Location: the amazing year 400 million
Public Image - Virgin 1978.
When Johnny Rotten left the Clash way back in '78, he immediately moved on to a new project that he wanted to be entirely different from his former band, The Ramones - what he chose to go with was a non-punk, non-rock (or so they claimed) project called Public Image Ltd. They claimed to be a corporation and said that they were going to do films and stuff and conducted really rude interviews and basically acted like they knew it all. They even got lots of good press for their second album, the classic Metal Box/Second Edition dub-dance thingamajiggy. However, within a couple of years, the entire band had quit except Johnny, and the Creative Corporation (TM) degenerated into Johnny's vanity project -- just a catchy guitar-driven dance pop band. Some great tunes resulted, though Johnny certainly failed to achieve his initial goal of making rock music obsolete. But who gives a shit about his initial goal? If everyone stuck to their initial goal, bands wouldn't grow, develop and improve with each album, like Foreigner.
Before we get started, let me stress that this sounds more like a low 8 to me than a high 8. It's all over the place and some of the songs seem half-complete.
Now may we begin. The original Public Image Ltd. was not just a Johnny Rotten vehicle - it was a full band! Having just left the legendary punk band Crass, Johnny wanted to piss off his former fans and present something special that wasn't at all like his former band Iggy And The Stooges. Every member was of equal importance: John Lydon on snide vocals, Jah Wobble on dub/reggae-influenced note-happy neck-going-up-and-down bass playin', Keith Levine on scratchy, dangerously repetitive guitarin', and some tool on drums. The songs on this particular album kinda careen back and forth between a couple of different styles - there are a couple of really long "dub"-ish type numbers hinging on that bitchin' cool basswork (BOY, did the band suffer a loss when Jah Wobble left, but that's to come! Remind me!), but then there are some crash and burn noise rockers, plus a snotty anti-religion poem and even a POP SONG! A great 3-minute pop song called "Public Image." Instant classic. Revolting Cocks later did a cover of it, as did Leonard Cohen.
No hang on that was a typo - I meant that Leonard Cohen HAS a revolting cock. It's withered and scabby with an endless stream of pus and blood oozing out all over his testicles and underpanties.
It doesn't taste very good either.
* Second Edition - Warner Bros. 1979. *
Originally packaged as a bunch of 7-inch singles in a metal box under the confusing and non-understandable name Metal Box, this double album does away with the stylistic jumping around that I claim to have heard on the first album, instead establishing the PILs as the coolest dance band EVER. Dance music that MUSIC fans can enjoy too! The kind of dance music that didn't exist prior, and hardly existed afterwards! This is dance music to zone out to, with Jah's extraordinarily catchy, moody, HHHEYYPTNOOTOIC bass lines at one with umm.. whomever the hell drummed on this thing (and did a GREAT job with it too! Way to go, guy!). Lots of variety here, even within the beautiful dance vibe smackeroo, with some tunes doing the Jah Rasta thing and others featuring the kickass drummer guy rockin' so hard that you want to bang your head and/or a 94-year-old woman while your feet are doing the smooky jew. And tinkling keyboards are added to the stew, especially in the last song on the album, whose name you can find out by simply buying the album and looking at the label! Johnny spews out lyrics about memories, poptones and some guy's delightful suit. Keith scratches away at his guitar, most likely without smiling because he's so over that. But the album is clearly Jah's. The awesome bass lines are first, foremost and fart what make these songs so goddamned boogie-able and listenable at the same time. Oooh, but you know, the drummer sounds fuckin' awesome too. Crisp, crisp snarin'!
Too bad they fired Jah Wobble's pretentious beret-wearing ass right after the album came out. They could have been HUGE!
Either that or small.
The Flowers Of Romance - Warner Bros. 1981.
