26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Emotions stripped bare
, 20 Feb. 2010
This review is from: Soul Mining (Audio CD)
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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