THE THE was formed in London in 1979 by the then teenage Matt Johnson. Although he is the only permanent member, it has evolved into a multimedia group with a revolving, kaleidoscopic cast of collaborators. THE THE’s genre is all their own; it is music of long shadows, high hopes, channeled anger, feverish passions and sweetly disturbing poignancy. It is pop and rock, blues and folk, soul and polemic. It spans alienated electronics to twisted cinematic soundtracks, guitar tumbling swing to crimson ballads, rants and prayers to diaries and hymns.
The glaring, jarring wonder of Johnson’s catalogue is the fundamental underlying assumption that songs matter, music matters, lyrics matter, and they should be firmly built upon urgent truth, with truth on top. Everything sounds like it HAD to be made, which may partly explain why there have been comparatively few THE THE records over the years. Indeed the absences in-between releases are so long it once prompted a journalist to remark that entire music and fashion movements come and go during Johnson’s ‘rest’ periods.
Adapted from an article originally by Roger Morton
Photograph by Steve Collins