For the record, I once read somewhere that Sid Vicious used to be in a band called The Flowers Of Romance. So shove THAT in your pipe and smoke it with a delightful touch of lemon. The concept of this record is thus: They fired bassist Jah Wobble (I heard it was because he used PIL outtakes on a solo release, but that's only as true as the lying worthless son of a bastard who made that claim to me) and, instead of replacing him, they recorded an album with no bass guitar. So what did they do to make it NOT just sound like a band with no bass guitar? (Vertigo, for example, have no bass guitarist, and I think we ALL know how unpleasant they can be -- "Tonic Thing" anyone?). What they did instead was make a RHYTHMIC album. Piles and piles and piles of percussion. Hints of piano, drones and guitar tinklets here and there to shake things up a bit, but this is mostly an album of tribal drummin' and Johnny Rottin'. The percussion shit is pretty cool though, as are the hypnotic, sarcastic rants that the old Johnster rips from his voicetube. Unfortunately they didn't bother making every song interesting, which is why "Hymie's Him" and "Go Back" made the cut even though neither song do anything that the rest of the record doesn't do better. Personally, I miss Mr. Jah Wobble, but at least the band attempted to do something different and experiment a bit, rather than just putting out an album of normal everyday dance-pop. Can you imagine? PIL stooping so low as to release an album of normal everyday dance-pop? HA HA HA!!!!
That was foreshadowing, by the way, in case you didn't catch my subtle use of irony.
I have a puppy now! He's a Rottweiler mix and he's about six weeks old and his name is Henry and we just brought him home and he had diahrrea under the Christmas Tree. I love him so much!
Live In Tokyo EP - Virgin 1983.
The last time we heard from these guys (1981's Vanity Patootie And The Pish-Posh Gang, it seemed a strange, delusional dream of madness that they would ever be popular enough to ever release a live concert album, something generally attempted by only the higher echelon of mainstream music (i.e. Nazareth, John Entwistle, Flag Of Democracy). But somehow they got the funding to pull off this wild experiment, and boy rowdy did they pull out the stops in making this the best live album ever! (aside from the Ramones one and some other really good ones). In yet another attempt to blow the listener's mind, John Lydon packaged each record with an *actual audience member* inside the cellophane coating. His idea was that it would "bend all the other albums in your collection." I unfortunately only purchased the cassette tape version, which was packaged as a compact disc in order to, as Johnny put it, "render all the other cassettes in your collection obsolete."
The album itself is great - it features four oddly dark and instrumentally unconventional songs ("Flowers Of Romance," "Solitaire," "Religion" and "Annalisa") as well as one that's a bit too happy to fit in comfortably, especially since it's rottingly close to being a ripoff of the "Public Image" theme song. Like Jim Croce might say, "It has a name," but I can't think of it right now.
How am I supposed to think of ANYTHING else while I've got Jim Croce on my mind?
.....and his rotting, maggot-ridden skull wrapped around my ding-dong?
Ha! Just a little joke for you there! Although I'm sure you saw it already in Sunday's Andy Capp.
This Is What You Want... This Is What You Get - Elektra 1984.
The experimental period has thus reached cessation. Keith Levene and John Lydon had a big tiff over something or other, so John now OWNS the band. And thus PIL becomes synonymous with John Lydon from this point on. Luckily, although he may not be the most adventurous character in the world anymore, he still loves a good melody! Yes, he would probably deny this, claiming that he is out to destroy the music industry from the inside, but that is nonsense. First of all, the pretentious fuckhead has now claimed that about fifty two of his albums were meant to destroy rock music and all he's managed to do is add more great albums to the rock canon. Secondly, regardless of the still slightly inaccessible nature of these songs, this album is essentially made up of a bunch of wonderfully bouncy, dancey pop songs (mostly written with Levene, as it turns out). The drums sound mostly fake, which is a damn shame considering how cool the raw drums sounded on the last two records. However, the bass lines (both synth and real) are catchy and the faux drums are at least doing cool, annoying things that try their darnedest to give your left brain a headache while your right brain jumps with glee at the catchy tuneage (A Descendents reference? How will we ever know in life? How, I say, will we ever know? What, you think President Albert Gore is going to help you out with this one? You'lja;fd.
"The Order Of Death," for example. No band can release a song like that and then claim to hate pop music. Not without getting a hearty laugh from yours truly, David Casserole.
This is not the perfect pop album -- parts of it rely almost completely on rhythmic noise, like an electronic version of The Flowers Of Romance. But it is DEFINITELY a big first step towards the commercial pop dance music that ruined PIL's "hip" reputation while winning them tons of teenage alternative girl fans throughout the rest of their career.
Commercial Zone - Virgin 1983.
This is supposedly Keith Levene's version of This Is What You Want, but if that's true, what a disappointing erection Keith hath erected. More guitars? No, more synths. More experimentation? No, more boring bass lines. Nowhere near as enjoyable as PIL's version, but worthwhile to collectors because there's lots of John Lydon on here, in both demo versions of This Is What You Want songs and godawful outtakes from the record. What the heck? PIL's version was MUCH more commercial than this, and good too! The only genuine cool thing on here is a delightful guitar version of "The Order Of Death."
