Release Date: May 29, 2012
Record label: Redeye Music Distribution
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Since John Lydon last made an album, he reunited the Sex Pistols and appeared on TV as a Judge Judy litigant, a reality-show contestant and a spokesman for Country Life butter; in short, he's become the punk-rock Kelly Ripa. But This Is PiL proves that the taunting weaponry of his voice is still a delight, as he drawls out syllables like an over-the-top TV villain. It's tough to sharpen a rusty tool, and Lydon's lyrics are often overshadowed by Lu Edmonds' piercing guitar drones.
Review Summary: Always a bitter PiL to swallowDo 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.
Both as an album opener after a ten year absence and a spiritual partner to Public Image, This is PiL is pretty much perfect. It's slightly odd and not content to retread old ground, yet equally quintessential PiL; loud, confident and a deliberate broadside at recent ventures of other past members of the band. Above all its designed to remind us that The Real Thing are back.
The 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.
A belch and a groan and a “Lucky you!” get the ball rolling for This is PiL, Public Image Limited’s first album in 20 years. It’s sort of John Lydon’s new way of saying “This is what you want, this is what you get”. Through the drama of Lydon pulling the plug on the promotional duties of his 1997 solo album, Psycho’s Path, becoming a spokesperson for butter, reuniting the Sex Pistols for a tour, and generally letting his big mouth take him wherever it will, we’ve all pined for new material in some form or another.
Reforming post-punk bands? It could be wrong, it could be right. Well, actually no, it’s shit. Magazine, Gang Of Four, they’re all at it these days – one time enemies of tradition, cashing the fuck in. The difference with John Lydon’s PiL comes down to lightly salted, and actually quite tasty, butter.
It'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.
Nearly three decades after John Lydon entered Malcolm McLaren's sex shop on King's Road and came out as punk's luminary antihero Johnny Rotten, Lydon pulled off an equally stunning, and arguably more grotesque, metamorphosis: He became a British TV icon. For years, Lydon's been a regular on the tube, popping up as reality show contestant, as grist for the late-night talk show mill, and most recently, as shill for Country Life English butter. What's left of that old Lydon—the man who once terrorized Top of the Pops as the frontman of the Sex Pistols, and inspired a thousand post-punk bands with his cult outfit Public Image Ltd.—is now preserved, it would seem, in a haircut, a frozen sneer, and an immortalized back catalogue.
Public Image Ltd.This Is PiL[PiL; 2012]By David Wolfson; June 22, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetOver the last few years, Public Image Ltd. and former Sex Pistols frontman John Lydon has labeled Radiohead “tosh,” U2 “a band that never should have existed,” Jay-Z “nonsense,” and Ozzy Osbourne “a senile delinquent.” Yes, it looks like PiL really is back, and after a few years of touring they’ve now given us their first studio effort in 20 years, entitled This Is PiL. Only this time, their bite doesn’t quite match their bark.
That Sex Pistols reunion a few years back must have whetted John Lydon's appetite for some reformation benefits. Lucky for him, he's got another band he can reunite with: Public Image Ltd-even if he's not using any of the original members. Missing from the 2012 lineup are guitarist Keith Levene and bassist Jah Wobble, both of whom were instrumental in defining the sound of PiL's seminal Metal Box album.
When Dick Clark died a few months ago, one of the most widely-circulated videos posted in his honor was a clip of Public Image Ltd.’s 1980 appearance on American Bandstand. The group performed “Poptones” and “Careering” in the most sneering, audience-friendly way possible and engaged in one of the most hilariously off-kilter interviews Clark was ever a part of on his own show. As a tribute to Clark’s unflappability, it’s an ideal document; however, it also speaks volumes about why Public Image Ltd.
In a general sense, a clone is an exact copy, be it an organism or a machine. We’ve all seen films and read stories about cloning – cloning a dead child in order to “bring them back to life” or cloning oneself multiple times to spread out the daily burdens of life. In reality, the potential problems are near incomprehensible, but in the fictional realms of literature and film, any problem that arises always seems rooted in the personality, because, no matter how exact a copy something is, the soul (and by extension the personality) cannot be copied.
This is not the Public Image Limited that you want. But really, how could it be? As much as we'd love to see what so many consider to be the "perfect" lineup of this ever-morphing band, John Lydon is too headstrong to bother with mending the bridges he burned with former members Keith Levene and Jah Wobble, the two central figures behind PiL's best work. So, for the first new collection of material in 20 years, what we are given is a group of artists struggling to prove there's still some fire left in the tank to an audience that just wants to hear "Memories" and "Rise" one more time.
This is PIL... indeed. This is belligerent from the outset, from the title even; a wrestling back of the spotlight and a testy swipe at any opposing PiLs that might be regrouping and performing small club gigs in the north of England. Of course, I refer to the recent Wobble / Levene outings that saw the duo reunited for dubbed up run-throughs of Metal Box, concluding with steely renditions of 'Public Image'.
Rotten returns with a curious mixture of rage and nostalgia. Johnny Sharp 2012 Fittingly, it begins with a long, unrepentant burp. A dubby rumble of bass and icy chimes of guitar follow closely behind, and already we’re back inside a sonic blueprint that helped define the post-punk era. "This is PiL," is the prowling war cry of this opening title-track, "And we’re quite a-PiL-ing!” Hardly vintage repartee, but that’s not because Mr Lydon is short of things to say.