Music

Public Image Limited: This Is PiL

This is what you want, this is what you get.


Public Image Limited

This is PiL

Label: PiL Official
US Release Date: 2012-05-29
UK Release Date: 2012-05-28
Label website
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

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. And when 20 years fly by, people are naturally curious to hear if there are 20 years worth of growth in the sound. What does PiL sound like in 2012? In the spirit of a punk kid who has learned to adapt to middle age in a post-everything pop culture where irony and sincerity are constantly being mistaken for one another, Lydon begins the album with a burp...and an unceremonious one at that.

The more technical answer is that the 2012 Public Image Limited sounds roughly the way you think it should. Less heavy that 1992's That What Is Not and far less electronic than Lydon's solo album, This is PiL updates the sound of the band without making it trendy. The guitar sounds are full-bodied with clean reverb, and the rhythm section continues to be the tight anchor upon which PiL has built its foundation. Lydon's voice has developed a rasp from years of yelping (wouldn't yours?) but prefers to exploit it rather than use effects to obfuscate it. As expected, the personnel have shifted again. With Lu Edmonds on guitar, Scott Firth on bass, and Bruce Smith on drums, they do a remarkable job of capturing the sound of the PiL of old while never sounding antiquated. It's either an indication of Lydon's dominance over the group, a testament to his abilities to pick the right musicians, or most likely a combination of the two.

John Lydon has been known to compare Africa to the Garden of Eden. The continent's romance is a likely source of inspiration for Pulic Image Limited's heavy use of repetition. No matter the lyrical subject matter (and some of it is heavily nostalgic), the music continues to spin around and around, luring you so far into a trance that you may not notice that the final track "Out of the Woods" is nearly ten minutes long. The words and music continue to operate at cross purposes; the band flexes highly danceable beats while Lydon takes on many trips in and around his memory. He uses both "One Drop" and "Reggie Song" to announce that he is from London, but he's also careful to remind us that this doesn't really matter. His cautionary drug tale “The Room I Am In” works in a manner similar to “Religion” from PiL’s debut; recitation of a poem, which then gets set to music. His view of the political leaders from his homeland has unsurprisingly not softened over time, referring them to "bristled bastards" in "Deeper Water" that are "not good enough for you" in "Human". "England's died!", he proclaims in the latter. And take a wild guess where he's rather be? "Shine like a beacon in the Garden of Eden / There are no bad seasons /no reasons for leaving". Only "Fool" allows things to descend into a deep funk. Edmonds doesn't even bother to correct his mistakes.

The one song with the most impact is the one that PiL put the least amount of effort into arranging. Lydon told Rolling Stone that "Deeper Water" was a group improvisation done in one take. Lu Edmonds sounds the bells the moment Smith pushes the boat into the water. Lydon takes his voice from the top of his register to the bottom, letting the deep echoes carry the sound outward while Edmonds switches back and forth between a clean upper register jangle and a descending line pointing to the boat's doom. When John Lydon sings "I will not drown", it doesn't sound too confident. It sounds like a guy who just tied a knot in the rope before hoping for the best.

PiL still has power. If John Lydon and his current crew of misfits continue to stay the course, we are going to see some classic works that'll stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the band's commercial and artistic heyday. You could already make that case for This is PiL. Lucky us.

7

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image