When it recently came to my attention that seminal English post-punk band The The would be appearing on Morning Becomes Eclectic this coming Monday, in advance of the two L.A. stops on their “Comeback Special” tour, my heart skipped a beat. English post-punk, new wave, indiepop, etc. etc… are certainly my musical sweet spots, but before that was entirely the case, I fell in love with a film by the name of Empire Records.
Empire Records could be described as divisive, as it was certainly neither a critical or commercial hit when it was released in 1995. But those of us who love it really love it, those who don’t are pretty much indifferent. The The’s “This is the Day” plays over the closing credits so by the time I first heard it, I was already a changed woman. I’d picked a movie from the video store inside the local Kroger that I’d never heard of simply because the teenagers on the cover looked so impossibly cool, and it was about a record store, and this was either right before or right after I would wait impatiently to tape K’s Choice singles from my local alternative radio station (99X in Atlanta, in case you were wondering). Needless to say, it was a defining moment.
“This is the Day” is one of the quintessential songs about defining moments, but not the epic kind. The kind that you’ll only realize the true significance of years after the fact. The details are spectacular. Just the opening line alone: “Well you didn’t wake up this morning cause you didn’t go to bed, you were watching the whites of your eyes turn red…” immediately conjures yearning. Either for experiences you desperately want to have, or eventually ones you’ll wish you could have again. The The would go on to have bigger hits, but it’s doubtful that any of their songs ended up having as much cultural impact as “This is the Day,” and its use in the aforementioned film is only a small part of that.
The The has always primarily been the work of singer songwriter Matt Johnson and a revolving cast of players. He put the project on hold in 2003, and has been focused on soundtrack work since. The fact that he’s bringing his latest line-up to the KCRW studios for a stripped down performance is a very big deal, and the results are sure to be special in ways we cannot yet imagine.
As a bonus, here’s another of The The’s hits “The Beat(en) Generation from the line-up that featured Johnny Marr (!) on guitar.
The The will perform live on Morning Becomes Eclectic Monday September 24th.
Matt Johnson Carousel image: Helen Edwards