Matt Johnson’s band ‘The The’ launched several hugely influential albums in the eighties and nineties. Since then there has been silence. Ensconced inside his east London home, Matt has been thinking a lot. Possibly too much. For a talent that was so direct and ferocious in its aim, and the soundtrack to a beaten generation of adolescents, later life has clearly left its mark on Matt. Can he? Will he ever write a new song?
Shot and directed by his former partner Johanna St Michaels, ‘The Inertia Variations’ is an intensely personal documentary. All grown-up and devoid of any petty tensions that might have characterised their previous lives together, theirs is a bond of mature respect and this film shows that.
...For those who know his music, his work occupies both a hallowed space and a gap in their record collections.
Whilst you might not be familiar with his causticly titled album ‘Infected’, the introspective ’Soul Mining’ or the now eerily prescient ’Mind Bomb’, Johnson has definitely had an effect on the British psyche and beyond. For those who know his music, his work occupies both a hallowed space and a gap in their record collections. When will The The release another record? Will it have same urgent invective that touched their lives as before? What will his next song be like? It’s a pressure that Matt feels keenly.
In-between extended bouts of procrastination and writing highly regarded film scores, Matt is actually a busy man. Setting up a radio station in his house and organising a day-long radio broadcast for the UK Election Day, the demanding spectre of new work still gently nips at his heels. Does he have a new song? Will he actually sing during the broadcast?
Clearly where there was space in his young man’s life to write, the old Matt Johnson struggles for time. Hemmed in by life choices and pivotal bereavements, ‘The Inertia Variations’ sheds light on how the Matt Johnson of yore is not the Matt Johnson of today. ‘The Inertia Variations’ is a gentle documentary that paints a portrait of a man who understands both the nature of consequence and the high price it can have on those around him.
Like the recent Nick Cave documentary ‘Once More With Feeling’, ‘The Inertia Variations’ is an unflinching home movie of a talent still undimmed, yet looking for a new way to shine out through the curtains of personal tragedy. This is a documentary for the fans but also one for many more besides. Just like his music.1