Thursday, 24 March 2016

Matt Johnson - Burning Blue Soul (1981)

Chris Morris having just been vanned to the fens by a crime git.

I initially regarded The The as a sort of baby Cabaret Voltaire in the same way that Yello were proposed to be baby Residents by the Ralph Records publicity dynamo. I based this assumption on the nameless track they contributed to the Some Bizzare Album back when The The were they rather than just Matt Johnson plus some pals. When Soul Mining came out they - for the sake of argument rather than he because it reads better - seemed more like they were going for the perfect pop-soul championship, a title which I suppose eventually went to ABC if anyone. Of course, there was also Burning Blue Soul, an album which I recently noticed I'd never actually got around to hearing or buying.

For the sake of argument Burning Blue Soul was, I suppose, the first The The album, and certainly it's unmistakably the work of the same guy. That said, I'm surprised at how close I came with my baby Cabaret Voltaire comparison. This incarnation of The The was arguably more traditionally musical than Cabaret Voltaire ever were, tracks being laced with harmonious vocals and vaguely bluesy guitar licks; and for all the Sheffield lads' greatness, no-one ever sat you down with a Martini whilst approaching the record player with a copy of Mix-Up promising man, wait 'til you here the chops on these cats - there's some really outtasite playing on this baby, lemme tell ya.

Anyway, here we find that characteristic Matt Johnson songcraft somehow blending seamlessly with howling walls of sound, treated vocals and hybridised tribal rhythms of a kind that wouldn't have sounded entirely out of place on Red Mecca. It's produced by a couple of Wire bods and you can sort of tell in the glacial edge it seems to share with maybe Chairs Missing. It's perhaps not so satisfying as Soul Mining or Dusk, but then I've only just bought the thing and his albums tend to grow and blossom the more you listen to them, at least in my experience. It's nice to know that something which came out thirty-five years ago can nevertheless turn out to be as full of surprises as it most likely would have been had I bought it at the time; and Lordy - what I'd give to hear The Pornography of Despair given that it was probably not unlike this one.

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