The first album by The The I ever owned was "Soul Mining" and it was incredible. On the strength the that recording alone, I purchased so much subsequent material from Matt Johnson anticipating the repeat of that record. But he never captured that moment again for me. Instead, he moved in a different direction entirely. One I wasn't always sure I liked. In fact, "Mind Bomb" was the record that ended my obsession with this band. "Soul Mining" would be a one off amazing record and nothing good would ever come from The The again.
Of course, years later, my appreciation for Matt's work has changed greatly.
Back then I was more into electronic sounds and New Wave whereas today I'm more versatile in my tastes. His movement towards conventional instruments on "Infected" and "Mind Bomb" were viewed (on my part) as a sell out. However, today I see it as an expanding pallet. The necessity of "Soul Mining" is understandable when you consider what he had to work with and his lack of association with other musicians. These other albums show Johnson reaching out and becoming a more well rounded musician as well as incorporating musical ideas from the people he would work with.
Now... Specifically... About "Mind Bomb"... The title implies a mind-blowing musical experience. And when you lump in the subject matter, it's a far reaching political and social commentary that could almost double as a college course. The songs tackle everything from social apathy ('The Beat(en) Generation'), to religious intolerance ('Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)', 'Good Morning Beautiful'). Injustice ('The Violence Of Truth'), to sexual salvation ('Beyond Love').
But does it achieve its goal of blowing your mind?
As a teenager, I'd say no. The material, although comprehensible, was completely beyond my ability to fully understand. I was forming my religious identity along with figuring out how the world actually worked. I think I bought into the whole propaganda that America was the country God founded on this earth and we were the chosen people living in freedom. It was impossible to see anyone else as anything other than evil. The message of this CD fell on deaf ears. It was complex enough that those who truly understood it were in the position of "preaching to the choir" and those who didn't just glazed over the meaning. That's the danger of reaching for such volatile subject matter in pop music. And make no mistake, despite his best efforts to the contrary, this album is pop.
Johnson does much better tackling esoteric issues rather than social. At least those concepts can be interpreted to fit someone's life. However on "Mind Bomb", there's no interpreting this stuff.
The first side of the cassette is the truly controversial side whereas the second side is filled with fluffy romance numbers and sappy ballads. To complete this one sided theme, he should've swapped 'Kingdom Of Rain' with 'The Beat(en) Generation' and it would be thematically perfect.
It sounds like I'm really ripping this album to sherds and I don't want to give that impression at all. There are some excellent numbers on this record that I've always liked. Since I've never been a big Sinead O'Connor fan, it will come as no surprise that I didn't want to like 'Kingdom Of Rain' where she sings a duet with Johnson. Even today I find the lyrics somewhat off-putting and yet I really enjoy the music on this track. I love 'Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)'. It's such a wonderful song and has the most amazing beat. It's almost a relentless march over the top of Johnson's vocals, but in a way, that's where the true excitement comes from. It's a driving beat and it carries you all the way through the song to a big build and crescendo. By far the most satisfying number on the record. And in my opinion, should've been the opening track. Other stand out numbers include 'Gravitate To Me' and 'The Beat(en) Generation'. 'Gravitate To Me' has that incredible line, "I am the lighthouse, I am the sea, I am the air that you breathe, gravitate to me". Very awesome! I like the fact 'The Beat(en) Generation' is based on a painting Johnson saw. To me that gives him the impression of someone who finds inspiration in unusual places. I like that he appreciates contemporary art as well.
So in the end, as a kid, this record couldn't hold my attention. As a adult, it has more meaning and I appreciate its attempts at complexity. No one will ever accuse Johnson of not being a strong lyricist. He's just too good. But it was never going to be a record you could spoon-feed to a mass market. I'm sure his label had a field day trying to market it. I think I'll give it a less than perfect mark on my list and say that it's more for die-hard fans than a casual listener. Unless you know The The and are into what Johnson is doing, this album will probably bore you. My final words: RECOMMENDED FOR FANS.
THE THE - MIND BOMB
01. Good Morning Beautiful
02. Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)
03. The Violence Of Truth
04. Kingdom Of Rain
05. The Beat(en) Generation
06. August & September
07. Gravitate To Me
08. Beyond Love