Boomkat Product Review:
Matt Johnson’s near-mythical 1979 tape is finally available on CD, newly expanded with six extra tracks to reveal the scuzzy experimental roots of a soon-to-be lauded songwriter recording at home in the cellar of his parent’s pub, with fizzingly inventive results that surely recall early efforts by Robert Rental, Dome, John Bender.
Written when he was sixteen years old and recorded in 1978-79 at his home cellar studio, ‘See Without Being Seen’ gives an ultra-rare window to the early work of Matt Johnson, who only a few years later would issue ‘Burning Blue Soul’. It’s humbly scratched together DIY style with a borrowed Telecaster copy, a Crumar electric piano, and a handful of effects pedals, all recorded direct to reel-to-reel int he basement studio Matt shared with his late older brother Andy, who would go on to create THE THE’s iconic sleeve artwork. But despite its modest provenance, it’s the sort of album that may induce envy as one reflects on what they were/n’t doing aged 16 - probably not creating frazzled experimental pop zingers like this lot?!
In 1979 Matt was frequenting shows by TG, Cabaret Voltaire, Wire, This Heat - as you do - where he would distribute his self-duplicated copies of ‘See Without Being Seen’ in its original 7 track form, which clearly betrays the influence of all the above on his music, but also mutated into his own style. That style would become much more pop-refined from the jagged and psychedelic sense of expression brandished on this lot, however Matt’s natural knack for melodic hooks and experimental-leanings spellbinding come into their own as he shapeshifts between kosmiche drones, Suicide-al new wave, and drum machine mantras with bags of daring confidence, especially for his age. A right slice of new wave and indie pop history right here.