Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

Constant Companions: Matt Johnson’s Favourite Albums

From a teenage encounter with Pere Ubu in a Wardour Street club, to the comforting effect of classic reggae and his love of Marc Bolan, The The’s Matt Johnson takes Jeremy Allen through his thirteen favourite records

Photo by Christie Goodwin

When Elvis Presley recorded his ’68 Comeback Special around Christmas time, he then went straight off to make From Elvis in Memphis the following January. But then Elvis didn’t have COVID-19 to contend with.

The The’s The Comeback Special is finally here, a recording of the band’s triumphant shows at the Albert Hall in 2019, which followed a 16-year absence from playing live. Matt Johnson’s debut live record is a double album that captures the expectancy and the polish of those performances, even though Johnson was dealing with the death of his father, who’d passed away when the band played in Gothenburg a few days before the London dates. “Strangely, the audience was so warm and positive, and the band was so supportive and so strong, that the whole experience was very enjoyable under the circumstances,” says Johnson from his East London home.

The good news for The The fans is that new material is on its way, finally, though there will be a little wait. “We would have been back in the studio by now,” says Johnson, “but obviously things being what they are means everything’s been pushed back. And because my band is based in multiple countries: the keyboard player is in Chicago, the drummer’s in Berlin – things are not as easy as they were pre-COVID to bring everybody together. But certainly, the next stage is more studio records.”

The songwriter has around a hundred pages of lyrics that need editing: “I’ve been scribbling on a daily basis; just writing, writing, writing, and I’ve got a lot of really beautiful music. Now the tricky process is the arranging, and then the recording comes next. The fun part I suppose.” The The have always been political, and one assumes there’ll be no shortage of material to inspire his existential blues: “It’s been a very strange couple of years, that’s for sure. I think most of the world is suffering from a form of cognitive dissonance. I’m finding it quite exciting writing about what’s going on, but I’ve got to find a subtle way of doing it. Nobody wants to be preached to, so it’s a case of finding a way of capturing the mood and the atmosphere of what’s going on in a positive way.”

The The’s new album The Comeback Special is released on October 29 via Cineola / earMUSIC. To begin reading Matt Johnson’s Baker’s Dozen, click the image of him below

First Record

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