Review: The 1975’s new album is great until it’s exceptional

The 1975, “Being Funny in a Foreign Language” (Dirty Hit/Interscope)

There is plenty to like about The 1975’s new album until there’s something to really admire.

“Part of the Band” is the kind of song — is it post-pop, prog-pop, post-prog pop? — that refuses to follow a tempo pattern as it caroms from cellos to lounge ballad to sax solo, with dense, funny lyrics. It will make radio DJs sweat.

“Am I ironically woke? The butt of my joke? Or am I just some post-coke, average, skinny bloke calling his ego imagination?” frontman and lyricist Matty Healy sings. Have any lyrics captured the 2022 mood better for a liberal-leaning white cis male pop star?

“Part of the Band” is the outlier on the 11-track “Being Funny in a Foreign Language” — an album designed to blow up radio with romantic love songs, from ballads to dance hall ditties, all the while referencing Aperol and QAnon.

The blissful pop of “Happiness” will make those scared DJs now very happy, with utterly sincere lyrics from a lovesick man: “I would go blind just to see you.” Ditto with “I’m In Love With You,” a delicious wave of glistening pop. And “Oh Caroline” feels like it could have been the theme from a late ’70s TV rom-com.

“Looking For Somebody (To Love)” has an ’80s vibe with sped-up production elements and the smoky ballad “Human Too” has a Coldplay feel as Healy looks back on his transgressions: “I’m sorry that I quite liked seeing myself on the news.” And the sweeping, dreamy “About You” has a welcome presence not often on The 1975 albums: A woman’s voice front and center: that of Carly Holt, wife of guitarist Adam Hann.

Throughout are trademarks of The 1975 — orchestral sweeps, very personal snapshots and snippets of dialogue that muddy the production, like the ghostly image of a previous painting peeking through the new.

The self-titled first song has become an album tradition and this time the band has gone with an apology: To young men for the world they’re inheriting. “I’m sorry if you’re living and you’re 17,” Healy sings.

But the jewel is that fourth song, “Part of the Band,” where super-producer Jack Antonoff’s influence is most felt. “So many cringes in the heroin binges/I was coming off the hinges, living on the fringes,” go the lyrics. It’s the sound of a band reaching for the highest compliment: being funny in a foreign language.

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Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits

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