The 1975: Being Funny in a Foreign Language — Laughably pretentious rehash, with extra cheese

The English pop-rock band’s fifth album offers nothing new except added affectations

Being Funny in a Foreign Language
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Artist: The 1975
Genre: Pop
Label: Dirty Hit

With the likes of Jack Antonoff (Lorde, Taylor Swift) involved in The 1975′s latest endeavour, you might expect the English band’s fifth album to consolidate their status as purveyors of easily digestible, borderline cerebral pop-rock. When it was released in August, however, lead single Part of the Band suggested that the album might be a departure from their usual fare, with a meandering jazz and woodwind-led vibe over Matty Healy’s stream-of-consciousness lyrics.

It soon becomes apparent, however, that rather than doing a reset of any kind, the Manchester-based troupe have merely gussied up their usual formula and are now presenting it with added affectations, cranking up the 1980s yacht-rock dial (Happiness, the dreadful Oh Caroline) or melting into an unconvincing soulful slouch on All I Need to Hear. There are inferior shades of LCD Soundsystem’s All My Friends on the opening track, while When We Are Together nods to the likes of Crowded House before fizzling out disappointingly.

At its most palatable, Being Funny in a Foreign Language is unapologetically cheesy; on songs like the enjoyably Michael McDonald-esque Looking for Somebody to Love, it seems like Healy couldn’t care less about being perceived as “cool”, and there is an undeniable attraction to that. His heart-on-sleeve lyrics often have a certain (albeit overbearingly earnest) charm, as heard on Happiness and Human Too, although the constant self-effacement does get a little tiresome.

At its worst, the album sees Healy coming across as a charlatan who read Catcher in the Rye one too many times as an impressionable teenager; lines such as “I fell in love with a boy, it was kinda lame/ I was Rimbaud and he was Paul Verlaine” and “I think I’ve got a boner, but I can’t really tell” are eye-rollingly puerile, while rhyming “vitriol” with “drinking Aperol” will never be profound or poetic, as hard as he may try. Wintering is one of the worst offenders, coming across as a fey attempt at replicating a song like Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, it just serves to expose Healy’s clumsy lyricism in his perpetual quest to be relatable.


The biggest problem with Being Funny in a Foreign Language — apart from it sounding like a substandard rehash of their most promising moments — is that there is no real craft to these clunky, desultory songs. Healy puts it best when he asks: “Am I just some post-coke average skinny bloke, calling his ego ‘imagination’?” You suspect that he already knows the answer — and now we do, too.

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy is a freelance journalist and broadcaster. She writes about music and the arts for The Irish Times