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CD: The The - Radio Cineola: Trilogy | reviews, news & interviews

CD: The The - Radio Cineola: Trilogy

CD: The The - Radio Cineola: Trilogy

Matt Johnson returns to the fray with a sprawling art project

Radio Cineola: it's not rock'n'roll

It’s a long time since The The were bothering the charts with songs that, while often witty and thought provoking, resolutely viewed the glass as not only being half-empty but also way too small. Matt Johnson’s last The The album-proper was released in 2000 and although there has been some soundtrack work since then, last year’s Record Store Day single, “We Can’t Stop What’s Coming”, was a pleasant reminder of Johnson’s pessimistic-pop-with-a-hook, and set up expectations of new tunes and maybe an album of the stature of 1986’s mighty Infected.

Ever the contrarian, Johnson hasn’t followed this tentative return with anything as straightforward as a pop album, but has instead come out with a sprawling art project spread over three discs and only including one actual The The performance (“We Can’t Stop What’s Coming”). Disc one, The End Of The Day, is a collection of The The songs given a largely jazzy-blues spin by artists from around the world. This works particularly well on Thomas Feiner’s Tom Waits-like take on “This Is the Day”, Anna Domino’s laidback psychedelic funk-infused “Pillar Box Red” and Charlotte Etc’s French translation of “Bluer Than Midnight”, which produce a vibe that’s not so different to Jarvis Cocker and Chilly Gonzales’ recent Room 29 song cycle.

Disc two, The Inertia Variations, has Johnson narrating John Tottenham’s long poem about work avoidance and procrastination over an atmospheric soundscape that veers from the Barry Adamson-esque “Suddenly Again” to the trippy electronics of “Alien Lungs” and comes across like a spoken word ballad of an unrepentant and self-proclaimed malingerer. Third disc Midnight To Midnight features an electronic score from The Inertia Variations documentary, soundscapes from an exhibition called Radio Cineola: Inertia Variations, and is punctuated with short spoken samples from commentators like William Engdahl and Zoe Hepden talking about the dangers of corporate control, self-censorship and the dark side of social media.

Suffice it to say that while The Inertia Variations and Midnight To Midnight are interesting and worthy listens, neither are likely to see much repeated stereo action from anyone but the most ardent The The fans. It is The End Of The Day that provides the real meat of this collection but even that's pretty unconventional fare by anyone’s standards. It just has to be hoped that Johnson manages to kick the procrastination of The Inertia Variations and put out something that’s really worthy of the The The name before another 17 years passes us by.

The End Of The Day provides the real meat of this collection but even that's pretty unconventional fare

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