On THE COMEBACK SPECIAL   (Cineola, 2021)



Grief spun, song sprung, Matt Johnson’s The The restore the correct line
Of vision as his and THEir comeback special arrives as a new DVD,
As well as Blu-ray, CD and reignited memory of those who were there
A year and half before Covid, and where Matt’s glaze and his glory made music
That moved the sinew and bone of the free. But this is not all as there are two more
Releases;  SEE WITHOUT BEING SEEN, his first cassette album made at the age of sixteen
And then the OST to his brother Gerard’s film MUSCLE;  each prized beam
From his company Cineola project Johnson’s vision across the urban night
To score dreams. The Comeback came late, sixteen years again from last outing,
And from a passive period where Matt Johnson reflected on some of the shades
Cast on glass, in which his past achievements and life found their own private mirror
In John Tottenham’s poems, and where THE INERTIA VARIATIONS prepared him
For this move from the murk to pierce dark. The loss of his brother Andy, of Eddie,
His Dad, and of the age he defined stoked fresh fires; Radio Cineola revived him,
As he in turn phoenixed strings, picking up the guitar to produce one of the most
Beautiful songs he’s yet written; as WE CAN’T STOP WHAT’SCOMING is both anthem
And prayer as Matt sings. It features in the concert and fits with the repertoire
The band rip through. Earl Harvin’s snare work is dextrous as he threads
The sheets of sound each man makes, from stalwart James Eller’s bass,
To guitarist Barry Cadogan’s leadwork and falsetto , as Johnson’s sweetened
Baritone grounds them, DC Collard’s piano and organ, and melodica paint
Each soul ache.  These are the songs of the beaten generation, born under
Thatcher and other despots of the day that Matt Johnson defied as the first band
To truly grow up in public and stare down the oppressors who if Christ had reappeared
To confront them would in his lyric ‘have been gunned down cold by the CIA.’

Bold and bald in blue light, Matt Johnson performs, presents, preaches,
He truly is the ‘Captain calling,’ bracing us for the drop that was coming then
And is now, as he offers the flame and flag of resistance which is this music
And ethos, which Tim Pope’s film has captured, making the object itself like a prop.
So, show you belong by joining Johnson’s soul army, stir sound and senses
To recognise what this is; a communion made from three chords and the truth,
And what’s extra; integrity, independence as each lyric and line is a kiss,
That forms a new siblinghood, but not to replace Johnson’s losses but instead
To make us all brothers and sisters with soundtracks to charge images
That inspire at will and in this time of change truly move us. Art once more
Is the answer and songs become carriages, awaiting passengers who will ride
With a renewed sense of focus, and where the passive stance now stokes passion
As was clear on that night. After Johnson’s more than a  decade away life returned
To remind him that the river was flowing on, so his progress is a path beyond love
In spotlight. Each song is a church and the man himself a cathedral.  Johnson sings
Like a man; low and sweetly, then harsh when appalled to appeal
To the forces that fuel the curative and creative. Its there in his voice, face,
His walking; each motion is made so we feel. Each song erupts. Each verse is in turn,
A volcano. Collard’s piano solos are lava, spiralling from the keys.
For here is renunciation, return and profundity: alt rock poems, that this
The The rhyme with glory to make a story of war and peace stir and please.

Loving these songs as I do, I was struck by one particular moment;
Johnson’s BUGLE BOY, from the BURNING BLUE SOUL album, his first,
Performed forty years on at the age of 57; the 17 year old composer
At the source of it all quenches thirst for the much older man,
Singing to a girl who called him pretentious, and where ‘I said,
I was just young and well intentioned,’ is something that made me
In my fifties now, start to cry as I saw the purity on his face,
And on the high screen behind him, as Johnson’s ghosts retain glory:
In this concert and film they don’t die. This then was a service of sorts,
A commemorative celebration of who he was and who formed him,
The musicians he met, friends and fans. Loss. Lovers. Kids. Blame.
Beauty. Brothers. Each one returns enshrined in this concert
That you all must own;  Its love’s plan to provide those we know
And those we don’t with connection. After two years of screens
This bright totem, even while dealing in darkness and dare is a gem
That sparkles darkly in turn, but it has a richness you earn without money;
By listening you too glisten,  as The The we align with now become Them.





                                                         LONG ROADS FROM LOUGHTON

         On The The soundtrack MUSCLE and SEEWITHOUT BEING SEEN (Cineola, 2021)


On the fifth of June 2018 The The’s Albert Hall concert was both a comeback
And special in how he has carried on to make music from the silence he’d set
For too long. As his recent soundtracks have proved for brother Gerard’s films,
TONY, HYENA and now for MUSCLE, with Johnson’s sound palatte a platform
That has both evolved and  moved beyond song. And yet each composition
Just shows how both brothers make movies;  for as Matt serves Gerard’s visions,
He also creates aural views , as TONY’s plaintive piano displayed, or, HYENA’s
Rhythmic howls and synth squalor,  while tracks like Dragons in Paradise became
Transport for the ethereal aims of Matt’s muse. MUSCLE’s music grants veins
To the strain and sinew and story. One hears doom and portent, electric elegance,
Sex and soul as explicit images, themes and violent thought find new action
In synth squall, guitar treatments and percussion primed to tear holes
In the sensibility stirred by watching a film. This is magic. But not as we
Understand it, thinking it far from us. But what Matt’s  music makes is a deepening 
Of perception. His  wordless songs and sounds become shadows, stalking, Trevor/Terry
And Simon, revealing to them what they’re seeing and what they can of course
Never trust.  This then is music not as mood, but as character, carving silence.
As Cavan Clerkin’s Simon crumbles in Newcastle, the dark realm his new ruler
Seeks to erect is blood pumped into an ever darkening hole, and abyss
Which Johnson shapes with this soundtrack, as if it were the blood itself
In the body that seeks to renew while pursuing a descent into hell, a soul slump
That can fuck you awake, while being embodied at once  in a person.
The muscle we need to survive this is synthesised in a steroid and in this soundtrack’s
Themes; its sound spells.  Each piece paints each scene and each reality also.
Each chord burns and blisters as tissue is torn, each tear swells.




You can hear these uncanny incantations begin in Johnson’s SEE WITHOUT BEING SEEN
Album. Made as a boy, these first forays show the start of the sound he refined.
With the original cassettes, digitised, and literally baked in an oven the rise
Of yeast and of yearning for  what he was soon to become’s a true find.
For here are provocations in lines. Slogan songs, wasp worlds buzzing.
Drum machines spark and stutter as low chords speak of portent.
One hears a  singular voice, with a gravitas grown  out of nowhere,
Revealing the man for whom music was aim, ammunition, and the power
Behind this quartet of voice, guitar, drumbox, synth;  sounds and singed soul
From the suburbs, as a young lad from Loughton and his parents pub
Drank in fate which filled each small room and studio  space he set up in,
Allowing him to breach and sail ideas ocean and to in the most mature  manner,
Create. So, yes, see without being seen and without the imprisoning pressure
Of judgement. Serve your first sentence as a life of lines stretches out
Beyond your comprehension and care. As your apprenticed yourself, Matt,
Perfection was waiting for you in small rooms and places where,
As you have said yourself  ‘spacious minds’ learn to shout.

And so this tri-partite product arrives, revealing the purpose of a young
And now older master. The The are an idea all should treasure,
As well as a tribute to the loss and love that begat them.
In being stronger than death, applaud friendship, for these PRECIOUS
MATTers form fresh defences and should be important to all.

Have no doubt.


                                                                   David Erdos October 30th 2021





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