More than 300 musicians -- including Sinead O'Connor, Neneh Cherry, and David Johansen -- have played with Matt Johnson in The The, but he has no particular desire to work with any of them again. "There's a lot of good new people around and I always look forward to that," the British pop-rock vocalist-guitarist explains. "I like to look to the future." Despite that attitude, there's a lot of looking back in the songs on "Dusk," the CD/cassette released before the tour that brings the latest version of The The to The Roxy for concerts tonight and Saturday.
Mr. Johnson, 31, gets right to the point on the opening "True Happiness This Way Lies" by asking: "Have you ever wanted something so badly that it possessed your body and your soul... until you finally get it and then you realize that it wasn't what you wanted after all." For Mr. Johnson, there are no real answers to the life questions he raises just as there is no permanent lineup for The The. "There's always a constant state of flux," he says from a tour stop in Washington, D.C. "I never like to plan too far ahead, because things constantly change.
Proof of that will be seen when The The, which includes keyboardist Keith Joyner of the Athens group Seven Simons, plays here. After the Atlanta shows, drummer Dave Palmer will bail out to join Rod Stewart's road band. "Just as the band was beginning to gel, we have to replace him," Mr. Johnson says, without rancor or regret. It'll be an "advantage, but not a necessity" if the new drummer is familiar with the music from "Dusk," 1989's million-selling "Infected" and other releases dating to the group's debut in 1980. "I just try to find good musicians who are sensitive to the songs," Mr. Johnson says.
Fans can expect to hear Mr. Johnson and band replicate the pop, rock, blues, and jazzy music on "Dusk," but earlier songs will be revised. "We've reworked them," he says. "Some songs never had a chance to evolve live." That's because there have been few tours by The The, although Mr. Johnson says he finds this one, which opened two months ago and will continue for six weeks, "enjoyable" -- at times. "I have to do promotional work and that gets tiring," he says. "I don't get much time by myself." But when he's does, it's spent quietly with no music. "I like having silence, really," he says. "I like to give the eardrums a rest."