Classic Video of the Week: The The
The The Apocalypse Now
I had several epiphanies in the mid-80s when I was sinking my teeth deeper into the soundwaves of music culture. I was beginning to spread my wings and discover music outside of what my two older brothers had weaned me on. They had given me a great blueprint to build upon, though. In 1986, I was 15, hip to classics like the Beatles, the Velvet Underground, the Doors and Bob Dylan, but I'd also seen Squeeze, Talking Heads and Peter Gabriel live by then. These were huge building blocks and they pointed me in the right direction.
But like all students, I had to start to think for myself and form my own opinions. So in between "borrowing" cassettes and records from their collections I was visiting the library and local record store and discovering a whole new world on my own. Ocean Rain by Echo and the Bunnymen, New Order's Lowlife, Hounds of Love by Kate Bush, and Infected by The The were on heavy rotation on my new Aiwa walkman in '86. Yes, I was a bit of an anglophile, but that's a different story. The The made a huge impression on me. Matt Johnson created songs that were electronic -- big drum machine beats, cool synths with just the right hint of industrial noises -- but still maintained a raw, acoustic quality to them. And as a shy and nerdy, awkward teen I connected with his lyrics of isolation and despair.
The video director for the lead single "Infected," like a lot of the video directors from the mid-80s, interpreted the song with broad cinematic strokes. It's a confusing but brilliant alloy of scenes that don't really fit the lyrics. The video appears to reference some crazy outtake from Apocalypse Now, with an exotic setting (apparently shot in Bolivia), a boat going upriver, lots of natives and a woman dancing around a fire. Meanwhile, Matt Johnson, harnessed to a chair with a camera strapped to it, sings "I can't give you up 'til I have more than enough, so infect me with your love" while images flash and stream all around him like some '80s acid trip. The video is part of a collection he shot for the album called Infected: The Movie. Of course I ran out and bought the VHS tape the minute it was released. After watching the whole thing, I remember thinking how, apart from "Infected," it really wasn't that good and that I would have been ok with just the album.