Matt Johnson returns with We Can’t Stop What’s Coming, the video is part of a documentary about him and The The and is dedicated to his brother Andrew. Andrew was responsible for most of the The The artwork and worked as a designer for his label Some Bizarre. He died in 2016 of a brain tumour. I wrote an article about him in February last year featuring his artwork (see below).
So many artists consistently sound like themselves, they can’t help it, they can’t be anything else, Matt Johnson is a typical example. Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen, Jeff Lynne, (I could list a thousand names) but then some artists have different versions of themselves.
Take Paul McCartney, Helter Skelter vs Martha My Dear on The White Album (1968) and Maybe I’m Amazed and Junk on McCartney (197o). There’s many examples of his ability to change his voice and style of song. Sammy Davies Jr. would show off his vocal flexibility at his shows by singing in the style of his contemporaries. Kate Bush sang The Man With The Child In His Eyes and Wuthering Heights on the same album, The Kick Inside (1978 – Tracks 5 & 6) and Robert Plant could excite you with his screaming (Whole Lotta Love) and seduce you with his sensitivity on the opening lines of the following track on Led Zeppelin II (1969 – What Is And What Should Never Be).
On returning, Matt Johnson and The The remain the same and it’s probably better that way. I imagine it might be best to experience different versions of the same trick instead of an artist branching out into a genre that he isn’t comfortable, progressing backwards when there was still life in the old formula.
Some people are multi-instrumentalists, others firmly welded to their instrument. It would be uncomfortable to see Jimmy Page sitting behind a piano but not Prince, odd to see Elton John playing the guitar or Eric Clapton behind a keyboard. We seem to have accepted Dave Grohl as front man with a guitar even though we were introduced to him as Nirvana’s drummer. Somehow Phil Collins, despite his success, always looks more comfortable behind a kit, the place where he shone brightest.
So Matt Johnson returns with a worthy version of himself, including the return of Johnny Marr. At this point We Can’t Stop What’s Coming is only available as a download or a 7 inch single. It’s been a while, his last vocal record was Naked Self released in 2000. Since then he has released three soundtracks – Tony (2010), Moonbug (2012) and Hyena (2015). If you were wondering what else he had done in those 17 years, the video begins with the line “You would think by now people would know better than to ask what I’d been doing with my time”.