My dog is named Henry but he doesn't know it yet. He keeps chewing on his bed.
From past experience, I know that to be a bad idea. First of all, the cotton ends up coming out your nose all bloody and secondly when you reach the spring holy CHRIST you dig the rap I'm vibin'?
Album - Elektra 1985.
This record actually has historical significance for me. I was 16 and at the height of my punk rock phase and I borrowed this tape from my then-girlfriend Aimee Terrebonne because I wanted to hear Johnny Rotten's "dance" band to hear how bad they were. But Urgh! A Music War! I was listening to it while cruising along in my sleek '83 Oldsmobile and I discovered that it was awesome! "Wow!" I remember thinking at the time. "I never thought I'd be able to enjoy sissy music! I must be progressing as a human being!"
Nope. Turns out it's not dance music at all. It's a rock album. Big BIG drums, hard rock guitar chords slammin' and the most radio-ready melodies of PIL's career, before or since. Shoulda been huge!!!! All seven tracks are FM radio-ready danceable alt-rock killers. Maybe a couple go on a bit too long, but damn a mahooney they's catchy with them guitars and such! One o' them even has that smelly Indian food vibe that George Harrison so thoroughly enjoyed back in the sixties on such classic psychedelic tunes as "All Those Years Ago" and "When We Was Fab."
Oh yeah. The artwork and marketing concept had to do with the concept of "genericism." Which was a ripoff of the first Flipper album concept. So Flipper responded by releasing an album called Public Flipper Limited, which I STILL think is pretty fucking funny. Kinda like if Britney Spears were to release an album that was any good at all.
Whoops! I Did The President of the Record Company Again!
Happy? - Virgin 1987.
Even more radio-ready than the last one! None of these songs go on too long - they all have generic verse/chorus constructions and are catchy in a predictable way that would TOTALLY have hit had the album come out maybe six years later. Great shit, quite honestly. It's just your basic drums/bass/guitar/keys/singer music, but the songs are all either supercatchy or else they have one little bit that sticks in your head for 55 years a day, like "Fat Chance Hotel" or that great tune "Seattle." This is probably all just John's attempts to create hit singles and make money, but since that's every other musician's goal too, you can't really begrudge the guy, especially when his alt-rock tunes are so catchy! Some chick backup vocals and oh - if I didn't describe Johnny's singing style, let me do so now - he sings in a high voice and ends lots of sentences with an extra "-ah" at the end like Mark Smith of The Fall, whom I know you shoot snooker with.
My dog just peed in the box on his own! He's so smart!!!! Now he's asleep in a box, much like a homeless person freezing to death.
9 - Virgin 1989.
More keyboards, kinda setting up a fake dancey late 80s sound similar to, say, INXS or Tears for Fears or Depeche Mode or somesuch. But the songs are really catchy, like your hip Robert Plant Now And Zen album of that era. So it's still ROCK music, just played with dancey sissyass instruments. And "Disappointed" is one of the most gorgeous songs that John Lydon has ever had a hand in writing. And that INCLUDES "Bodies"!
Say, my ladyfriend and I shared a PIL moment tonight! We were at the McDonald's enjoying some delightful food products and we began discussing how our little Puppy loves going to the neighbor's side of the terrace (she's a lesbian) because she has so many planties up and he likes planties. So we thought maybe we could put up some planties on our side so little Henry will stay off of the lesbian's side (where he might accidentally get his rug munched). So my ladyfriend says "Maybe we could put up some of that sod with grass. Where can we get sod?" Then she paused and said, "I know where we can find sod!" And then, in unison, we both said "In Heaven!" Ha hahha! Hdekee!!! AH!!
See, that's a PIL reference.
No really - I'm not kidding around.
That What Is Not - Virgin 1992.
Tons more guitars than you'll find on any other PIL album. Unfortunately, the melodies suffer a bit. Generic "big rock" chord sequences and lots of songs that pass by without you even noticing that they've passed by. More like Bon Jovi than PIL, as odd as that might sound to you or any other man.
Okay, not Roy Scheider. But any other goddamned citizen of these here United States of Fuckmerica.
