They played the 12" of 'Uncertain Smile', by 'The The', one of the worst band names ever ('The This. The That. How about we call it The The? Heh heh heh.' this conversation was held thousands of times and the possibility dismissed, until Matt Johnson decided to go ahead and use the name).
The song is really good, it's got a jangly simple guitar bit, nice use of synthesizer, and a great vocal performance. So, thanks to iTunes I soon had a copy (of the non-12" version, I kept getting an error on the 12" version) of the song in my collection.
Around there things started to break down. I listened to some of the other tracks from that album (Soul Mining), and from other albums by The The, but nothing really moved me to fork over $0.99. I would then go to Pandora.com, where 'Uncertain Smile Radio' would serve up a series of similar shoulder-shrug selections (The Ramones' 'I want you around'? Joe Jackson? Dave Matthews band?). Eventually I gave up and listened to 'Hallogallo Radio' (The first song on Neu!'s album, Neu!), which if you're me is consistently good, even when it whips out the art-rock era Genesis ('Submarine'). If you are anyone else, it probably sounds like art-damaged music that's alternately boring and grating.
Whilst writing this I googled up "The Making Of Matt Johnson's 'Uncertain Smile'", on a site that makes the most Ritalin-addled mySpacer's page look like a model of clean and readable web design. It was somewhat interesting to see that Matt Johnson himself had a hard time reproducing the magic when he re-recorded the song for the album:
The song Uncertain Smile featured on Soul Mining, the subsequent The The album. A completely new recording was made back in London, which must have disappointed the punters who bought it after hearing the original single. Both at this remove and at the time, it sounds curiously confused and unfocused, as if trying for whatever reason to make a fresh statement of the song but unable to escape from the grip of the first single.