Saturday, June 30, 2007

Lost, Lustful, Lonely

The The has released a new song; their first in a LONG time. Plus, it is really good. The song Mrs. Mac is available by download only from the official The The website. Listen it to here and then buy it if you like. I did.

Back to my title, these three words adorned the shirt I purchased at my first, and unfortunately only, The The show. I can think of no better words to describe the music of Matt Johnson and The The. Well maybe despair, but I can let that one go for the sake of alliteration. The band was barely a month into the US leg of their Lonely Planet tour. I had been trying, unsuccessfully; to convince friends to make the short drive West to Tipitina’s in New Orleans. Finally, I found one with nothing better to do than drive 5 hours round-trip with me in my cramped Isuzu pickup (Thanks Angie!). So, with just a few hours until show time we purchased out tickets and set out on I-10.


I had been a fan for several years, having been introduced to Matt Johnson’s world following the release of Mind Bomb. I was captivated immediately and wasted no time familiarizing myself with and acquiring their earlier releases.

I first jumped back to 1983’s Soul Mining. I was mesmerized by the despondent lyrics backed by a very synthesized pop, and not at all depressing, soundtrack. Johnson sings in The Sinking Feeling, I’m just a symptom of the moral decay that’s gnawing at the heart of the country.” Even on, This Is the Day, on the surface sounding full of hope that, “… your life will surely change” one gets the sense that the song is more of a fruitless daily affirmation than the dawn of a new day. Ironically, this song has now been licensed and can be heard in current television commercials for M&M’s.

Next came Infected. Released in 1986, the overtly political (Heartland) and sexual (Out of the Blue (Into the Fire)) themes screamed desperation. The music, while more intense and angst ridden than its predecessor, still maintained its pop sensibilities. On Heartland, Johnson laments the Americanization of the UK singing, “This is the 51st state of the USA.” Given the current events, it is not a stretch to say that this song has as much, if not even greater, relevance today.
Which brings us back to the beginning for me, 1989’s Mind Bomb. The lyrics, even more bleak than Infected and the topics expanded to include religion. For a 15-year-old boy in the Deep South who had grown up in both Baptist and Methodist churches and even attended a Methodist school for 5 years, it was quite a shock to my system. A song like Armageddon Days Are Here (Again) seemed blasphemous at first until I was able to open my mind and free myself from the church imposed guilt and fear. This song, which takes on all the world’s major religions, really began to shape my current beliefs; that organized religion has been responsible and used as a means for justifying wars. It also took on televangelists of the US who where building empires and bastardizing religion for their own gain. Songs like Armageddon Days and The Beat(en) Generation, a comment on the indifference and apathy of youth numbed by the lies and propaganda from their “leaders,” are still as relevant and poignant today as they were at the end of the 80’s. The music of The The was also starting to change. Acoustic guitars were being used in places previously only occupied by synthesizers.

That trend continued into 1993’s Dusk. Even more startling was the emergence of a sense of hope in the face of despair (Love Is Stronger Than Death), even if it is short lived. Two tracks later, on This Is The Night (a companion of sorts to Soul Mining’s This Is The Day), Johnson sings, “… it’s a wicked world, awaits the ones our young girls bear.” Dusk closes with the anthemic Lonely Planet and the words, “The world’s too big and life’s to short to be alone.” This was also the closing number for what remains to this day as one of the most amazing musical experiences of my life.

I didn’t set out to write a thesis and if you’ve read this far you deserve a reward.

Uncertain Smile (12” Remix)

Sweet Bird Of Truth (12” Remix)

Armageddon Days Are Here (Again) (12” Remix)

Dogs Of Lust (12” Remix)

Another Boy Drowning (Live)

1 comments:

christie said...

You should be writing for Rolling Stone-I'd like to read some stuff on Buffett sometime....