The The

TrackAlbum
Bluer Than MidnightDusk
Dogs Of LustDusk
GiantSoul Mining
HeartlandInfected
Helpline OperatorDusk
Out Of The Blue (Into The Fire)Infected
PerfectSoul Mining
Sweet Bird Of TruthInfected
Three Orange Kisses From KazanSoul Mining (cassette only)
Uncertain SmileSoul Mining

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Contributor: Mat Baker

I love The The.

In order to compile this list, I have revisited their entire back catalogue, and god it’s been great. I imagine that anyone not seduced by Matt Johnson’s dubious charms might have written him off as a self-indulgent misanthrope, but maybe that’s why I like him so much.

I realised whilst pondering this selection that The The have cropped up regularly in my love life. I used to sing Out Of The Blue (Into The Fire) to my first Proper Girlfriend, and I seem to remember that she used to really like it when I did, as unlikely as that sounds. And then there was the girl that got away who discussed with me at great length how much she could relate to This Is The Day. And finally there is my wife, who brought me a copy of Soul Mining (I had lost my cherished cassette version years earlier) on our first date, after some online courting …

Soul Mining is a fantastic piece of music; it’s so damned confident that it is hard to believe it is a debut album. There are some epic songs on there: Uncertain Smile and Giant go off in so many different directions, it’s easy to lose the fact that you are still listening to the same song at times.

His breakthrough – such as it was – was the Infected album, but to me Johnson peaked with Dusk – a twisted work that manages to sound tortured and beautiful. I seem to remember a quote from him, something along the lines of how in order to record the album he went on a fitness kick, healthy food, running, swimming, the whole nine yards, but he found that he couldn’t write. His solution?

“So I got out the booze, I got out the fags, and the lyrics they flowed like honey.”

I am a sucker for stuff like that.

I am of the belief that Johnson has one of the most soulful, sexy voices in contemporary music. Dogs Of Lust is pure filth, sleazy and angry, The The at their best.

Their other work – Mindbomb and NakedSelf – is terrific, but such is the strength of the three albums in this listing that I couldn’t squeeze one in from either album. I didn’t get the Hanky Panky project at all, although it might be worth revisiting at some point. I have more patience these days.

If you do have an interest in The The, do click on Three Orange Kisses From Kazan. It is such a scary song – Johnson sounds possessed to me, demonic. In a quirk of formatting, it only appeared on the cassette version of Soul Mining, and if it wasn’t for YouTube, may well have been lost in the mists of time. I do hope someone sees sense and releases it at some point.

I know that Johnson is a miserable old bugger – his Twitter feed was always so serious when I was a twitterer – and I also know that his music is politically aware and self-indulgent, but I never worked out why he wasn’t more commercially successful or popular.

Ah, maybe that would have made him too happy …

The The official site

The The biography (iTunes)

TopperPost #131

4 Comments

  1. Rick J Leach
    Nov 21, 2013

    Mat, many thanks for a very interesting and well considered piece.

    Like you, I had (please note past tense) Soul Mining on cassette rather than vinyl. Very much agree that it was an even better album for being on tape; which was a rarity in those halcyon days! Not only were there a lot more tracks (I think about another 5 or 6) but all the tracks were longer. I think they were all extended mixes and for once, added to the whole feeling of the album, rather than merely stringing it out.

    I do note you haven’t picked anything from Burning Blue Soul – but that album is as much at odds with the rest of his work as Hanky Panky is!

    • Mat Baker
      Nov 21, 2013

      Thanks for the complimentary comments, Rick.

      Being a musical pedant, I didn’t consider Burning Blue Soul because it wasn’t technically a The The album, although it was subsequently released as such. None of it would have made the final cut anyway!

      As ever, I have had post-choice doubts and am starting to think I should have put the amazingly prescient “Armageddon Days are here (again)” in the mix…

  2. Joyce Gibson
    Nov 22, 2013

    Interesting list, mine would be a bit different though! I agree Dusk is his peak, with songs like Slow Emotion Reply and Love Is Stronger Than Death being particular favourites of mine.

    However I will always have a soft spot for Soul Mining – it’s almost a coming of age album and it came out when I was 19, the perfect fit. Uncertain Smile is a masterpiece but This Is The Day is one I’d definitely have listed 🙂

    Having said that, I like that you haven’t gone for the obvious choices, sometimes it’s better to give someone new to an act some of the lesser known tracks to get to know first, as acts can be defined wrongly by the songs that everyone knows.

    • Mat Baker
      Nov 23, 2013

      It is not that I tried to make leftfield choices, Joyce; I played all the albums a few times and sat down and worked out which ones I liked the most.

      I am sure you would have come up with something different! I think that is the one of the best things about this site; looking at someone’s list and thinking, hmmm, that’s not what I would have picked. This is the third one I have done, and I have had post selection guilt every time about songs I have left out, so I usually end up disagreeing with myself…

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