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Reviews:It's easy to take a look back at the British new wave scene of the early 1980s and wince. Few bands from that era could sustain more than a single hit, and those that did were dismissed long ago, their music thin and false and somehow cheapened, gaudy castoffs of a time gone by. Yet one group-simply known as The The-managed to take on the '80s and win, sweetening the pot with unforgettable dance hits, fervent social protests, funky synth soul, and country music remixes.
The brainchild of Londoner Matt Johnson, The The hit paydirt with their very first single, 1982s "Uncertain Smile." The tune, a five-minute ode to unrequited love, featured Johnson on vocals, guitars, keyboards, and percussion, with a searing flute solo by Crispin Cioe cutting through the mix. "Perfect"-which featured some memorable harmonica riffs from David Johansen-soon followed, and The The were on the map.
Never one to rest on his laurels, Johnson continued to crank out the hits, focusing on Thatcher-era politics for "Infected." "My heart is heavy/ My head is confused/ My aching little soul has started burning blue," he sings over a driving industrial beat, accentuated by a mad trumpet solo. Government affairs never sounded so sexy. Strings and tinkling piano chords anchor "Heartland," another chart topper, while the religious-themed (and subsequently banned) "Armageddon Days (Are Here Again)" features unlikely banjo and Arabian fiddle riffs over an ominous "Israel is rising" chorus.
These standouts and more-fifteen tracks in all, plus a separate disc containing eight remixes-are contained on 45 RPM, the long-awaited singles collection from The The. Catchy, cheeky, and ultimately timeless, 45 RPM is a fitting reminder of an era most of us seem to have forgotten.