sat 19/10/2019

CD: Public Image Ltd - This Is PiL | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Public Image Ltd - This Is PiL

CD: Public Image Ltd - This Is PiL

The former Johnny Rotten shows he still has fuel left in the tank

PiL, post-punk icons best represented by an insectoid buffalo

Lydon is currently having a slight return. I caught PiL’s gig at Heaven a few weeks ago (featured as a bonus DVD disc on the deluxe edition of This Is PiL and reviewed elsewhere on theartsdesk). I wasn’t expecting much. Lydon, once the edgy heart of British punk, a mercurial, snidely uncomfortable presence, has graduated over the years into an eye-rolling pantomime dame and, of course, the butter ads and other misguided media forays forever tarnished his pithy societal spite. The concert, however, was visceral. PiL’s current incarnation are a musical force to be reckoned with and played for a pummelling two-and-a-half hours. They were on fire. Thus I came to this album, PiL’s ninth, excited. And it rewards that faith in places - sometimes it's almost great.

This is PiL is the sound of a man rediscovering what he’s good at whilst not quite getting where he wishes he could go. The support he gets from his band is formidable – world music/punk perennial Lu Edmonds on guitar, sessioneer Scott Firth on bass and Pop Group/Slits drummer Bruce Smith. They jam up a bass-heavy avant-dub storm, tinted with Middle Eastern chord structures and scratchy post punk guitar. Lydon fronts it all with verve, shouty and nasal by turn, but his looping oblique verbal broadsides are a hit’n’miss affair.

Longterm fans could ask for no more than songs such as the pulsing “One Drop”, the relentless “Out of the Woods”, and the clanging, aggressive “Deeper Water”. Even when less effective, it’s still appealingly off key – as on the strange abstract poetry of “The Room I Am In” or the angular “It Said That” (sample lyric: “It said what?/ What did it said?/ It said that/ Well that is a rat/ Rat-a-tat-tat”). What’s exciting is that where his music over the last decade and a half has sometimes appeared to be just another branch of brand Lydon, here he seems focused, driven. There are a few meandering forgettable tracks but, overall, it’s his most enjoyable album in at least 25 years and, even better, seems to hold the promise of treats to come.

Watch the video for "One Drop"

The sound of a man rediscovering what he’s good at whilst not quite getting where he wishes he could go


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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