Matt Johnson’s 1983 The The classic Soul Mining is often overlooked in the discussion of essential synthpop. Perhaps because much like The Hurting by Tears For Fears, it’s an album that’s out of context with the rest of the band’s more guitar based catalog. At any rate, it merits revisiting or discovery — depending on your point of view.
Technically, it’s The The’s debut album, as Burning Blue Soul was originally released under Matt Johnson’s name.
With only 8 songs — Johnson intended it to be 7 with the exclusion of “Perfect” — it’s concise and powerful. Johnson’s always poignant lyrics are perfectly framed by the interplay of electronic sounds, programmed drums and organic instrumentation.
Without a doubt, side 1 is the hero. Here’s album opener “I’ve Been Waiting For Tomorrow (All Of My Life)” taken from the apparently out-of-print 1989 concert film The The vs. The World, featuring the great Johnny Marr on guitar:
Thanks to commercial licensing, “This Is The Day” might be The The’s most recognizable track. Here’s the original music video, featuring Matt Johnson’s mullet:
“The Sinking Feeling” continues Johnson’s theme of disillusionment and despair with the priceless lyric “I’m just a symptom of the moral decay that’s gnawing at the heart of the country”:
Finally, back to Royal Albert Hall in ’89 for the epic “Uncertain Smile”, featuring a fine approximation of Jools Holland’s original piano solo:
That’s probably enough.. you’re on your own for side 2.