Being Funny in a Foreign Language

No, that’s not a satirical headline I came up with while studying abroad in Paris, it’s the name of The 1975’s new album. And to be thematic with that album, I will immediately apologize for making that joke without saying I’ll trying to do better. No, I’m not saying that this album is bad (ooh, that’s twice that I’ve done this exact sentence structure in three sentences!), I’m saying this to bring up the lyrics in the album that let me down the most.

I’ve loved The 1975 since they weren’t self-aware and making simple synthrock (debut), since they weren’t self-aware and making “intellectual” synthrock (I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It), since they became self-aware and were making hyperaware, hyperpop, hyperactive music in all genres (A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships, Notes on a Conditional Form), and I continue to love them as they desperately try to turn off their self-awareness, make amends, and create sincere, straightforward pop rock again for Being Funny in a Foreign Language.

This transition of creative processes is super tough. I would know, as someone who went through the same thing making this blog the past 12 years. I started off without any real self-awareness, just writing whatever, then learned that trait and struggled to write anything I was happy with, had a pretty bad moment where that all came to a head and I pulled everything on here down, and then have tried to come back and push something out every month without thinking too hard about it. Of course, I’m just projecting etc. etc. etc. But more important than knowing for sure that Matt and I are similar in that way is the fact that I think we are similar. This is how parasocial relationships start–taking shoes off in the back of my van. And there’s a joke reference to “Sex” by The 1975 to deflect from getting too personal. God I’m so good at this.

The first six songs of this album are incredible. “The 1975” once again is the first song on the album, just like every other album. This time, it’s an LCD Soundsystem hook ripoff of a manic, unresolving piano with Matt at his finest lyrically over it. He mumbles about how he has been stripping and mining his worst parts to sell, just like everyone else does in modern society, and apologizes over and over to the teenagers listening. This album has Matt’s best lyrics of all their album, but The 1975 is when he feels most personal and heartfelt.

“Happiness” follows. It was the second single off the album. It’s a really fun jam that harkens back to “The Sound” or even “Girls” from early The 1975. Jack Antonoff brings out the saxophone as he’s expected to do, but The 1975 have always liked using that instrument for exactly this kind of song. See also “Heart Out”. Anyway, not much to say about “Happiness” since the only lyric that has any sort of interest is a sample of Matt saying “I’m happiest when I’m doing something that I know is good” since it shows he knows that this type of song is what a large portion of The 1975 fans listen to his records for. It will be very fun to see it live in December on their At Their Very Best tour.

“Looking for Somebody (To Love)” is a clever song about toxic masculinity. Quite frankly, it does exactly what “Pumped Up Kicks” was trying to do in a much better way. For one, it’s fun to listen to! For two, it captures the self-image and actual image incels these days have: “The type you just don’t ****/A supreme gentleman with a gun in his hand lo-lo-looking for somebody to love”. Perfectly captures the incel right down to the chorus having the incel say “Oh they ran, oh they ran (there’s that callout of Pumped Up Kicks)/You should have seen how they all ran when I was looking for somebody to love” as if he was bragging to the rest of the incels on their private Discord server. Great song.

“Part of the Band” was the first single. It’s The 1975’s most interesting song written to date and the best song off the album. Maybe their best song ever. Definitely if you’re into “maturity” rather than “fun”. The lyrics are mostly just fun details and jokes one after the other that only get self-reflective at the end when Matt grapples with his place in the world as just “some skinny post-coke, average skinny bloke/calling [his] ego imagination”. It’s an unresolved question in the song, and really not something he’ll ever be able to resolve himself. The string hook here is beautiful. At first, I thought it was going to be The 1975’s version of Viva La Vida, but it goes for the atmospheric Bon Iver-esque chorus instead. Which I was underwhelmed by at first, but have grown to enjoy it far more as I listened to it over and over. There’s so much nuance in the lyrics, singing, and instrumental work here that you really could listen to it 10 times and hear something new every time.

“Oh Caroline” goes back to the fun synthrock that’s a little more intellectual than “Happiness”. Just like it, it’s not a song about anything really. “Caroline” isn’t the name of anyone really, it’s just the only one that Matt could get to rhyme as he admits in the bridge. It’s just a fun love song about a person too in love with someone who doesn’t love them back, like some of The 1975’s best (“If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know”, among others). And the sixth and final song on the immaculate first half of Being Funny in a Foreign Language is “I’m In Love With You”. It was the third single. The music video for it makes it the sequel to the sad “Change of Heart” off their second album, but the first lyric and delivery of “Heartbeat” as well as the groovy sound makes it the sequel to “Heart Out” off their first album. It’s a very fun song that has the simplest and straightforward chorus that I imagine every single person at this concert in December will be singing along with.

