Fewer comebacks in 2018 will be more welcome – or better timed – than that of Matt Johnson, aka The The, who emerges in the summer from his virtual hermitery to play a series of gigs, armed also no doubt with a series of calculated messages designed to provoke both thought and action.
Growing up living above a pub in London’s East End gave the singer a youthful opportunity to surreptitiously try instruments; by 21 he was signed to Sony and releasing Soul Mining, a stark and revealing album that probed deep into the insecurities of the inner self, a visceral poetry across which he laid some of the 80’s most exquisite melodies on songs such as This Is The Day and Uncertain Smile.
It’s follow up focussed more on the then emerging technology of drum machines and samplers in the recording process, Johnson creating as backdrop a harsher world’s dystopian meta from the AIDS-referencing butality of the title track to the capitalist nightmare gone bad on Twilight Of A Champion.
Accompanied by an album length promotional film partially filmed in South America during which Johnson suffered from the heightened effects of drug and alcohol abuse, Infected was also one of the first examples of a multi-media release, albeit one which contained few compromises, especially in the sleevework created by his brother Andy Dog. It’s Id was a fiercely political, anti-globalist one, at war with greed and stupidity – and yet musically it was still conventional enough to spawn three top 30 singles. It remains one of the decades most polemic yet accessible records.