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4.8 out of 5 stars79
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 15 October 2003
is what has been happening to me since I bought this album as I hadn't listened to it since the mid 80s when I was a disgruntled teenager. Then, they lyrics seemed to match my complete confusion with those Thatcher years. Now, well into my 30s, this album sounds even more fabulous and the lyrics are still relevant in the Blair/Bush era. The lyrics, fusion of synthesizers and traditional fiddles and accordions produces a truly unique style, with some brilliant percussion. Johnson's voice has quite a harsh tone to it at times but it suits the lyrics totally. However, the highlight of the entire album is the fabulous, spine-tingling Uncertain Smile with Jools Holland on piano - turn the volume to full and it will give you goose bumps. It manages to sound so 80s and yet so now at the same time. This is music at its best and The The never enjoyed the mass popularity and acclaim they undoubtedly deserved. Superb.
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on 20 February 2010
The The is the - frankly awful - group name that the creative genius called Matt Johnson hides behind. `Soul Mining' is the greatest achievement by The The as it fully realises all of Matt Johnson's pent-up aggression and dissatisfaction with society and life itself, without descending too much into the cliché and hyperbole that hampered his later works.

Matt tackles some large subjects on this album and asks the kind of questions that we daren't ask; the struggle of coping with life itself, the frustrations of trying to love or be loved by someone and the battle to simply understand oneself. Matt Johnson looks into (mines) his own soul for the answers and the results are laid out in these songs.

`I've been waiting for tomorrow all my life' is the opening track. Against a heavy electro-beat Matt spews forth a stream of vitriol against almost everything - failed relationships, fairweather friends, radio stations, newspapers. He rails against the frustration of living in a society that expects adherence to the relentless work ethic - "keep working, keep talking". He doesn't feel part of this at all and wants something else but has been ground down so much that he doesn't know what he wants anymore - "My mind is now polluted and energy diluted".

The following track follows on in a similar theme but this time the angst is set against a beautiful Celtic-esque melody played on an accordian. `This is the day' talks about unfulfilled potential and the worry that time is slipping away to realise this potential. "You could have been anything, if you wanted". His youthful enthusiasm for life is fading fast and leaving little left but hope that the future will be different from the past. But despite the optimism of the tune, you know that the future isn't going to get better.

'That Sinking Feeling' takes a broader swipe at the state of society in general and how it is to blame for the disaffection he feels about life. He chants, "I'm just a symptom of the moral decay that's gnawing at the heart of the country". Towards the end of the song there is a great keyboard solo - reminiscent of Ray Manzanarek of the Doors - doing battle with a lead guitar.

The album contains a more restrained version of the classic, `Uncertain Smile' that was released as a single prior to the release of this album. There is a brilliant keyboard solo finale courtesy of Jools Holland. I always loved the original song that I had on 12" vinyl and never thought it would be bettered, but if anything this version improves on that. It's an amazing song, one of the finest ever written about unrequited, obesssional love for someone.

'Twilight hour' paints an engrossing, late-night picture of emotional turmoil. Against keenly matched 'tip-toeing' strings that build up the atmosphere and tension, a troubled soul ponders the state of a current relationship and considers revealing his repressed feelings of discontent to his partner but is racked with a paraniod fear of the consequences of taking such an action.

The title track, 'Soul Mining' is a beautifully observed description of the sense of emptiness that follows the end of a relationship. The lyrics are particularly poignant, "you were taken in by a heart of fools gold, now your drifting in circles in the depths of your soul".

The closing track, 'Giant' is a reflective piece that lasts over 9 minutes. Over a pulsating beat, Matt admits to being scared of Heaven and Hell and racked with self-doubt. The track ends in a chant that asks the question, 'How Can anyone know me, when I don't even know myself'. Do we really know who we are, are we destined for heaven or hell? It's a trademark The The song and a fitting ending to a fine album.

