The The

Epic Records, 1986

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I don't often listen to The The, but when I do, it's because I have a strong urge to hear the work of Matt Johnson. While The The haven't been heard from much since the 1995 release of Hanky Panky, a quick trip into the Pierce Archives (under the "Ex-Girlfriend" section) helps me get my fix.

Recently, I got the hunger again, and it just so happened the first title I came across was their 1986 release Infected. On this release, The The move away from their electronic dance-sounding pop to a more intense form that Johnson would become well-known for. It's not perfect, but it's an improvement over their first effort.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Remnants of the old days can still be found on Infected, particularly on the title track. Unfortunately, it is tracks like this one that sound the least natural for Johnson and crew. And even when The The gets a little darker and political, such as on "Heartland," they show that some work still needs to be done. (You can't really fault Johnson terribly; the album does represent a serious shift of focus, and it's rare that these go without any hitches.)

However, Infected shows the improvements in the band more than the flaws. No matter how many times I listen to this tape, I always get chills when the chorus of "Sweet Bird Of Truth" kicks in, featuring Johnson's vocals (that sound like they're being sung into a megaphone) and the backing vocals of Anna Domino, who is the only voice I know that could make a plane crash sound like an announcement for the snack cart. Likewise, "Out Of The Blue (Into The Fire)" shows the power of Johnson when he builds a song into layer after layer of sound.

Not all of the songs are love at first hear, though. "Slow Train To Dawn" took some time to grow on me, as did "The Mercy Beat". But when they did, the songs continued to instill in me a healthy respect for The The. (The personnel for each track changes; if I listed all the band members, we'd be here until next week.)

The only drawback I can think of to Infected is that you're going to have to invest some time in this album. It's not going to be a disc you get on the first listen, much less one you'll get into. Give this one at the very least three listens; by that time, some of the richer characteristics of the album will become clearer to you. A cursory listen will probably leave you feeling this is just an average album; and while it's no masterpiece, it's better than average.

Infected requires you to think a bit, especially with some of the double entendres (check out the one in "Out Of The Blue (Into The Fire)", but in the end, you'll think the investment was worth it. It's still worth listening to, even if you're only going to listen to it once... and that is your loss.

Rating: B-

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© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.