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The The

Formed in 1979, The The was essentially the solo project of Londoner Matt Johnson. The son of East London pub owners, Johnson grew up tinkling out his own tunes on the pub piano and recording them on a small cassette recorder.

Initially, the unit included Keith Laws and cartoonist Tom Johnston, but the line-up was continually changing and often featured just Johnson.

The The’s first single Controversial Subject was issued by 4AD Records in 1979. Two years later, the Some Bizarre label released the excellent Cold Spell Ahead.

Johnson released a solo album, Burning Blue Soul, in 1981 to honour the one-record option still held by 4AD.

Eventually, Phonogram invested £8,000 in Uncertain Smile (a retitled version of Cold Spell Ahead). Produced in New York by Mike Thorne, it was an exceptionally impressive record but its impact was overshadowed by managerial machinations which saw Johnson move again, this time to CBS.

With the first CBS album, 1983’s Soul Mining, Johnson expanded his sound somewhat, concentrating more on songwriting while retaining the hollow, haunting ambience.

With 1986’s Infected, he began recording with studio musicians, which allowed him to embellish his music with several different styles, particularly dance.

In 1988, Johnson established a new version of The The featuring bassist James Eller, drummer Dave Palmer and former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr. A worldwide tour coincided with the release of Mind Bomb, which garnered the least promising review of Johnson’s career.

The work was bombastic in tone and full of lyrical diatribes and anti-religious rants allied to distinctly unmelodic songs.

Johnson retained the new group for 1993’s Dusk, the most straightforward The The album yet.

Matt Johnson
Vocals, guitar, keyboards, bass