Wednesday, January 23, 2013
50 GREAT ALBUMS IN MY 50th YEAR (Part 5)
I originally penned this in December 2006 and I'm not changing a single word for this series:-
Soul Mining by The The is another record I associate with student life – and in particular moving out of my parents’ home and into a flat at the age of 20. It was a university-owned property, and the rent was £510 for a full-year. It was a time of indie-discos, John Peel on the radio, the anarchic humour of Rik Mayall in ‘The Young Ones’ and wearing your father’s raincoat to perfect your BunnyMac look.
I remember getting drunk and playing the single This Is The Day on repeat until I passed out and a flatmate came into my room and switched the stereo off at the mains. If ever there was a record that spoke to me at any particular time in my life, it was that one.
Well you didn’t wake up this morning cos you didn’t go to bed
You were watching the whites of your eyes turn red
Wasn’t that what my new-found freedom to come and go as I pleased was all about?
The album came out in late 1983 to huge critical acclaim. Indeed, if you visit the official website of The The, you can read endorsements from all four of the UK’s weekly music papers (NME, Sounds, Record Mirror and Melody Maker), as well as broadsheet newspapers and glossy magazines; there was even a thumbs-up from Smash Hits. But surely the most bizarre positive rating was this:-
"Soul Mining is certainly something to be treasured. One of those integrity leaden packages which manages to be both experimental and accessible.” * (source at the foot of the page).
There’s only seven tracks on the vinyl version of ‘Soul Mining’ - with only three songs appearing on Side B. The Ramones it certainly wasn’t.
Most songs were at least 5 minutes long, with one stretching out to almost 10 minutes. But Genesis or Pink Floyd it certainly wasn’t.
From the opening countdown of ten-to-zero (which sounds as if it was sampled from an Apollo space mission) right through to the incessant beat and chanting of the closing song, this is an LP that has a bit of everything thrown in. Bitter and twisted lyrics of despair and attacks on Thatcherism nestle alongside songs about love, lust and devotion. But it’s very much the music that carries this album along.
The The, from the outset, were not a band. It was basically Matt Johnson writing and singing songs backed by synthesizers and drum machines. But for Soul Mining other talents were brought into the studio, not least Zeke Manyika of Orange Juice - a hugely underrated drummer – and Jools Holland who contributed an astonishing piano solo to transform an older The The song – Uncertain Smile. (One of my favourite pieces of TV came maybe ten years later on ‘Later’ when Jools joined the latest version of The The and closed out the show with a live version of Uncertain Smile. While I have a copy on VHS, I’m hoping someone will post it on You Tube at some point.)
The use of these talents, combined with Matt’s growing confidence in his abilities as a vocalist, produced a piece of work that, in the opinion of this humble scribe, has not dated one iota.
I sometimes think Matt Johnson was someone just a little bit ahead of his time. Some ten years later, Thom Yorke and Radiohead came along with a similar style and approach that made them media darlings. And while I am very fond of The Bends and OK Computer, I do honestly believe that Soul Mining and its follow-up Infected are every bit as good. But I’m obviously in a minority going by poll after poll.
The full track listing of Soul Mining:-
01 I’ve Been Waitin’ For Tomorrow (All Of My Life)
02 This Is The Day
03 The Sinking Feeling
04 Uncertain Smile
05 The Twilight Hour
06 Soul Mining
Initial copies came with a free 12" single, and one of these tracks - Perfect - became an eighth track on the CD version of the album.
And now to your music for pleasure this time round:-
mp3 : The The - I’ve Been Waitin’ For Tomorrow (All Of My Life)
mp3 : The The - Soul Mining
Since I made the original posting, I've tracked down the older versions of some or the tracks. So here we go:-
mp3 : The The - Uncertain Smile (original 12" version)
mp3 : The The - Uncertain Smile
mp3 : The The - Perfect (original 12" version)
mp3 : The The - Perfect
The The might not be too active on the recording front just now, but there’s a lively and topical website that is well worth a visit. Click here.
*Oh and the unlikely plug for the album back in 1983 was from Penthouse magazine.