook on this cut, then has the verses oozing with his polarising charm and swagger. Adam Hann also rules the track with some gorgeous guitar work, feeling reminiscent of moments on their sophomore LP, ‘I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it’.
Healy has made his love for LCD Soundsystem known in the past, and track opener ‘The 1975’ departs from the ‘soft sound’ motif and gives their first, real opening song – with a foundation of a very ‘All My Friends’-esque piano. Healy’s vocals straight from the off sound stronger, crisper and cleaner than ever before, with a mature timbre that has not really shined through on previous releases. ‘Looking For Somebody To Love’ launches in with stuttering synth work, and a tight groove courtesy of George Daniel and Ross MacDonald. Ambient textures are buried behind, with occasional percussive hits and whistles bolstering up the production. ‘Being Funny In A Foreign Language’ rounds off with a classic ballad moment from the band, in the shape of ‘When We Are Together’, a glossily produced yet relaxing moment to close their fifth effort. ‘Human Too’ is a highlight here – an almost lo-fi piano track, laden with dusty electronic production.
After the sprawling, mixtape and shapeshifting feel of ‘Notes On A Conditional Form’, it is relieving to see The 1975 create a consistent album experience. This fifth record is an expansion on every sound the group have dabbled in in the past, but delivers it in a concise, watertight package, packed with a perfect balance of dancefloor hits and melancholic moments. Antonoff’s production influence is evident, especially for fans of Bleachers, but his input has clearly helped steer The 1975 in a more refined direction. ‘Being Funny In A Foreign Language’, like most of their projects, has something for everyone, but this time does stay in one lane – and that’s for the better.
Words: James Mellen