Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Random Review #59 The The - 45 RPM The Singles Of

C7S3CD4 picked by @dazlee1 a lover of good music with a slight obsession for not throwing anything away (an extensive collection of cassettes proves testament to this!)

This album as the title implies is a collection of The The’s singles from 1982 to 1995 with a couple of unreleased tracks and a re-recorded track to keep diehard fans interested.

The The are/were a vehicle for the wonderful talent that is Matt Johnson and I say were as I don’t think they have released an album since 2000 so if anybody knows the whereabouts of the mercurial Mr Johnson please let me know.

So where do I start? Well I’ll start with track 3 as this is when I discovered The The. Sweet Bird of Truth was the lead single from the album Infected and this started a dalliance with the charts that would last for Johnson’s next 2 albums Time Bomb and Dusk. These albums were full of political observations, Sweet Bird Of Truth (Gulf War) Infected (AIDs) Heartland (UK relationship with the USA) delivered with a pop sensibility which I suspects meant lots of people were singing along with the lyrics without realising what they were singing! The lyrics of Sweet Bird of Truth are chilling even after 25 years as they are as relevant now as they were now. Johnson tackled the same subject in 1989 with Armageddon Days (are here again) when he sings “Islam is Rising, The Christians Mobilising’  and ‘If the real Jesus Christ were to stand up today He'd be gunned down cold by the C.I.A’  Johnsons observations are very telling and in some ways way ahead of their time. Whether you agree with Johnson or not you can’t get away from the quality of the tunes.

Johnson was assisted by Johnny Marr on the albums Time Bomb and Dusk and he adds some beautiful harmonica on Dogs of Lust and  Slow Emotion Reply as well as his usual consummate guitar playing.

Throughout these three albums Johnson received the commercial success that his music deserved but this faded with the release of Hanky Panky from which track 12 I Saw The Light is taken. The album was a tribute to Hank Williams Junior and all the tracks on the album were covers of Williams’s songs although all were far removed from the country originals.

Of the other tracks he critically acclaimed Uncertain Smile is worth a mention although steeped in 80s instrumentation it sounds slightly dated now. The Texas like Decembersunlight is interesting a duet with Liz Horsman (not sure why I know the name but I do!) who adds beautiful vocals to make would could have been an average track very good.

The version of the album I have comes with an additional CD of 12’’ remixes of some of the tracks featured on the main disc. These vary from basic elongated versions of Uncertain Smile which just extends the drums and loops some of the keyboards, to Armageddon Days (are here again) which bares very little resemblance to the original version. Although it’s enjoyable listen it’s no replacement for the original disc.

It seems a shame that Johnson appears to have stopped making music at least commercially but this is a decent place to start if you are new to his work. Listening to it again has made me realise that it’s not enough for me and once I have finished writing this I’ll be logging on to Amazon to look for the 3 albums I used to own, so you have been warned, listening to this album may cost you more than you anticipated!

Mark 7/10    

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