The new studio album by The 1975, Being Funny in a Foreign Language, is track by track sugary pop nostalgia with little in between. A feeling of boredom and exhaustion begins to sink in as the forgettable closing track When We Are Together fades away. Then, an epiphany takes hold: you’ve already listened to this album! In fact, everyone around 17 years and older has probably listened to this album. You simply had to be alive and to have listened to pop music on the radio.
It’s a shame, as their previous record Notes on a Conditional Form (2020) was perhaps their most daring album yet. While messy and at times poorly executed, the dazzling ambient and electronic tracks were certainly something to build from. Whether it be from their risk-taking, lyrical relevance or cultural significance, the band has always had some brewing potential, which is largely why I’ve stuck around.
However, the 4 singles released prior to the album: Part Of The Band, Happiness, I’m In Love With You and All I Need To Hear, gave me the first glimmers of what the album would sound like. Part Of The Band being the most interesting with it’s unusual time signatures, sharp, stilted strings and sporadic song structure. Although, like the other three singles, it feels at times like the band is just jamming and the songs aren’t really going anywhere.
The agitation of the last record has gone and, unfortunately, the band’s music has now fully divulged into a somnolent 80’s paradise with bread and butter formulaic pop music cliques to fill in the gaps. This album is almost begging to be played at any supermarket.
Other notable flops include: Looking For Love (To Love). Think of it as Footloose meets the incel movement. The references to the 2014 Isla Vista killings seemed slightly distasteful. On the track Human Too. The blankety ballad gives me the best conception of what it would be like to listen to drying paint. Wintering is just another cheerful, cheap-as-chips foray into nostalgia, this time 90’s style. A possible Christmas song attempt?
The new 1975 album does have some positive notes…
The song which shined the brightest, was the opening track The 1975 which features vulnerable, deeply personal lyrics. Somehow, perfectly complementing the fractured whirling piano loops played throughout. Furthermore, the band’s frontman Matty Healy feels so genuine as he repeats the echoed line towards the end of the track: “I’m sorry if you’re livin’ and you’re seventeen”. In our current times, there is a such a sombre beauty to that line.
Most of the other tender lyrical moments that do make it onto the album are layered in some sort of antiseptic clean vocal mix and are over shadowed by these abysmal lines: “I like my men like I like my coffee full of soy milk and so sweet, it won’t offend anybody” and “The day we both got cancelled because I’m a racist and you’re some kind of slag”. Relevant? Yes. Trite? More apt. Despite this, Matty Healy has certainly improved as a songwriter in the last few years. Working with artists Charli XCX and Phoebe Bridgers.
The only advice I could give to the band for their next record is to take more risks. This record is charmingly self-aware yet, it’s cleanliness and straight shot overall execution, made it no go for me. I recommend you flick through the tracks and scavenge what you can.
“I’m sorry if you’re livin’ and you’re seventeen” is also the best line to some up the current temporal stasis of our culture. Recycled 20th century forms in HD. Our highest grossing movies all set in the past or in the manufactured fantasies of old comic book publishers. Our top records have changed little in terms of the creation of new genres. Like the late culture theorist Mark Fisher, I fear that we are living through a “slow cancellation of the future”. That is to say, we are losing our ability to conceptualise a tomorrow that is radically different from our present. The 1975 is one small microcosm of this wider phenomenon.
Is this what supposedly the UK’s best boy band has to offer in 2022?
Featured Image Credit: Dirty Hit
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