There are no answers here, but there is a joy in simply listening to someone who is doing his best to find the answers, any answers. I urge you to add this album to your music collection.
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on 1 April 2008
Why on Earth the extra tracks originally released on the limited edition of the 1983 cassette of Soul Mining have not been included either on recent CD reissues or on singles/rarities compilations of The The remains a bizarre mystery, since three of these lost extras are every bit as good as the majority of the 'official album' (bar perhaps the two most striking 'official album' tracks, The Sinking Feeling and Uncertain Smile. That's what makes this cassette such essential listening for any The The fan. The Nature of Virtue - I think once included as a re-recorded B-Side on a circa Infected 12" single - is a sinister but catchy little number with the simmering refrain 'Don't change yourself/ To suit everybody else'. Waitin' for the Upturn' is another catchy and inimitable track, scorched with Matt Johnson's signature winy guitar angst, and even though rawly recorded, actually shines all the more for it, with some shimmering harmonies. But the real gem of these forgotten extra tracks - I think all originally on the banned album Pornography of Despair incidentally, which is also unobtainable at present - is the fantastically distinctive and unique Mental Healing Process, a song almost on a par with Sinking Feeling and Uncertain Smile, and, to my mind (and along with Waitin' for the Upturn), far better and more affecting than the slightly more polished but duller 'official album' tracks Twilight Hour and Perfect. For more avante garde listeners, Ten Orange Kisses from Kazan might also interest, though it is a bit dischordant. Whenever I go to listen to Soul Mining, I'm often torn between the CD version which offers a remastering of the official album, or tinkering with the old tape for those often startlingly original extra tracks. Mental Healing Process should have been in the official line up, since it acts as a perfect bridge between the feel and subject of Sinking Feeling and Uncertain Smile. Including these extras, this is my favourite album of the 80s.
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on 15 January 2004
I've jsut rediscovered this album after the passing of about 15 years.
I'm 34 now and had thought I wouldn't like it anymore, that it would be a somewaht embarassing reminder of the time when I took myself extremely seriously and was prone to bouts of navel gazing...
But then the synth loops and thumping drums grab your attention - musically it still sounds unique - but it's the lyrics that make you really listen.
The themes of doubt, love, sacrificie, loneliness... they are all still here as I remember personally and still seem universally relelvant without sounding trite. And Jools Holland's piano still sounds fantastic.
It's one of the few records that still induces goosepimples on listening. Buy it.
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on 3 June 2003
The fist time I think I ever felt I understood, or at least contenplated inner happiness was when I listened to this album on a bright, bright sunny day as a 15 year old. "you can't destroy your problems by destroying yourself". So I didn't. Soul Mining, whilst being and album of dangerous self doubt and questioning is wonderfully uplifting.
Soul Mining is a journey, a discovery of self. Matt Johnson through this album and the more globally aware Infected, shaped my world, who I am, where I am and how I got here. In the 15 years I've owned Soul Mining there have been some noteworthy contenders of direction and belief, particularly Portishead, but none have managed the mystical journey of self truth and more over self doubt that Johnson confronts us with in Soul mining
"How can anyone know me, when I don't even know myself" Johnson sings on the soul searching and challenging "Giant", a song that combines the mytstery of self discovery with the trerrace chanting and somewhat infectious "yeah, yeah, yeah". I'm nearly 30 and I still can't answer Giants most fundamental question. Johnson is a master of melancholy and it's something he has always aspired to, that someone could come up with such a lyrically competent album at such a young age is incredible, I belive Johnson was 17 when the thinking teenagers song of angst "Uncertain Smile" was written, a perfect ballad for formative teenage years of love and loss.
I enjoy the album differently now, reflection is a powerful tool and the lighter harmonies of Uncertain Smile and This is the Day
keep the reflection long enough to evoke memories of perhaps less comlicated times.
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on 1 July 2014
indisputably one of the great albums of the 80s - on of the all-time greats in my books – Soul Mining is a work of uncatagorisable songwriting genius with truly innovative instrumentation, great hooks, and that memorable Jools Holland piano solo on Uncertain Smile.
Soul Mining never quite achieved the acclaim it deserved, but that makes it all the sweeter for those of us who can revel in its semi-secret glory. The excellent 2014 vinyl reissue augments the seven original tracks another disc of with remixes and additional tracks (including two takes of Perfect, which was on the cassette and CD version in the 80s but excised more recently) plus a voucher for a digital download lovingly captured from Matt Johnson's own record player (you can just about hear the hiss). If you're a fan, buy it. If you're not… give it a listen.
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on 14 February 2007
I first came to hear The The when I was introduced to 'Uncertain Smile' on 12" version. I was smitten instantly by it's uniqueness and depth. The album version though shorter is as good but it would have been better if the 12" version was included. However, although 'Uncertain Smile' is a stand out track, there are no weaker songs on the CD.

