REVIEW: The 1975’s ‘Being Funny in a Foreign Language’ cultivates sound of nostalgic reinvention

The 1975s album Being Funny in a Foreign Language was released on Oct. 14, 2022.

Courtesy Dirty Hit Records

The 1975’s album “Being Funny in a Foreign Language” was released on Oct. 14, 2022.

Hanne Brabander, Staff Writer

“Tumblr, Doctor Martens, Taylor Swift, The 1975,” jokes frontman Matthew “Matty” Healy of the prominent English band The 1975, during their live tour, “At Their Very Best” in 2022. 

Healy is referring to the fact that pop culture trends have a funny way of working in cycles; with the revival of the prominent 90s-infused Tumblr aesthetic– characterized by Doc Martens, high-top Converse, heavy eyeliner and angsty music– many people wonder, are we really turning the clock back to 2014? The resurgence of The 1975 is no exception to this current trend with their new release, “Being Funny in a Foreign Language” (BFIAFL), a phenomenal blast to the past in a reinvented way.  

Released on Oct. 14, the highly anticipated and surprisingly short 43-minute, 11-track album shocked fans as The 1975 is known for its longer projects. For many, this album represented a lyrical shift for the band as lead singer Healy partially moved away from his witty introspection and socio-political critique of the online interpersonal experience. Instead, BFIAFL subscribes to the message that perhaps love can save us after all. 

The aptly named opening track on each of their five albums, “The 1975,” has been a new rendition of the same song; Healy has described this pattern as the band giving a “status update.” The introductory song for BFIAFL is a perfect start to the record and an enjoyable stand-alone track as well– it features an orchestral amalgamation of fast-paced pianos and fractured lyrics, finishing with a slower, smoother brass refrain. 

The theme of maturity and growing up is heavily reflected in the first song and throughout the album’s duration. In a 2022 interview with the New York Times, Healy shared his mindset on going into the production of their new album after their negatively critiqued 2020 record, “Notes On A Conditional Form.” 

“The hangover that I have from all of the postmodernism of my previous work,” Healy said. “I can’t be bothered doing that right now.”

While The 1975 is well-known for not sticking to one singular genre, another significant change for this album is the visible switch from their usual computerized pop and electrified song style to a tech-shy, guitar-heavy “polaroid,” as Healy called it. Working alongside producer Jack Antonoff, widely regarded for collaborating on projects with singers Lorde and Taylor Swift, the British foursome challenged themselves to have one main rule.

“Play it and record it,” Healy said in the interview. “Real instruments. You can always find something in a computer that can do the job. Let’s just not do that.”

This rule is reflected in the first promotional single for the album, “Part of the Band,” a minimalist, stripped-back guitar-centric folk song that echoes the style of Bon Iver. My favorite part of the song is when it climaxes with a billowing musical interlude near the end that follows with insanely catchy and self-critical lyrics. I enjoy the newer acoustic songs on this record, such as “Wintering” and “When We Are Together,” as it is emblematic of the band’s wide range and ability. 

On the other end of the spectrum, the lively “Looking For Somebody (To Love)” explodes in an 80s-fashion, with spirited synths, vibrant guitars and a vibey sax as the band dips into a much more familiar sound. “Happiness” follows suit as a glistening groovy song with jazzy percussion and an exquisite saxophone solo accompanied by Healy’s strong voice. Both of these songs are intoxicatingly upbeat and are continuously stuck on a loop in my head– whenever they play, I want to get up and dance. 

The album winds down with my favorite song overall, the penultimate duet “About You,” a saccharine shoegaze-influenced ballad with hazy saxophones and descending orchestral strings; the song is a continuation of one of the band’s most famous songs, “Robbers,” off their 2013 self-titled record. Here, Healy and Carly Holt, the wife of lead guitarist Adam Hann, sing about the revelatory nature of a past relationship: “There was something about you that now I can’t remember / It’s the same damn thing that made my heart surrender.”

It is safe to say that with the reemergence of The 1975’s influence and the nod to “Robbers,” the song considered the pinnacle of the alternative/indie Tumblr identity back in its day, Healy is not going anywhere anytime soon. “Being Funny in a Foreign Language” is one of the best albums of 2022 and perfectly exemplifies the band’s growth and lasting potential.