Just as Matt Johnson made his 1987 "Infected" album coherent and continuous, this video realization is coherent and continuous. Johnson travels two tracks: the anguished personal and the angry political. Examples of the first include the visually allusive "Slow Train to Dawn" (a tension-filled duet with Neneh Cherry before she burst into wider pop stardom); "Out of the Blue (Into the Fire)," an eerie take on sexual release with a prostitute; and the title song, which delves into sexual and social obsession and the thin line between despair and delight. On the political side, Johnson takes a brutally cold view of American cultural imperialism and militarism. Like Johnson's music, the somber videos for "Infected" are complex and multi-layered, benefiting from repeated viewings. And while Johnson himself is not a particularly charismatic performer, he's an intriguing presence, drifting with terse grace through the convoluted emotional topography of this age of frisson. The The, on its first-ever American tour, perform at Lisner Auditorium next Tuesday.
-- Richard Harrington