Release Date: Sep 4, 2015
Record label: PiL Official
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Whatever free passes he’s earned, John Lydon proved he didn’t need them for PiL’s 2012 This Is PiL, his post-Pistols band’s first album in 20 years. Now, feet found, PiL get back to wrong-footing their listeners. Blasting in with Double Trouble, a bristling, staccato scrapper, the up-and-at-em energy rarely ebbs, peaking in the itchily danceable punk funk of Whole Life Time and the lurching, dub-metallic rage of Corporate.
It's an era of seemingly endless reunions, as long-dead bands are rising from the grave, whether to headline festivals for a quick payday or set off on one last tour to feel young again. Sometimes, these reunited outfits will even crank out new records, though more often than not, they crash and burn in a desperate attempt to recapture former glories. That's precisely what's made the return of Public Image Ltd.
Lydon’s return rolls on... What the world wanted in 2012 wasn’t a PiL reunion minus Jah Wobble and Keith Levene. But latter-day band veterans Lu Edmonds (guitar) and Bruce Smith (drums), plus bassist Scott Firth, gave John Lydon the support and dub-wise space he needed to revive his writing and remarkable voice. ADVERTISINGinRead invented by Teads _ _ .
A fuzzy drum and bass track booms out as a man bellows over the top, "What, you f--king nagging again? About what? What what? The toilet's f---ing broken again?!?" Is it a new single from the Sleaford Mods? No, not quite -- it's the opening tune from What the World Needs Now, the second album from John Lydon's 21st century edition of Public Image Ltd. While Jason Williamson may be upholding the great tradition of world-class ranters in pop music, the artist formerly known as Johnny Rotten is still the undisputed champion, and even as he's pushing 60, Lydon's eccentric speechifying about domestic discord, destructive lifestyles, man's relationship with danger, America's obsession with sex, and a rich variety of other things that get under his skin, continue to signify and give this music its backbone. Lydon's pronouncements here sound more grandly operatic than he did in the '70s and '80s, but the vitriol that made him the most loved and hated man in the United Kingdom is still in ready supply, and his lyrics -- sometimes carefully composed, other times consisting of dubwise chanting that seems to have emerged from his imagination while the band jammed -- are, by themselves, strong enough to give this album a reason to be.
John Lydon is angry. Really angry. But what’s stoked the ire of the punk perennial this time? The fascist regime, perhaps? Or is it that we never listened to a word that he said? No, it’s worse than that. The toilet’s broken. “I repaired that, I told ya, get the plumber in again! (and again ….
Whether you think the world needs another Public Image Ltd record depends entirely on how you feel about John Lydon. The cantankerous master antagonist rarely invokes an ambivalent reaction in people: it's either love or hate. The fact he's been creating an array of startling, throttling sounds for nearly 40 years is, sadly, almost a sideshow. .
“Lucky you,” began John Lydon’s radio announcer-like intro to Public Image Ltd.’s 2012’s “reunion” album This Is PiL. “You are now entering a PiL zone!” The 59-year-old anar-chist went on to redefine himself on that record, for the umpteenth time in his career: “I am no vulture / This is my culture” (the dubbily departed Jah Wobble may disagree). “We come from chaos / You cannot change us” served as his band’s mantra.
There is a song on ‘What The World Needs Now…’ called ‘I’m Not Satisfied’. Coming, as this sentiment does, from the former Johnny Rotten, the fact hardly needs to be plainly stated. But if John Lydon – one-time Sex Pistol, occasional butter salesman, eternal malcontent – hasn’t exactly mellowed in his old age, we can at least determine a few things that he loves.Public Image Ltd, for instance.
John Lydon doesn’t seem like the jealous type. But I like to imagine that when he relaunched Public Image Ltd. six years ago, he saw the extended careers of peers like Mark E. Smith or David Thomas—iconic singers who can make interesting music with pretty much anyone—and thought, "Shit, I can do that too." He’d likely snort at the suggestion, but whatever his motivation, the two latest PiL albums are similar to recent Fall and Pere Ubu efforts: They’re solid not because of the songs, but because of the singer.
In an era where numerous veteran pop bands are reuniting and managing to release one album before re-imploding, it’s bands like Crowded House and Public Image Ltd. that are, so far, proving to be the exception by maintaining an active career beyond just an album and a tour. PiL, in particular, makes for a strange case. Fresh off the heels of the Sex Pistols brief, high octane run, Johnny Rotten became John Lydon and immediately took to a different form of punk, which we now think of as the post-punk crossed with the goth movement of the early ‘80s.
‘What the World Needs Now’ ends with ‘Shoom’ which, over its 6.32 seconds, features John Lydon shouting the word ‘bollocks’ approximately 50 times (Never mind the bollocks indeed). The song starts with the lyrics “Fuck you, fuck off, fuck sex, it’s bollocks. All sex is bollocks.” Yet the chorus sees him bellow with passion and zeal “What the world needs now… is another fuck off.” It highlights the contradictory contrariness of Public Image Ltd and John Lydon.
Their radical early LPs First Issue and Metal Box ensured Public Image Limited arrived with a bang, but for years it appeared that the former post-punk radicals had ended with the whimper that was 1992’s distinctly average That What Is Not. Eventually, however, after Sex Pistols reunions, reality TV slots and butter ads, John Lydon finally reconvened PiL and recorded a sharp, focused comeback LP (2012’s This Is PiL) with a fresh line-up involving new bassist Scott Firth and previous PiL comrades Lu Edmonds and Bruce Smith. The band’s latest LP, their 10th, What The World Needs Now…, feels like a natural successor.
Back in the wild days of 2007, Iggy Pop decided to take his Stooges out for another spin. Their comeback album, The Weirdness, was hotly anticipated, and was well received by the music press of the time, despite being a bit, whisper it, underwhelming. It seemed like everyone was too caught up in the hype, glad that the forefathers of all things rock and roll were back doing their thing to really listen to the rather weak sounding comeback.
January 1978, and the garb of Johnny Rotten no longer fits the Sex Pistols frontman. His dilated stare, previously a mere accompaniment to the latest McClaren/Westwood 'Sex' boutique fashion statement, has a degree of newly found autonomy. The iconic goggle is no longer found to be vacant, with Rotten harbouring a plot to reform his public image, that is, to his own liking.
This is a tricky one. Public Image Ltd.’s tenth studio album, What the World Needs Now, is a record of great spirit and assertion, John Lydon remaining one of modern music’s most charismatic voices. Throughout the album, he is as wild-eyed, impassioned and indignant as ever, and, forty years into his career, his voice is in remarkable shape. On the record’s gentler tracks, such as “The One”, he adopts a vibrato of genuine tenderness; in more propulsive contexts, like “I’m Not Satisfied”, he demonstrates that he has lost none of the old menace.