While Matt Johnson had previously made Burning Blue Soul as a solo record , Soul Mining was the first album by The The, and was released to huge critical acclaim in October 1983.  Indeed, a few years ago at the official website of The The, you could re-read endorsements from all four of the UK’s weekly music papers (NME, Sounds, Record Mirror and Melody Maker), as well as broadsheet newspapers and glossy magazines; there was even a thumbs-up from Smash Hits. But surely the most bizarre positive rating was this:-

“Soul Mining is certainly something to be treasured. One of those integrity leaden packages which manages to be both experimental and accessible.”
* (source at the foot of the page).

There’s only seven tracks on the vinyl version of  the LP with only three songs appearing on Side B. The Ramones it certainly wasn’t.

Most songs were at least 5 minutes long, with one stretching out to almost 10 minutes. But Genesis or Pink Floyd it certainly wasn’t.

From the opening countdown of ten-to-zero (which sounds as if it was sampled from an Apollo space mission) right through to the incessant beat and chanting of the closing song, this is an LP that has a bit of everything thrown in. Bitter and twisted lyrics of despair and attacks on Thatcherism nestle alongside songs about love, lust and devotion. But it’s very much the music that carries this album along.

The The, at the outset, hadn’t been a band.  It was a vehicle for Matt Johnson who preferred to write and sing songs backed by synthesizers and drum machines. But for Soul Mining other talents were brought into the studio, not least Zeke Manyika of Orange Juice – a hugely underrated drummer – and Jools Holland who contributed an astonishing piano solo to transform an older The The song – Uncertain Smile.

The use of these talents, combined with Matt’s growing confidence in his abilities as a vocalist, produced a piece of work that, in the opinion of this humble scribe, has not dated one iota.

I sometimes think Matt Johnson was someone just a little bit ahead of his time. Some ten years later, Thom Yorke and Radiohead came along with a similar style and approach that made them media darlings. And while I am very fond of The Bends and OK Computer, I do honestly believe that Soul Mining and its follow-up Infected are every bit as good. But I’m obviously in a minority going by poll after poll.

The full track listing of Soul Mining:-

01 I’ve Been Waitin’ For Tomorrow (All Of My Life)
02 This Is The Day
03 The Sinking Feeling
04 Uncertain Smile
05 The Twilight Hour
06 Soul Mining
07 Giant

Initial copies came with a free 12″ single, and one of these tracks – Perfect – became an eighth track on the CD version of the album released in 1987 but seemingly much to Matt’s displeasure as it was removed for the 2002 re-issue so that the album was again, just the seven tracks.

Soul Mining ranks high among my favourite albums of all time.  That is all.

mp3 : The The – I’ve Been Waitin’ For Tomorrow (All Of My Life)
mp3 : The The – Giant

*Oh and the unlikely plug for the album back in 1983 was from Penthouse magazine.

6 thoughts on “SOUL MINING

  1. One of the albums that hold as irreplaceable. It’s music that helped soundtrack my life moving from teens to twenties and has stayed with me ever since. If songs of the Post Punk Era can be called epic (and I don’t really like using the word), Uncertain Smile is one of them.

  2. Couldn’t agree with you more, Echorich. Bought it when it first came out when I was 16. I have never gotten sick of it and unlike a lot of albums from that era, it has aged incredibly well.

  3. Matt did put out a string of very very strong records, starting here and (to me) making the exclamation mark with Dusk.

  4. A DJ I worked at the student paper with gave me his promo 12″ of “Uncertain Smile” since it was not going to get play in his set. The fool! He asked me what I thought of it and I remarked that is sort of felt like a Polyrock record. That set me off on a The The tangent that ended around 1992 when I only bought the singles from “Mind Bomb” and a single from “Dusk.” When I later got “Naked Self” many years later, in 2011, I have not been able to make it all the way through that album, in spite of several tries. Give me the first two for certain.

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