If you are new to The The then this is a good starting point. Buy.
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on 18 May 2013
Essential 1980's album of epic lo-fi introspective songs

1 I've Been Waitin' For Tomorrow (All Of My Life)
Bass Guitar - Camelle G. Hinds*
Drums - Zeke Manyika
Synthesizer [Synth Solo] - Thomas Leer
Synthesizer, Instruments, Percussion, Vocals - Matt Johnson
2 This Is The Day
Accordion - Wicks*
Drums - Andy Duncan
Fiddle - Paul Boyle
Synthesizer, Instruments, Percussion, Vocals - Matt Johnson
3 The Sinking Feeling
Bass Guitar - Jeremy Meek
Instruments, Percussion, Vocals - Matt Johnson
4 Uncertain Smile
Bass Guitar - Camelle G. Hinds*
Drums - Andy Duncan
Piano - Jools Holland
Synthesizer, Instruments, Percussion, Vocals - Matt Johnson
5 The Twilight Hour
Bass Guitar - Camelle G. Hinds*
Cello - Martin McCarrick
Drums - Zeke Manyika
Synthesizer - Thomas Leer
Synthesizer, Instruments, Percussion, Vocals - Matt Johnson
Violin - Anne Stephenson
6 Soul Mining
Drums - Andy Duncan
Synthesizer, Instruments, Percussion, Vocals - Matt Johnson
7 Giant
Bass Guitar - Camelle G. Hinds*
Claves [Sticks] - Frank Want
Drums - Zeke Manyika
Synthesizer [Bass Synth] - Thomas Leer
Synthesizer, Instruments, Percussion, Vocals - Matt Johnson
Vocals [Chant] - Johnson*, Hardiman*, Manyika*
8 Perfect
Bass Guitar - Camelle G. Hinds*
Drums - Andy Duncan
Synthesizer, Instruments, Percussion, Vocals - Matt Johnson
Trumpet - Harry Beckett
9 Three Orange Kisses From Kazan
Flute, Saxophone - Steve James Sherlock*
Melodica [Intro] - Keith Laws
Synthesizer, Instruments, Percussion, Vocals - Matt Johnson
10 The Nature Of Virtue
Synthesizer, Instruments, Percussion, Vocals - Matt Johnson
11 Mental Healing Process
Synthesizer, Instruments, Percussion, Vocals - Matt Johnson
12 Waitin' For The Upturn
Synthesizer, Instruments, Percussion, Vocals - Matt Johnson
13 Fruit Of The Heart
Synthesizer - Matt Johnson
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on 20 March 2002
History has been unkind to electropop and critics always ridcule acts like THE HUMAN LEAGUE and A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS because of their hairstyles and fashion sense , what this has got to do with the actual music I have no idea but have any of these critics heard THE THE`s album SOUL MINING ? Surely the greatest album in the genre of electropop / synthpop / electronic music.
Musically SOUL MINING isn`t all that ambitious relying as it does on electronic loops and programed drumbeats ( " I`ve Been Waiting For Tomorrow " , " Giant " ) but once these rythems enter your head they stay there , for the rest of your life.
It`s not so much the tunes that make SOUL MINING a masterpiece and Matt Johnson a genius but the lyrics. " Life is like a sewer and I`m trying to wade through her " , " It`s way past the hour she usually phones , where could she have got to ? Why is she torturing you ? " " I clogged up my mind with perpetual greed and turned all of my friends into enemies " . Unrelenting bleak dark lyrics that make sense to every angry young man who tried to change the world or himself. It`s not all doom and gloom though SOUL MINING does contain " Uncertain Smile " almost certainly Matt`s most popular recording and one of the greatest love songs ever written . I can`t praise this album enough
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on 4 August 2005
just bought this remasterd copy yesterday and was simply enchanted by it. Cliched as it is to say, i could only blink in disbelief when registering the original release date. it's been a long time since i've relished listening to an album with such giddy pleaure. There is such brilliant balance between the meandering , unselfconscious and uplifting tunes , and at times, the brooding bitter lyrics they accompany. This is quite simply, happy/sad at its best. one of my favorite rediscoveries to date , you just want to pass the pleasure on to others its that good .
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