The The, Soul Mining (30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)

Andy Battaglia

By Andy Battaglia

on 07.08.14 in Reviews

However numbing or problematic the current reissues rampage might become, there is still a special thrill when the right album creeps out of history at the right time to sound better than it ever has before. Only some of us can mentally rewind to 1983, when The The’s debut was released, but no caveats for context are needed to make the case that the classic Soul Mining sounds absolutely fantastic today.

A classic that sounds absolutely fantastic 30 years later

It’s a dark and despondent kind of fantastic, to be sure. “Life is like a sewer,” goes one of many less-than-satisfied sentiments in “I’ve Been Waiting for Tomorrow (All of My Life),” which gets even darker than that (see: “the cancer of love has eaten out my heart” and “all my aspirations have shriveled in the sun,”). As an album opener, it’s gloom and doom and then some, meted out with serious new-wave drama and pomp that would suit Scott Walker.

But, The The mastermind Matt Johnson manages to keep his own leash (or noose) tight, mixing bracing lyrical melancholy with musical euphoria that makes a celebration of whatever mood it serves. “This is the Day” pits a wryly sarcastic affirmation (“this is the day your life will surely change”) against a mix of synthesizer, accordion, and fiddle sounds that play like the spirited soundtrack to a futuristic barnyard dance. In the midst of a mid-tempo dirge, “Uncertain Smile” rolls out a series of piano runs that make the proceedings improbably stately and refined.

Moments like this abound on Soul Mining, which positioned Johnson as a singular talent in the doleful prime of U.K. post-punk and new wave. Johnny Marr of the Smiths would go on to join The The as a guitarist years later, but The The, rarely figures in the official cultural history of the era (except for those noting their confounding and awesome band names). Extend a welcome to this 30th-anniversary deluxe edition then, which offers a remastered version on vinyl with an extra LP of versions of album cuts made in aborted early studio sessions in New York. “Uncertain Smile (New York 12″ Version)” stretches past 10 minutes and includes lots of flute and sax. “This is the Day,” in its extra version, sounds only slightly different than the original. The extras won’t make for revelations, but the chance to pull Soul Mining out of its surroundings and listen anew, three decades down the line, is reason enough.