Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The The - This is The Day

    I was reminded of this when it appeared on an episode of Fresh Meat recently. As much as the first Smiths album, Prefab Sprout's Swoon and Postcard-era Orange Juice, Soul Mining by The The was part of my teenage vinyl-pantheon, laconic anthems for bedroomed youth that seemed to vindicate and feed my sociophobic introspection.
     And as with Morrissey, McAloon and Collins, it was the lyrics that seized my interest as much as the music. Where Matt Johnson diverged from the wittier, more tongue-in-cheek tristesses of the others - and in this allying him to another of my favourite lyricists, Ian Curtis of Joy Division - was in an approach seemingly grounded in the gloomy, no doubt self-obsessive existentialism I had begun to explore in my early reading. I remember the thrill of connectivity I felt when I came across a line from another single from Soul Mining, 'Perfect Day', in Sartre's Nausea: "What is there to fear from such a regular world?"  Johnson's lines had the feel of diary-jottings from a soul in crisis: what a brilliant opening couplet "You didn't wake up this morning cos you didn't go to bed/You were watching the whites of your eyes turn red" is. The incongruity of pairing such angst with catchy, jaunty melodies played on instruments like accordion, harmonica and acoustic guitar was no doubt the secret of Soul Mining's unique - and continuing - appeal.
    (Unlike Jean-Paul Sartre and existentialism, whose appeal didn't last beyond those teenage, bedroomed years.)

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