The The - Mind Bomb
What makes this album stand out above other releases by the band is the quality of the lyrics. Johnson was never one to shirk the overtly political in his music, and this more than anything else probably contributed to the lack of commercial success the band enjoyed. However on this album, he surpasses himself. The achievement is all the more remarkable because, here we are 23 years after the record was released, and we are still struggling with the same contradictions and inconsistencies as Johnson wrote about with such power in 1989. If ever anyone tells you that the human race learns from history, play this album to disabuse them of such a foolish notion.
The opener, "Good Morning Beautiful", begins with a distant call of a muezzin. Straight away you are listening to a criticism of the role of religion in today's world. The theme continues with "Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)" and "The Violence Of The Truth" which, if anything, are even more scathing. With a US president in Bush who claimed divine mandate for his unlawful actions, Hezbollah rampant in the Middle East and the supposed message of the Bible twisted and distorted by intolerant fanatics, this is a message that remains as pertinent today as it did when released. That message is simple - so called Christians have strayed so far from that message that they would be disowned by God while if Jesus returned today he would be "gunned down by the CIA". "The Beat(en) Generation" sees Johnson turn his angst and ire towards the political establishment in his own country. After ten years of Thatcher's rule, he lays into the divisive effects of it on the youth of the day. The country he describes is one shorn of its soul and its purpose, turned into slaves to a misguided ideal which has failed them and the whole country. Interspersed with these are quieter, subtle numbers about love and passion, riven with the same intensity of his political songs. As usual, Johnson dissects these emotions for some critical analysis of failure and loss and then reconstructs them into a format which aches with beauty and sadness.
A lot of people criticise this album for its supposedly sarcastic overtones and its holier than thou preachiness. While the former criticism is overstated, the latter has some merit. Johnson offers no solutions to the problems he identifies, he is merely an observer. In that sense he can come across at times as no better than the demagogues and the fanatics whom he so stridently takes apart. But sarcasm, no. If a listener detects sarcasm in this, it is borne out of the fact that the message is as true now as it was then and the completely erroneous belief that Johnson is saying "I told you so". Had this album come out in 2003, you may be right. But Mind Bomb was released in 1989. Any sarcasm detected in an inference by the listener not implied in the prophetic commentary of the original.
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