Liner Notes: The 1975 is post-modern with ‘Being Funny In A Foreign Language’ while portraying love in an oh-so-classical sense


Graphic by Iris Swarthout

The 1975’s “Being Funny in a Foreign Language” extends love beyond its boundaries.

Iris Swarthout, Senior Staffer

1975 was the year of Margaret Thatcher’s debut as leader of the Conservative Party, the end of the Vietnam War and an inflationary peak — a period of rapid change. 

That same year is the namesake of today’s top British pop rock band, “The 1975.” The group takes on the inevitability of life adjustment and post-graduate angst in its discography through eclectic and synthetic beats. 

But “Being Funny In A Foreign Language,” released Oct. 14, draws arguably the most jarring means of change — love — into a new hemisphere. By citing the importance of love in a postmodern age riddled with partisanship beyond recognition and rising gun violence levels, The 1975 extends the age of ‘70s peace-making into the 21st century. 

The new album starts with a title song that identifies political activism as a defining element of today’s culture. “The 1975” starts and ends with the same, augmented chorus of “I’m sorry if you’re living and you’re seventeen,” sung by lead vocalist Matthew “Matty” Healy.  

Postmodernism encapsulates most of the song’s sentiment — most notably through citations of QAnon, a far-right, online political conspiracy movement. QAnon, Healy sings, created “a legitimitate scene, but it was just some bloke in the Philippines,” pointing towards the absurdity of the artificial world. 

This train of postmodernist thought extends even to the more upbeat, jazz-infused song “Happiness.” It starts with a train of saxophone accompanied by the strikingly quiet voice of “confidence is comical” before the first line of chorus reads “she showed me what love is / I’m actin’ like I know myself.” In the midst of uncertainty, The 1975 points toward a proven method of escapism: love.

Love, sex and chocolate — the romantics of life are consistently brought forth in The 1975’s musical directory, via both word and instruments. 

The band initially formed when the four members of the band –– Healy, lead guitarist Adam Hann, bassist Ross MacDonald and drummer George Daniel — were in high school and achieved national relevance from a 2013 self-titled debut album. In an interview with National Public Radio, Healy said the band is inspired by ‘80s movies, which adhere to his personal values.

“(‘80s movies) discuss everything that I discuss: love, fear, sex and a longing for something beyond,” he said in the interview. 

The young love mantra is explicitly screamed in most of the album’s first-kiss lyrics, such as “I’m in Love With You.” But slower beats are just as meaningful, as seen in Healy’s whimpers of longing found in “All I Need to Hear.” 

The most powerful tune signals reconciled love are in “About You” — a softly-sung piece that pulls at the heartstrings of the wise. The line, “do you think I have forgotten,” painfully lulled by Healy, is salvaged from utter heartbreak with the more feminine and smooth tone of “There was something about you that now I can’t remember / It’s the same damn thing that made my heart surrender.” Here, listeners sense a fully-realized relationship between the two tones — edging romanticism beyond a complicated past and into etherealism. 

A humanistic struggle for reconciliation of the world’s modern terror culminates in “Looking For Somebody (To Love).” The song theorizes the reasoning for gun violence, tucking it under the blanket of love’s absence in the hearts of shooters. The assertion pushes boundaries, formulating a rehabilitative approach to violence and answering uncomfortable questions through verse. 

Youthful grunge meshes with a rather mature understanding of postmodernism through “Being Funny In A Foreign Language.” The 1975’s slam-poetry lyrics open the listener to persuasion — if they desire to look beyond the melody.

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