Review : Public Image Ltd - This Is PiL
SputnikmusicDo you remember that terrible advert for Country Life butter? Sure you do, don’t claim ignorance now. It was the one where John Lydon, once very much ensconced in the filth and the fury, ponced around a farm dressed up like the Mad Hatter, shilling fatty yellow blocks of dairy produce. It was a watershed moment for those who like to throw the term “sell out” around like so much confetti. Of course, Lydon being Lydon, he has since defended his foray into the wonderland of advertising by stating the fee he received funded PiL’s first album in 20 years…but was it worth the hassle?
The most surprising thing about This Is PiL is the fact that it’s actually pretty bloody good. You could be forgiven for being wary about this record’s potential as little else but a cash-in. All of those dead-rubber Sex Pistols reunion shows can have a negative effect on the perception of Lydon as an artist with something to say. That’s neither here nor there however; he and his group prove they are still a vital, urgent and relatively fresh outfit with plenty of axes to grind.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for a few years, you’ll have noticed that the world is beset by social, political and economic turbulence. It’s fertile ground for a man with a sharp mind, and Lydon doesn’t disappoint in aiming his ire at all and sundry. “Deeper Water”, at once hypnotic and addictive, sees unadulterated scorn poured on “bristled bastards that will lead you to the shore, dash you on the rocks.” He also finds time to rail against “ignorant strangers”, backed by sparse, reverb-laden instrumentation that successfully captures the bleakness conveyed by Lydon’s lyrics. In an interview with Rolling Stone, the group claimed “Deeper Water” was laid down in one improvised take. If this is true, then it’s a glowing reference for the talent of all involved. It plays like a stream-of-consciousness poem, and it’s a notion that stays with you for the entire album; peaking with the exceptional and sinister “The Room I Am In.” Lydon once more throws on his Social Commentary Hat, and gives an insight into the manic, lonely thoughts of a drug-abuser living alone in their one bedroom rat’s nest on a grotty council estate. It’s stark and unapologetic, showing that despite living in a nice, comfortable castle in Ireland, Lydon still understands the places he inhabited as a younger man. Perhaps he sees himself as the subject of “The Room I Am In” had things not gone so well for him....full text
GuardianThe legendary band that deigns to return to active service usually deals in familiarity: they sell records and gig tickets by reaffirming what their audience already knows. Anyone requiring evidence that the return of Public Image Ltd is the exception that proves the rule should listen to Human, the fifth track on the first PiL album since 1992. It certainly sounds like PiL: the disco drums, the spiky guitar, John Lydon's inimitable, quavering two-note vocal style. It's what he's singing about that gives you pause. "I miss," opines the former Johnny Rotten, "those English roses … cotton dresses skipping across the lawn/ Happy faces when football was not a yawn/ Playing on bombsites, all the days were long."...full text
PitchforkIt's almost as if history is repeating itself: a royal jubilee, a limply received Sex Pistols reunion, and now John Lydon has gone and reunited his post-Pistols band Public Image Ltd. PiL (as they're now known in abbreviated form) are best known for pioneering the post-punk sound with their meandering, dub-influenced music that seemed to creak and creep rather than bang out conventional riff-rock; but for all their supposed influence, how many classic albums of theirs could you name? I'd wager three: First Issue, Metal Box, and The Flowers of Romance, but only Metal Box is an airtight case for canonization. Following that strong three-album run, the band embarked on a turbulent course marked by slipshod albums and regrettable production choices, epitomizing themselves as a sort of tragic case of potential gone unfulfilled. But for a band that built its name on ripping up the rule book, what do Public Image Ltd. sound like 20 years since their last album, and over 30 since their first?
It's hard to decide if This Is PiL is a surprise or merely par for the course. Surprising, because it's not terrible-- it's arguably the band's best effort since 1984's maligned but salvageable This Is What You Want... This Is What You Get, and is slightly marred by similar issues of production and questionable songwriting. Which makes it exactly what we should have expected, right? Mixed in with the self-conscious imageering, down to the album title and opening track, which determinedly declares "This! Is! PiL!" over sluggish backing, it's also hard to tell whether or not they're taking the piss-- as on 1985's marketing send-up Album-- or if Lydon is ill-advisedly trying to re-establish himself. Either way, once that intro is out of the way, his band suddenly sounds hungry, alive, and passionate....full text
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