The The – Infected Review

Released November 17th 1986.

Four years after his brilliantly claustrophobic debut Soul Mining, Infected’s visceral, unsettling slate continued Matt Johnson’s tortuous journey of self-examination whilst railing against the post modern demons of globalisation and creeping homogeneity.

Released in an era where the state was not yet strong enough to snuff radical ideals out of music, Infected’s canon is dominated by the social and political backdrop of mid-80’s Britain. Written after several destructive years of the mendacious social engineering of Margaret Thatcher, Johnson gave up his vision of a nation in terminal post industrial decline overtly, replacing the warmer melodies given to Soul Mining by analogue instruments with the harsher, unequivocal force of drum machines and samplers.

No quarter was given, the harshly naked blows of the titular opening track an industrial blast of paranoia, with Johnson’s voice a feral growl as he taunted a planet waking up to being stalked by a plague which paternalistic science couldn’t cure. There was little respite as twisting the blues of his mis-spent youth to distortion, Out Of The Blue (Into the Fire) saw the singer as the subject, an ordinary Joe just wanting to talk to a hooker with a tooth of gold, expurgating his desires and inhibitions in a pointless act of emotional retardation. Elsewhere the chiming acoustics of Heartland acted as a horse of Troy for what was a manifesto, Johnson standing like a broken street poet as he catalogued the island nation’s widening class and moral fissures, most of us he knew willing and unlamented victims in his 51st State of the USA. Angels Of Deception continued this sociopathic theme, almost the score to a twisted and barren Tennessee Williams play acted out whilst devil incarnate Ronald Reagan lay hidden amongst the rows of high cotton. Most remarkable of all however was the sinister jazz/techno bastardisation of Twilight Of A Champion, a chattering, staccato bullet for the uncaring rake of free market vultures set to a strung out Continental Op’s acid induced nightmare.

Listening to the despair and anger, you realised that the record itself was also fittingly imperfect, the plethora of guests and session musicians used bringing little, with only the pre-fame Neneh Cherry making a real mark as the female counterpoint on Slow Train To Dawn, whilst Johnson also committed the sin of occasionally crossing the line between educating and pontificating. In mitigation, Infected remains a set of hellish postcards depicting a planet which out of context seems unreal in this ridiculous century – and if at times raw flesh was sometimes exposed, its creator was unrepentant. In a decade where the winners would have you believe all everybody wanted was more, it remains a smoking gun for their hypocrisy.

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