Houston Calling

the the

May 11th, 2004 · No Comments

Last week during work, I walked into the restroom and saw a guy who reminded me of Matt Johnson of the the. This guy was bald, and kind of mean-looking, and at first glance reminded me of the musician. It was odd, since I had just been talking about the the with a co-worker of mine who is a big fan of drummer Earl Harvin. Recently, I showed him an interview posted on the the’s website where Johnson talks about Harvin and how he got him out of Austin and took him on tour with him. So it’s not like I randomly just thought of him.

So, as my mind is apt to do, I start painting Johnson into some type of asinine scenario in which I was walking out of the restroom and he was walking into the financial office next door for some odd reason. Anyway, I waited until he came out and basically just told him how brilliant I thought his lyrics were, etc. and how much his music meant to me. Nothing special about it. Just the random thoughts of a music geek.

You remember the the, don’t you? Circa 1986, 120 Minutes comes on MTV and you see one of the strangest and most exciting videos. Better than New Model Army even. The song was called “Infected,” and the singer of the band had a deep, throaty voice (a growl, almost). The beat was addicting. You can’t get it out of your heard. “Infect me with your love. Infect me with your love.” You annoy yourself you sing it so much. You buy the tape at Sound Warehouse and delight in the fact you’ve found yet another relatively unknown band to listen to. Another Mighty Lemondrops. Another Housemartins.

Johnson’s songs tell of sex and religion (two things you know a little about), and politics and heartache (of which you know nothing about). You tell your friends, you giggle about certain lyrics (hey, you’re 16), and soon you’re all listening to Infected. You buy some import vinyl of “Heartland” from the friend of a friend. You long to visit London again so you can imagine what it must be like to live in the “51st state of the U.S.A.” You still have that vinyl. You must dig it out soon.

You wait patiently for a concert that never comes to town. You go to college. A year goes by, and you find a CD single (another Sound Warehouse, different city) of a new the the song, “The Beat(en) Generation.” You buy the new album when it comes out and fall in love with the new stuff. You wonder how someone can write such beautiful songs. Songs filled with lust, love, religion, politics, and violence.

Mind Bomb has songs like “Kingdom of Rain” (an intense duet with Sinead O’Connor before she came apart), with the lyrics, “As slow as the headlights move across this room, as slow as the? and I would lie awake and wonder, ‘Is it just me, or is this the way love is supposed to be?'” You could really relate to a line like that. And there was “Gravitate to Me,” a song Johnson wrote with The Smiths’ Johnny Marr (who played guitar on the album, only making you love Mind Bomb even more).

While your friends and half the world were still worshipping The Joshua Tree, and the sheep were busy singing along to Milli Vanilli and Paula Abdul, you took comfort in listening to something you knew few people knew about. And the people that did seemed just like you. Your best friend still has the poster you had in the apartment you shared in college–the one with the white dove on the bayonet. Framed. A crack in the glass from a party or something. You can’t recall. It doesn’t matter. He still has it, and everytime you see the poster it reminds you of that year, and of all the people who saw it and asked what the hell it was.

You saw the the live once at Bronco Bowl in Dallas, with a close friend. You had decent seats, right in the middle. After the show, you made out in the parking lot with the ex-girlfriend of a guy you knew in high school. You never saw her again. You never told him.

The “Jealous of Youth” single was the last thing you bought by the the. You ended up pawning the CD in college to buy cheap food or beer or something. You can’t recall. It doesn’t matter. You still own it in a way?your best friend bought it from the pawn shop and you smile every time you see it at his house. He always tells you to take it and you always refuse. But you both sit and listen to it, then break out Mind Bomb, and again wonder how someone can write such beautiful songs. He shows you his the the screensaver he found at Half Price Books for $3 and has never opened. You wish you had one.

But Johnson didn?t stop making music when you stopped listening. He went on to release several more albums in the nineties and is still making albums. You own one of them. Kind of. You inherited it by marriage. Yes, you married a woman who owned an album by the the. How many people can say that?

You own Dusk, another hauntingly dark album that is Johnson?s (or rather, the the’s) trademark. Titles like “Love is Stronger than Death” and “Slow Emotion Replay” say it all. When you first saw it at her place, you wondered why you didn’t own it. You thought it was so cool the woman you love had a the the album. You think back to when it came out. Your last year of college. A haze. Classic rock, that was it. You had discovered classic rock and were still making up for lost time. You traded the the for The Stones. The Dead. The Who. Pink Floyd. Especially Pink Floyd. You can be forgiven for missing Dusk.


You remember hearing the Hank Williams covers album once. Hanky Panky, right? Your friend owns that one as well–it’s right next to the screensaver. Or is that the Dead’s Without A Net skinny box set? You have the double CD in a regular case. Another Half Price Books score? Anyway, Hanky Panky. All covers. Interesting, but not what you wanted from the the. In 2000, Johnson released NakedSelf. Your friend owns that one too. You didn’t buy it–you didn’t have to then. Napster was all the rage and you downloaded it just like everyone else.

There’s a box set out, you pick it up every time you’re at the record store. But you never buy it. The first three or four albums, including Infected and Mind Bomb, have been remastered in the last couple of years. But you haven’t bought them either. You’re waiting for a new album. You want to hear what he has to say in 2004 or 2005.

It should be interesting.

Now Playing in My iPOD: Duvall — Volume & Density

Tags: Music