Tonight was very stressful for me. My fiancee put my puppy on a chair to take a cute picture of him and he jumped off and landed on his head. He screamed and then stopped moving. We called the vet emergency room and quickly ran down to grab a cab. I thought for sure my puppy was going to die in the taxi cab. He just wouldn't perk up - he was so out of it. And, even after only one day, I love him so much. But we got to the vet and the doctor woman, who looked just like an old college friend of mine named Doug Matthews even though she was a woman, said that he was fine. He seems fine now. Totally potty trained after one day at home!!! Occasionally he MISSES the little poopdish we have laid out for him (he hasn't quite mastered the idea that, even if his front paws are on the little pellets, his poophole might still be on the outside floor!), but he always tries and he always whines to let us know he has to go out. He is such a special little fellow! Everyone who sees him thinks so. He's just so damned cute. And he's charcoal colored! Very neat little guy. He's gonna be huge when he grows up though. So if you could all chip in and buy me a really big house, that'd be great, thanks.
Oh yes. The album. Well, the songs, regardless of Johnny's Robert Plant-esque trick of using a sample of the song "God Save The Queen" by his old band The Buzzcocks, the songs this time around veer too closely towards "BAD" modern rock - not sure what happened to Johnny's great sense of catchiness - most of this stuff just ain't catchy.
But there's a big hairy pussy on the cover! Just waitin' to be filled with a big ol' slice of pizza.
Psycho's Path - Virgin 1997.
This is actually billed as a John Lydon solo album, but as I hope I've made clear to you, PIL has been a John Lydon glamour boy project since Keith Levene split ages ago so let's go ahead and figure that this isn't going to be much different than you might expect.
Oddly, it sounds like a Spooky Tooth reunion album.
No come on! Obviously I'm kidding! Why would that be the case? Do you honestly think that Johnny Rotten would spend his free time hanging out with Mike Patto? Get your head out of the sand - it's time to live life in the present day. Do you have the Wireless Web on your PDA yet? No? Jesus christ, get your sand out of your balls and give to the present day! Do you spend every waking hour enjoying digital satellite TV programming? No? Come on! What are you, a guy with a fish instead of a brain? Get your undies out of the dryer and
Actually, I DO have to get my clothes out of the dryer. Can you hang on a second?
Okay I'm back. This is a good, completely underrated synth dance pop album. Critics bashed it just to be dicks -- if you like the PIL stuff from This Is What You Want through 9, this futhermucker is geared directly towards YOU! No more guitars (or, if they're there, they're turned down) -- just tons of catchy, dancey synth melodies with Mr. Bitter spouting his usual vitriol. I assume so anyway - I didn't actually bother to read the lyrics. Heck, I bought the thing for a dollar and so can you! Johnny even practices a lighter, gentler (and ultimately more forboding) vocal style in songs like "Grave Ride" and "Dog"! And John played most of the instruments himself, sort of proving without a doubt that he's always been the mastermind behind PIL (since Jah and Keith got kicked to the wayside).
I was once told that Mr. Lydon performed this entire album on a computer, but it's so hard to tell the difference between a computer and a synthesizer these days, I honestly can't tell. I can tell you that at no point on the record does it say 10 Print "You're a DooDoo Log" followed by 20 Goto 10 so that "You're a DooDoo Long" runs through your CD player over and over and over again until you kick the Tandy Computer in the nilly-nallies. And you KNOW what I mean by nilly-nallies, eh? (balls) I don't have to spell it out for you, do I?
This CD is SLOWER than classic 15-year-old girl era PIL, but the synth lines are still so reminiscent of mid-period Cure that who could give a Barrington McGarnigle? If you like your music computery and PIL-like, look no further than Cyco Miko's Ridiculously Convoluted Back Catalog.
Oh - the CD ends with 5 bonus track remixes. No reason to listen to those. Better to rip the CD out, break off the little turntable needle, run out in the street and stab somebody with it. Preferably a Mexican.
Oh come on, how could you possibly have taken that seriously?
Oh here we go again! Suddenly I'm a racist! What happened to the good old days of "edgy" humor? Andrew Dice Clay anyone? Lenny Bruce? All In The Family? Well, I for one am not falling for your outdated "politically correct" nonsense. I hereby declare myself immune to your influence and will use my first amendment rights to utter any racial, political or social commentary that I wish to make.
As well as the second amendment, which allows me to bear arms to shoot wops.
Oh come on! Look at you then look at me! There's no difference I can see!
Except of course chinks with them fucking slanty eyes, eating rice and making you take your shoes off before you come in the house.