thu 25/07/2024

Album: Public Image Limited - End of World | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Public Image Limited - End of World

Album: Public Image Limited - End of World

PiL powers on: invective undimmed, sound cauterising, but with sparks of wit and love

Warrior or Horseman of the Apocalypse? Artwork by John LydonWasted Youth Music

The world might end with a whimper or an inferno, but it’s hard to imagine a day will dawn that extinguishes John Lydon’s scorn for other people’s fecklessness and idiocy. That hand-made polemic typically drives the cauterising post-punk hosannahs and disarming post-pop ditties on Public Image Limited’s 11th studio album.

Maintaining the momentum of This Is PiL (2012) and What the World Needs Now (2015), also recorded with the settled lineup of Lydon, Lu Edmonds (guitar), Bruce Smith (drums), and Scott Firth (bass and keyboards), End of World opens with two barnstormers. "Penge", seemingly named for an old Danish term for filthy lucre rather than the South London suburb, is a we’re-coming-for-you Viking anthem, PiL’s ominous answer to Led Zep’s “immigrant Song” – Lydon’s growl duelling at the end with his overdubbed howl. 

On the cacophonous title track, not PiL’s first salute to defiance, Smith’s pounding ushers in a maelstrom of siren sounds from Edmonds. He plays a chainsaw on “Car Chase” – about a mental hospital patient who breaks out for nocturnal rambles – but it’s mixed comparatively low. An anti-wokeness diatribe, “Being Stupid Again” sounds (when played loud with headphones on) as if Edmonds wants to scour out the listener’s skull.

Lydon’s invective is at its slyest and funniest here. Like a music-hall comic parodying nobs and numbskulls, he quick-changes his voice as he targets all the “martyrs and morons”, “liars, fakers, cheats and frauds” (Firth sending up synth bubbles as Lydon targets music critics on "LFCF"), wanton girls, pervs and whores, snowflake liberals, the self-deluding, cowards.

It’s not all vitriol. The record closes on “Hawaii”, Lydon’s tender elegy inspired by his wife Nora Forster's struggle with Alzheimer’s disease; she died on 6 April. Other songs he sings in a lighter register than usual – “Walls Away”, “Down on the Clown” – confer an unexpected grooviness to the middle of the record. “Dirty Murky Delight” artfully counterpoints its excoriation of sexual self-enslavement with its insouciant lounge vibe and Lydon’s spoken rap.

There’s another rap on “The Do That”, a song about non-compliance and holding different opinions as nuts as This Is Pil's “Lollipop Opera”. It’s one of several tracks that tempers the initial onslaught, but “North West Passage” restores it – Lydon casting himself as a demented trapper driving his huskies through icy wastes to a place of safety and regeneration. 

Like the slow, desert-y “Strange” – its Native American atmosphere recalling “Warrior” and “Big Blue Sky” – the song is proof that Lydon, though his words tumble out stream-of-consciousness style, is a dab hand at applying metaphors of alienation and survival to his own predicaments without dishonouring wilderness nomads of yore. Long may he and his merry men endure.

Lydon is a dab hand at applying metaphors of alienation and survival to his predicaments

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Average: 4 (1 vote)

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