Under-Rated 80s Legends The The Making A Comeback



When we talk about great artists from the Eighties, the band The The doesn’t come up nearly enough in the conversation. Maybe it has something to do with having one of the truly dumbest band names in Rock history, maybe not. Whatever the case, this band, or more precisely its alter ego Matt Johnson, is I think one of the great under-rated talents of that decade and beyond.

The The dropped not one but two landmark albums in the Eighties, one near the beginning and one near the end. 1983’s Soul Mining delivered all the New Wave tropes but with an intelligence and a humanity that made it stand out, from the Father John Misty-like droll and cheeky cynicism of “Perfect” – “what is there to fear from such a regular world?” – to the bittersweet heartbreak of “Uncertain Smile”, a song which incidentally made our list of Best Rock Piano Solos.

By 1989’s Mind Bomb, Johnson was helping lead the way out the Eighties’ synthesized straightjacket with a more organic sound and a more Steely Dan-esque approach to record making, using the talents of guest musicians like Johnny Marr on atmospheric extravaganzas like “Good Morning Beautiful” or the bluesy brooding of “Kingdom of Rain”.

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The The made three more albums in the Nineties and then pretty much disappeared from view, so it’s great to hear that they are making a comeback of sorts, a very unconventional comeback to say the least. Matt Johnson has decided to turn his own inactivity over the past decade into the subject of his new project. How meta can you get? The Inertia Variations is a film documentary about him and The The, with a focus on the creative process, and his creative process.

It also includes a brand new The The song called “We Can’t Stop What’s Coming” and it is superb. It is so great to hear Johnson’s distinctive voice again as well as his special gifts for lyric and melody in action. He unfortunately lost close family members in recent years, and the song is a moving but ultimately uplifting take on death and loss and acceptance, you really must hear it. The song will be included in a box set called Radio Cineola, which unsurprisingly is not a typical box set but rather one including re-interpretations of songs, poetry, soundscapes, spoken work, electronic scores and political commentaries.

Matt Johnson is clearly getting his creative juices flowing again, and The The is going to perform at least two concerts next year, their first in 16 years. Perhaps coming up with a better band name is a little too much to hope for at this point.

 

We Can’t Stop What’s Coming

So here you live
Trapped inside the days
Your pen moving across the page
Back to where? It has begun
Uncoiled, unspun
What you were, what you will become
The days, setting with the sun

Wake up it’s time to go
The taste of tears still in your throat
Silence from your songs
Reminds us, when you are gone
We can’t hate the river for flowing
Can’t blame the wild wind blowing
Can’t slow time from running
We can’t stop what’s coming

The Bonfire is burning
The birds returning
An owl by night
A mourning crow
Inside a Shadow that grows
A darkness in the darkness
A stranger on the shore
Outside of your window
Knocking on your door
When there is rain that pours
‘Til there is pain, no more

Wake up it’s time to go
The taste of tears still in your throat
Silence from your songs
Reminds us, when you are gone
We can’t hate the river for flowing
Can’t blame the wild wind blowing
Can’t slow time from running
We can’t stop what’s coming

 

 

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