Monday, September 26, 2011

Heartland



All things considered, The The's Matt Johnson remains one of Britain's most underappreciated singer-songwriters, despite his three decades in the business. Back in the 1980s, Johnson's effectively one-man band was a regular thorn in the side of then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's Tory administration, churning out modern-day parables that decried the anti-unionist tactics of the Conservative Party and the slow decay of contemporary Britain. Johnson was a virtuoso at channelling the socially aware spirits of venerable predecessors like Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger, putting agit-prop and blue-collar grievances into neat (if somewhat leftfield) four-minute pop songs. Check out one of The The's more strident numbers, the incredibly downtrodden-sounding and America-denouncing 'Heartland', a lurching, morose track that is anchored by a stop-start time signature, enhanced by mock jazz-trio piano lines and minimal orchestral stabs.

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