“I’m sorry if you’re living and you’re 17,” sings Matt Healy in the opening to the latest album from his band The 1975. With mentions of snorting Adderall, watching porn, targeted ads and falling victim to the eternal scroll, Being Funny In A Foreign Language is a bleak reflection on what it’s like to survive in the digital age. Whereas 2018’s A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships and 2020’s Notes on a Conditional Form managed to capture the light sides of URL existence, the band’s fifth full-length album plugs into despair.
Like the sonic representation of a computer stacked with dozens of tabs, Healy appears galaxy brained as he references QAnon and rhymes “vitriol” with “Aperol”, while at another moment, he asserts: “I’m feeling apathetic after scrolling through hell/I think I’ve got a boner, but I can’t really tell.” There’s also a line that nods to Healy’s departure from Twitter after he received backlash for a tweet about George Floyd’s death in 2020: “It was poorly handled/ The day we both got cancelled/ Because I’m a racist and you’re some kind of slag.” (He’s since returned sans blue tick, but with a bio that reads: “deleted once I’m verified.”)
Blending 80s guitars, rollicking drums and saxophone solos with pensive lyrics, there are plenty of earworms to get stuck into – and Healey’s earnest approach to songwriting is refreshingly sincere, even against the layers of irony that dictate his subject matter. Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom: the album ends with two arresting ballads. On “About You”, a duet with Carly Holt, wife of the band’s guitarist Adam Hann, Healy tries to remember an ending relationship against delicate swathes of guitar, while on closer “When We Are Together” he croons, “The only time I feel I might get better is when we are together”, between folkish strokes of violin. With production from pop maestro Jack Antonoff, Being Funny In A Foreign Language clocks in at 44 minutes, the band’s shortest album to date – and make no mistakes, it’ll leave you wanting more.
Elsewhere, M.I.A releases her first album since 2016, Mykki Blanco shares an emotional new release, and Lola goes deep on her stunning debut.