The The - Mindbomb
TheThe's Mind Bomb is one of those albums that refuses to date. It could have been recorded yesterday and that's just as far as the music itself is concerned. The lyrics are another matter, and we'll come to those in a second.
Musically speaking, as far as genre is concerned, the fairest way to classify this would be as some sort of pop/jazz/funk hybrid. There are oboes in here, as well as piano and trombone and, of course, the electric guitar of Johnny Marr. Famously, during the recording of the album, Matt Johnson pushed engineers and producers to the point of nervous breakdown and his mental state at the time, fuelled by oddball diets and magic mushroom tea is often evident in his delivery; it's not quite sane, although just underneath the surface, there is something dangerous and violent about to break through. Listen to Gravitate To Me for evidence of this; behind the spiraling funk of the harmonica and bass, Johnson sounds rasping and animal like. Of course, this is followed by Beyond Love which is quite possibly the most beautiful, and real, love song ever written. It takes real songwriting genius to make a lyric like "The drops of semen/And the clots of blood/which may, one day/Become like us" work in a song like this, but work they most certainly do.
Johnson has a fantastic, warm voice and the songs on this album allow it to breath fully. The anthemic The Beat (en) Generation has a wonderful swinging lyrical style, he makes it look easy to sing challenging lyrics in a way that does not alienate the casual listener. Lyrically, this album gets very dark at times, and visits places seldom visited by pop music. The album itself begin prayer chants before the piano and sax kick in for the introduction of Good Morning Beautiful which itself is about the negative influence of organised religion. And this comes just before the hugely controversial Armageddon Days which has probably never sounded so topical. "Islam is rising/The Christians mobilising" indeed. This is an angry song, but, again, is sung in such an upbeat way, that it makes the barely concealed bile Johnson delivers all the more effective. To listen to "If the real Jesus Christ were to stand up today/He'd be gunned down cold by the CIA" is it have the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.
Mind Bomb is an essential purchase. From the simple elegance of Kingdom Of Rain to the generation terrorism of Beat(en) Generation it's an experience. It's one of those albums that used to be called 'growers'. Give it a few spins, late at night, perhaps is best or perhaps as Johnson himself asks in the sleeve notes "To obtain maximum joy from this album please play very loud, very late, very alone and with the lights turned down very low." Sound advice.