Songs 7 and 9 are such annoying letdowns on an otherwise great album. If Matt Healy wants to talk sincerity, I will have to be sincere as well. I do not like it when The 1975 try to do slow, simple songs. They can do slow moody songs extremely well. “Me”, “If I Believe You”, “I Couldn’t Be More In Love”, “The Birthday Party”, and probably others I’m forgetting are great examples of that. But “All I Need to Hear” is the sequel to “Be My Mistake” I really didn’t need, and “Human Too” is a frustrating non-apology of an apology song. You cannot say something like “I’m sorry about the bomb thing” in a song with a chorus of “Don’t you know I’m a human too?” and expect it to come off sincere. I’m sure it was. But it comes off as a classic “sorry if you’re offended” apology there. But most of all, “Human Too” and “All I Need to Hear” are really boring. And I am NOT sorry if you’re offended, Healy.

For the rest of the second half of the album, “Wintering” is very unfortunately placed between those two tracks, and is a very fun, manic family reunion of a song. It was actually written by The 1975 before they were The 1975, back when they were an emo band called Drive Like I Do. I’m not a true The 1975 historian so I can’t tell you more there. Only that this is a “postcard of Christmas scenes” that Matt experienced coming home for the holidays while at university. And the manic lyrics about having to deal with family is well-matched by the manic acoustic guitar that Matt excitedly-but-slightly-anxiously sings over. I will use manic as many times as I want to if The 1975 is allowed to write “I’m in love with you” as the only line in a chorus for a single.

“About You” is track ten. It’s a sequel to “Robbers” but really just rips off “With or Without You” by U2 as admitted by Healy himself. But it sounds really good. I don’t have much to say about the content. I do think it’s a great song that proves The 1975 still can reach back and get that self-unaware intellectual sound from “I Like It When You Sleep for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It” with songs like “Paris” or “Somebody Else”. It is definitely the true standout from this half of the album.

And finally, “When We Are Together” closes it out. Now, all my complaints about “Human Too” and “All I Need to Hear” could be regurgitated here. It’s a slow, straightforward, sappy song with questionable lyrics about Healy’s controversial figure. But before I try some mental gymnastics about those lyrics, the core of why I like “When We Are Together” and not the other two tracks is because The 1975 sound a lot better making folky acoustic guitar tracks (“She Lays Down”, “Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America”) than 1950s crooning tracks (“Be My Mistake”) or whatever genre “Human Too” is supposed to be. Lyrically, I prefer “When We Are Together” is just a cute vignette of a song the same way “Wintering” was. It’s about Matty’s romantic relationship with FKA Twigs that lasted about as long as the making of this record. Coincidence? Eh, I’m not a tabloid.

Anyway, in between the cute pictures of kissing at Wal-mart, there’s an awkward couplet where he sings “It was poorly handled/the day we got cancelled/Because I’m racist and you’re some kind of a slag”. Now, here’s the important thing to me, instead of defending himself or saying “sorry you got offended” like in “Human Too”, he just moves on to the cute chorus of “You ask about the cows, wearing my sweater/It’s something about the weather that makes them lie down”. He owns up to poorly handling the criticism and then makes a cute reference to another band that was once considered The 1975’s contemporaries, The Neighbourhood and their big hit “Sweater Weather”. He doesn’t kick himself for what he did, or complain that other people got him wrong. He acknowledges fault and moves on. And he does it again later when he says “I thought we were fightin’/but it seems I was gaslightin’/I didn’t know it had its own word” before going back to the sweater chorus. Again, he’s owning up to his fault, accepts the consequences, and moves on.

I’m not asking Matt Healy to be perfect. I’m asking him to write good music with good lyrics. And 9 out of 11 tracks on here are exactly that. It’s very hard for him to thread the needle of writing good lyrics when he’s burdened with this extreme self-awareness that–okay, I’m projecting here. If I had the level of fame Matt had and was tasked to write these songs, I couldn’t do it. I’d be too self-aware to do anything but offer non-stop apologies in all 11 tracks. Heck, I’m way too self-aware to want to publish any of this review. So I truly commend Matt for being able to once again brave public opinion and put out another incredible album. 9/11, would recommend.

About pungry

Making strained metaphors funny.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Being Funny in a Foreign Language

  1. jettpredovic says:

    Hey Pungry! I love the depth of your 1975 review. You can really write!

    Hank Turner – 206 295 1639 ________________________________

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s