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Classic Album Reviews: The The | Soul Mining / Infected / Mind Bomb / Dusk / 45 RPM

Go along for the ride with one of the most restlessly creative forces in British music.

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This came out in 2002 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):

 


Old records never die — they just get deleted. Then, a few years or a few decades later, they get reissued. Usually with bonus tracks, remastered sound, expanded liner notes and other goodies because they think that will convince fans to buy them all over again. And it does. This summer, those evil reissue pixies have been working overtime, putting out multiple titles by some of your favourite artists. Here are some of their latest irresistible offerings. Damn them all to hell.

The The
Soul Mining / Infected / Mind Bomb / Dusk / 45 RPM Reissues 

WHO? One of the most distinctively (and unsearchably) named acts in music, The The was the work of one man — the averagely named Matt Johnson. Over his 20-year career, the British singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist has trod a varied path, dishing up everything from ’80s dance-pop to experimental eletro-soul to rootsy Hank Williams covers. Nearly everything he does, however, is defined by his soulful voice and the twisted lyrical images it often conveys (or conceals).

WHAT? Soul Mining, Infect, Mind Bomb and Dusk are his first four Epic albums, reissued here with no extra tracks or other frills — save for unnecessary new cover art that consists of portrait shots of Johnson (the original covers are reproduced inside). This year’s 45 RPM — the first of a two-volume set — compiles all Johnson’s singles, along with a disc of rather meaningless remixes.

WHICH? Johnson is one of those guys who got better (and compellingly stranger) as he went along, so if you want the full effect, you have to take the ride with him. 1983’s Soul Mining, spurred by the slamming 6/4 electro-rock of I’ve Been Waiting for Tomorrow, leads nicely into the lusher electro-funk and soul grooves of 1986’s Infected. It and its equally ambitious 1989 followup Mind Bomb — featuring Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr and grandly epic compositions like Good Morning Beautiful, Armageddon Days (Are Here Again) and Gravitate to Me — are generally regarded as Johnson’s high point. 1993’s Dusk, however, is no slouch either, with Johnson ditching the electronics and soul for acoustic guitars and earnest, gospel-tinged pop. If you’re looking for a decent overview of his career, however, you could do worse than the singles set 45 RPM.

WHY? With a career as varied as this, why the hell not?