Before you play a note, there’s a good possibility that you’ll hate The The merely on the merits of their ridiculously pretentious name, and even more so if you consider that the The is in fact, one person commanding that moniker.
If all of this points to a possibility that you’ve developed an opinion of Matt Johnson’s The The, then your first listen of his 1989’s Mind Bomb may even add to those that bark “holier than thou” as the record is chocked full of end of days imagery and various samples that beat the notion of religious Armageddon to death. All one has to do is look at the back cover for proof; it features a white dove, bloody and impaled, cruelly suggesting that the quest for world peace is nothing more than folly for the naïve.
Mind Bomb is over twenty-years old now, and what may save Johnson from that cynical notion is how amazingly accurate his clarion call was, particularly in light of our post 9/11 condition. But it would be disingenuous of me not to admit that even then, Mind Bomb sure sounded like a major piece of work
“Islam is rising/The Christians mobilizing” he advises on “Armageddon Days Are Here (Again),” an acidic observation on how messengers of hope and everlasting life have “forgotten the message and worship(s) the creeds.” One need only look at the “God Hates Fags” signs or any act of religious aggression so commonplace in today’s headlines to consider that Johnson may have been clearly on the mark.
On “The Beat(en) Generation” he declares how we’re all “reared on a diet of prejudice and misinformation,” encouraging us to “open your imaginations” and consider the possibility that our religious and government leaders don’t always work in our best interest after exploiting the presumption that they’re always…always…supposed to.
With the introduction of Johnny Marr, The The’s sound benefits greatly from the inclusion of the former-Smith’s chord progression and plaintive harmonica while the band’s hosts of session players give Johnson’s creative outlet the proper detail. Mind Bomb’s big themes are given big production values, but they don’t become as cluttered as other similarly themed releases who feel the need for huge orchestrations or layers of pointless instrumentation. And nowhere on Mind Bomb is the attention to far from Johnson’s philosophical musings, his colorful voice is placed firmly in charge and up front in the mix.
The only downfall to Mind Bomb-if there is one-is that the concept is so big, it would be nearly impossible to follow up. The big themes explored on this record came as a surprise to everyone, particularly considering The The’s previous work which featured Matt Johnson’s big mouth in an incredibly sterile and claustrophobic mix.
Mind Bomb opens up the windows, allowing you the opportunity to not only contemplate what’s being said, but to consider what’s really important in life. And if change does indeed start with one person, Matt Johnson can take solace that Mind Bomb remains a fine example of someone willing to take that first step towards enlightenment.