Thirty-two years ago The The released 'Heartland' and Matt Johnson summed up neatly what many of us felt about the so called special relationship between Britain and the United States - that the old empire was now just the 51st state of the new empire. It is depressing to think that all this time later his words still ring true, a measure of just how long perhaps that neoliberalism has survived, virtually unchallenged. As an ideology it's a complete busted flush to all but the most deluded right-winger, but like a blind man with a pistol it continues to wreak havoc. Johnson has written many fine songs and several of them deserve their place in the cannon of rock and pop classics, but 'Heartland' is perhaps his finest achievement, and the album it came from - 'Infected' - his defining moment. At a time when 'indie' music was in the doldrums and dance music was full of vitality, Johnson seemed like one of the few artists who came from the post-punk era who was saying anything important and saying it with a sense of style that saw him on the verge of mainstream acceptance. And doesn't such an idea seem like a very long time ago now?
For those who saw The The live this year, it was good to have him back. By all accounts the 2018 tour was a resounding success, with great critical reviews and a rapturous reception from fans in England, Sweden, Denmark, USA, Canada and Australia, who had waited a long, long time to see The The live again - or, in many cases, for the first time ever. The band was fantastic and did a brilliant job interpreting a 'greatest hits' package of classic songs. The inclusion of Little Barrie was one of those moments where necessity becomes the mother of great invention and watching the five-piece line-up play together it became obvious that this was a band for now. For them not to go into the studio and record new material would be criminal. I'm sure they would all agree. I know they agree. So, lets wait and see. Hell, you hung around sixteen years for live dates, what's another couple for new material?
In the meantime - with apologies for the scan quality - enjoy this 1986 interview from the NME.