What does an artist who sees the musical reality change before his eyes? If you ask Matt Johnson, the driving force behind "The The" and its only regular member, he will answer: "reinvent himself."
On January 25, 1993, "The The" released its fourth studio album "Dusk" and completed its musical transformation from the 80's synth-pop to the 90's alternative.
Towards the end of the 1980s, Matt Johnson realizes that his approach in the last decade simply does not work anymore. He realized that if he continued in the line of the New Wave and dance-pop albums, "Soul Mining" and "Infected", it would simply be a commercial suicide. He looks to the right, turns left, and sees before his eyes the Alternative genre raising its head, he sees how the guitars replace the keyboards and how the drums take over the samplers and sequencers. He understands that in the existing musical landscape, there is no longer room for one-man "bands" and that the audience eventually demands to also see a full band playing the songs it records in the studio, on stage. In short, Johnson realized he needed to change his approach and produce something abstract and raw, completely different from the early material of his 80s albums, with an emphasis on a basic rock of bass/guitar/drum format.
So what does Matt do? He starts forming a band. He brings in Johnny Marr, the former "The Smiths" guitarist, whom he has known since the early '80s. Matt tried to recruit him to join an early version of "The The" at the time, but it did not succeed because Marr chose to found "The Smiths", which in the meantime disbanded and allowed the "reunion" between the two old friends. Johnson also joins bassist James Eller and drummer David Palmer. He even tries to recruit keyboardist Steve Hogarth, who played on his "Infected" album, but found out that he was a bit late, since Hogarth has already joined "Marillion", replacing Fish.
Along with this band, Johnson entered the studio and released "Mind Bomb", his most ambitious album to date and the first to record with a full band, in 1989. There is no doubt that on this album Johnson went a long way from the New Wave/Dance-Pop of previous albums, but his musical upheaval will only be completed with "Dusk".
If "Mind Bomb" was interpreted by the audience and critics as a temporary deviation and a one-time experience, then with "Dusk" Johnson has already won the "kosher certificate" and the embrace of the alternative community.
Johnson chooses to continue with the same band that accompanied him on the previous album and the tour designed to promote it and produces one of the magical pearls of the 90s. A unique musical mix that combines Alternative, Rock, Pop, Blues, Gospel, and more.
Each song on this album is painted in a different color of atmosphere and style. The feeling you get when listening to "Dusk" is like a trip to an unfamiliar region, where the changing landscape never ceases to excite and surprise you.
Our journey begins at "Dusk" with "True Happiness This Way Lies" and Johnson's statement of intent, which tries to distill the very essence of his credo in a few sentences. Even before the train locomotive moves, Matt Johnson makes us sit down and listen to his preaching and pathos-filled recitation. Johnson explains to us that "The only true freedom is freedom from the heart's desires". Why? Because every time we achieve what we want, instead of stopping for a moment and enjoying our achievement, we immediately turn our attention to the next thrill.
The locomotive driver warms up for the ride and in the background, we are accompanied by "Love Is Stronger than Death", one of the most beautiful and moving songs in Johnson's entire repertoire. A song written following the sudden death of his younger brother Eugene, in the middle of the tour to promote "Mind Bomb", in 1989. To the melancholy organ and the sounds of Johnny Marr'sr's acoustic guitar, Matt conveys to us a positive message of "love" - free love that does not depend on anything. A love whose power is "stronger than death". Matt Johnson found therapy in the writing process that helped him overcome his brother's sudden death and his cracked singing reflects the ability of love to blossom in the shadow of mortality. The title of the song comes from the greatest song ever written. A song full of secrets, clues, and holiness. "The Song of Songs" written by King Solomon. The verse from which Matt took inspiration is: "Place me like a seal upon your heart, like a seal upon your arm. Indeed, love is strong as death itself".
The sounds of Johnny Mar's harmonica which opens "Dogs of Lust" sound like the steam passing through the locomotive chimney. Matt Johnson informs us that "the heat is rising slowly...", The driver adds coal to the boiler, the locomotive blows, snorts, and whirls and the pistons move the train wheels to the monotonous sounds of Johnny Marr's guitar, whose influence on the album's style is especially felt in this excellent track. This mesmerizing bluesy song has been rotated on MTV. A song "dripping with sweat" just like the fat and hot locomotive, in which Johnson manages to explain to us, with great success, the total nature of "passion".
The varied and colorful journey continues with the "honky-tonk" piano of "This is the Night" - a ballroom piano ballad that serves as a dark tunnel through which our steam train gallops towards the bright and shining light of "Slow Emotion Replay"- such a pure and refined beauty and perhaps the band's most famous song. Johnny Marr's harmonica playing is a school of arts. The bouncy rhythm and the sweet and catchy melody, sometimes sound contrary to the lyrics, with words like "don't ask me about, war, religion, or God, Love, sex or death"...
The landscape continues to alternate throughout the journey with the "Helpline Operator", whose trumpet and violin sound like the creaking of train wheels on the tracks, but then comes gets Johnny Marr's guitar line and again we pick up the tempo as James Eller's beating bass and David Palmer's steady drumming keep That train right on track.
We speed up the pace with "Sodium Light Baby". This time, Johnny Marr enlists the Hendrix Wah-Wah effect, to push this heavy train up the mountain and Johnson takes care to explain to us that it is "the strangest feeling I ever had"...
The last third of the album is quieter. As if adapted itself to accompany us in the final stages of the journey, with an almost mesmerizing "ambient" atmosphere. The tired locomotive slows its gallop with "Lung Shadows", which sounds almost like an excerpt from an album of "7 Zero". It approaches a full stop to the melancholy trumpet sounds of "Bluer Than Midnight" and then ... the doors open at the final station and the last picture we see is of "Lonely Planet". This "Lonely Planet" leaves us with a strong and "green" message that sums up our journey: "If you can not change the world. Change yourself"...