1983, Music

Soul Mining (1983) by the The

My main complaint against synthpop is that the majority the bands decided to entirely or mostly drop conventional instruments in favour of synthesizers and drum machines. I have never been a huge fan of either instrument and so it’s an uphill battle for me when an entire album is performed with instruments I don’t like. But when I encounter synthpop bands who did not give up completely on traditional instruments, well there’s an in for me. And that’s true here.

Johnson fully embraces ’80s music technology but he peppers traditional instruments throughout the record – like accordion, melodica, fiddle, live drums and percussion, cello and so forth – and is not opposed to featuring a piano solo. I don’t think I’ve heard another synthpop band so willing to include traditional instruments in their songs, which is probably why the The are not strictly considered synthpop, they’re too diverse. This is a good thing.

Of course, it helps that John wrote some great songs. Given how good his songs are, I’m amazed I haven’t heard more about the The or heard them at some point.

It also helps that Johnson is a great performer in the grand tradition of British post punk performers. At least some of the success of this record has to come from Johnson’s vocal takes, which do not feel as though they are those of a man who recorded most of the record himself, but rather sound like he is a man performing for an audience, an audience he is trying to engage and provoke.

Anyway, this is great stuff. Where has it been all my life?


All songs written and composed by Matt Johnson.

  1. “I’ve Been Waitin’ for Tomorrow (All of My Life)” – 5:45
  2. “This Is the Day” – 5:01
  3. “The Sinking Feeling” – 3:44
  4. “Uncertain Smile” – 6:52
  5. “The Twilight Hour” – 5:58
  6. “Soul Mining” – 4:50
  7. “Giant” – 9:36
  8. “Perfect” (US release only) – 5:36
  • Harry Beckett – trumpet on “Perfect”
  • Paul Boyle – fiddle on “This Is the Day”
  • Andy Duncan – drums on “This Is the Day”, “Uncertain Smile”, “Soul Mining” and “Perfect”
  • Paul Hardiman – chant on “Giant”
  • Camelle G. Hinds – bass guitar on “I’ve Been Waitin’ for Tomorrow (All of My Life)”, “Uncertain Smile”, “The Twilight Hour”, “Giant” and “Perfect”
  • Jools Holland – piano on “Uncertain Smile”
  • David Johansen – harmonica on “Perfect”
  • Matt Johnson – vocals, synthesisers, percussion, instruments on all tracks, chant on “Giant”
  • Keith Laws – melodica on “Three Orange Kisses from Kazan”
  • Thomas Leer – synthesisers on “I’ve Been Waitin’ for Tomorrow (All of My Life)”, “The Twilight Hour” and “Giant”
  • Martin McCarrick – cello on “The Twilight Hour”
  • Zeke Manyika – drums on “I’ve Been Waitin’ for Tomorrow (All of My Life)”, “The Twilight Hour” and “Giant”, chant on “Giant”
  • Jeremy Meek – bass guitar on “The Sinking Feeling”
  • Steve James Sherlock – flute and saxophone on “Three Orange Kisses from Kazan” and “Waitin’ for the Upturn”
  • Anne Stephenson – violin on “The Twilight Hour”
  • Frank Want (aka Jim Thirlwell) – sticks on “Giant”
  • Wix (aka Paul Wickens) – accordion on “This Is the Day”

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