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Belly-Laughing to a Joke with No Translation: A Review of 'Being Funny in a Foreign Language'

Updated: Feb 5

Thinking about The 1975 can get quite metaphysical quite quickly. They’ve been around for over a decade. Not only that, but they’ve been a chart- topping, record-selling, artistically-compelling band for at least ten years. They’ve been around for quite some time and like everyone else you have been living through it all for quite some time.

Some artists take pride in their creative ability to separate reality from their art. They construct absolute escapes where the only connection to reality is the undeniable, unchangeable, and uncontrollable passage of time. In such escapes, time becomes a harsh reminder, and anything that tells the time acts like a stone, chained to your ankle to keep you grounded.

When you check your phone for the time (because, honestly, who wears a watch these days?), you realize the momentary relief you just experienced and how truly fleeting it all is. These escapes can provide relief in a meditative or mindless way. With art, one would hope it is the former, but that might not always be the case for everyone. The latter form of relief is more 'mentally sedentary,' such as watching TV or scrolling on TikTok. However, these are not two distinct categories; quite the opposite. Activities like going on a long walk can be either meditative or mind-numbing, or they can be both simultaneously. Perhaps there is a certain element of meditation in mindless and mind-numbing activities? Regardless, the relief they provide loses track of time and, by extension, potentially reality too.

At this point, everything I'm expressing may come across as a bit too pseudo-intellectual, prompting eye rolls so intense that one's entire body might perform a tumble turn. So, let me cut to the chase. The phones we use to check the time are integral to the 1975 experience. Ever since they made this message explicit in 'A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships,' the 1975 has been bridging the connection between a sweet escape and impartial reality—where things simply are as they are. Matty Healy, the band's frontman, has adopted the morphology of a philosophical alien, making observations from a detached vantage point and documenting them with an inquisitive sense of humor and an ironic fearlessness. Emerging at a time when YouTube was a mere 240p resolution and the Instagram app resembled a subpar Polaroid camera, the 1975 has lived through what might, in a hundred years, be revealed as one of the most interesting and influential technological revolutions in history.

There's often an initial skepticism that arises when you hear the words "social commentary" linked to a band or artist. One might wonder, what meaningful insight could someone with a considerable fortune really offer in terms of "social commentary"? For the most part, this skepticism may still hold true, as it's challenging for individuals with significant wealth to provide commentary without it seeming staged or plainly ignorant. However, the 1975, and specifically Matty Healy's lyricism, has managed to break through this skepticism. Their social commentary is objective, observational, and as fast-paced as Apple software development. Healy's lyrics not only navigate but also dissect the complexities of societal issues, offering a perspective that feels genuine and relevant.

In recent interviews with Healy discussing the process of writing for this album, it's evident that he's not attempting to project a façade of intellectual superiority or engaging in what some might term 'intellectual masturbation.' Healy seems to approach his craft with authenticity, steering clear of pretentiousness and cultivating a connection with his audience that feels more sincere.

If I were to liken this album to food, I'd describe it as one hell of a good cheese board with a tall glass of red on the side. It exudes the maturity and tastiness of quality cheese, coupled with the sophistication and sheer enjoyment of a nice glass of red wine. Salt and sweet delicacies aside, the actual musical palette on this album is one that whets the auditory appetite. Musically speaking, this album is unmistakably a 1975 production. It encapsulates everything that distinctly characterizes the 1975 sound—the punchy synths, the jittery, epileptic guitar riffs, and the whimsically endearing lines about family Christmases, girls who appreciate scented candles, and kissing in grocery stores. Expanding their instrumental selection and playing around with form and song structure, like they do in their single ‘Part of the Band’, adds nodes of maturity and complexity. While ‘I’m in love with you’ possesses the same nervous honesty as the last album’s ‘Me and You Together Song’.

There is no doubt that this is a very good album. From its catchy choruses and whimsical yet blunt lyrics to its ultra - melodic guitar riffs and the fun element of cheeky childishness, it's no wonder this album has been so well received by both fans and critics alike. Like cheese and wine on a quiet Friday night with someone special, it just hits the spot after a week of busy songs and early - morning albums. Oh, and it’s good fun. Who doesn’t like a fun album?


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