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Public Image Ltd. Song Reviews


First Issue (1978)

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First Issue

Theme A-

Way to be so non-punk as to create a song that’s nine minutes long! Who do you think you are, John Lydon????? … He’s certainly going down a Kraut-rock vein with this overly repetitive and extremely sloppy song much like early Can. That means this song has been predated at least 10 years! However, that doesn’t mean the effort wasn’t pulled off extraordinarily well. It was!! Despite its nature, this is quite a bit more readily digestible than its predecessors… It’s nothing too weird nor obscure. The instrumentalists flood the track with chomping guitars, Jah Wobble’s phenomenal bass-work and, of course, there’s Lydon is belting off the lyrics like a perfect madman. Well, he’s the main attraction, after all.

Religion I B-

Lydon reads an anti-religion sermon for a minute and a half.

Religion II B

He repeats his sermon except the band chimes in with their choppy, Kraut-rock chords! I won’t dare calling this experimental since it sounds mainstream compared to the bands that pioneered this in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, but it’s an entertaining extrapolation. Their disjointed loop has enough inertia to keep it going for its seven-minute running length.

Annalisa A

Here’s the proof that these guys were not so interested in experimentation but pop music! … I mean, unless they came up with this infectious groove by accident or something. The instrumentals continue to be sloppy and in the same spirit of the previous track. Lydon screams the lyrics, as usual!

Public Image A+

Alright, this song is awesome. It’s better than “Anarchy in the U.K.” It’s catchy and Lydon’s warbly vocal performance is remarkably engaging. The guitars are just heavy enough to have bite, but they're delicate enough to dazzle us with their intricate textures. This is absolutely fantastic!

Low Life A-

These final three songs were reportedly recorded in a demo studio because the band ran out of money. I wouldn’t have known that if they didn’t tell me. That might not even be true. This song another very enjoyable and catchy would-be Kraut-rock song. The instrumentalists are as tight as ever and our favorite intelligent madman is in top form.

Attack B

This sounds more punkish than anything on The Sex Pistols album! The song length is three minutes long, and the guitars are just a little more choppy and the chord progressions more primitive. Lydon screams unintelligible words with a huge echo. I can’t accuse this being non-entertaining!

Fodderstompf B+

This is just silly! It features catchy urban/funk groove with a number of electronic embellishments. Lydon’s speak-sings in a falsetto voice, and it’s very silly! It goes on for about eight minutes, which is a tad overlong. (And then they put these lyrics in the song: “We only wanted to finish the album with the minimum amount of effort.”) You’ll love this song considering how well you can embrace that guy’s sarcasm and “dramatic performances.” Well, he’s certainly clever.


Second Edition (1979)

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Second Edition

Albatross B+

This track goes on for 10 minutes with the same, creepy bass and drum-line. Lydon delivers spacey lyrics and Levene delivers appropriately minimal and spacey guitar licks in the background. It’s much less like Can this time and they seem to have found their own, focused personality this time! A lot of bands would want to sound like this later on (Lydon sounds uncannily like Morrissey, for instance). The length is the major drawback, although the textures change around enough to keep it interesting more or less.

Memories A+

This drugged up, minimal dance song seems to embody everything that’s post-punk. Lydon said he didn’t think this music was trendy? It’s still trendy, as far as I’m concerned. The instrumentation is remarkably creepy with a jangly guitar popping around here and there. I won’t bother trying to describe every facet of this song, but it’s not just fun but remarkably creative!

Swan Lake A+

Really awesome! This is more of the wild, upbeat variety of post-punk music with a quasi-disco bass-line and (as hinted by the song title) lines incorporated from Tchaikovsky’s ballet! That was an odd idea that managed to come to full fruition. The instrumentation is involved and very good! I’m not so sure I like the ending, which runs like a broken record, though. The four minute running length is just right, though.

Pop Tones A

Eight minutes long! This groove is as infectious as a drug addiction though and, as I imagine it, must have the same sort of effect. It’s ugly, but I can’t bear to draw myself away from it. Lydon’s vocals are delivered well, but they’re not the main attraction! (A major step forward from The Sex Pistols, if you ask me.)

Careering A+

What an atmosphere! It draws me right in… the sound effects are remarkable and lend the thing a creepy, industrial feel. The bass is wonderful, trudging along with a misleadingly lighthearted pace. As usual Lydon comes along with his spaced-out vocals. This song is artsy and very accessible (to my tastes)… perfect!

Socialist B

Not that the other songs didn’t go in circles, but this one’s getting a bit annoying about it. The drum-line is busy and the bass line is more monotonous than anything. The calculator sound effects are a nice bit, though, and I like the ending.

Graveyard B

The groove is a little creepier, which is a good thing, but honestly it’s not that affecting! It’s sort of related to the previous track. It’s a bit noisier and not so emotional! The groove is alright, but this one seems to be lacking substance in general apart from the enjoyable, distorted guitar.

The Suit B+

Another drugged up disco groove! This one’s put to a rather quiet drumbeat and Lydon singing silly lyrics with his famous sneer.

Bad Baby A-

Lydon’s vocals are more involved here (sometimes overdubbing itself) in a remarkably drugged up disco dance song! The groove is catchy and the drum is more involved. Some sort of minimalist is playing a one-dimensional keyboard as a messed up sound effect.

No Birds A

Somehow the album keeps on getting better! Or perhaps I’m slowly going insane. Another drugged up disco bass-line, which makes me ever so grateful that Jah Wobble was such an awesome and static member of the band! The atmosphere is a little more intense with Levene providing some spaced out licks in the background.

Chant A+

Dang, dude!! This is one messed up groove! As the title suggests, Lydon can be heard chanting something or another in the background. This is a five-minute oddity that’s likely to leave you scratching your head but having quite a lot of fun.

Radio B+

Is that it? A rather heavy synthesizer sound starts this up playing some simple though entirely spaced out chords. Not one of the album’s more compelling tracks, but there’s a certain gothic feeling to this that’s memorable.


Flowers of Romance (1981)

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Flowers of Romance

Four Enclosed Walls A-

Some weird insect sound effects start this track, which is like Can-lite in comparison. (I’m fresh from just reviewing Tago-Mago.) But remember, these guys were minimalists! There’s a point to it all! A very loud and raw drum sound pipes up as Lydon wails off his spaced-out lyrics. It’s purposefully supposed to be weird and obscure, but it’s nothing any seasoned art-rock fan shouldn’t be able to handle. Heck, you’ll probably enjoy it. The drum sound is awesome, and I like their spacey sound-effects!

Track 8 A+

Less minimal than the previous one by quite a lot. This one’s characterized by a very spaced-out groove and still a catchy drum line. The sound effects inserted throughout include a drugged-up keyboard loop, a bass guitar that sounds almost like a bullfrog and a number of minimal guitar licks from Levine. Lydon’s vocals are very reminiscent of Syd Barrett except saner. This song is great, by the way. The texture is fantastic! It’s like they wanted to extract everything that made Can great except it’s not nearly as overbearing. This improves on the masters, if you ask me.

Phenagen A-

Even more psychedelic than the previous tracks though less enjoyable. Still, it’s not a difficult song! It’s characterized by another very spaced out groove and a number of interesting sound effects. All compressed into a beautiful two minutes 40 seconds.

Flowers of Romance A+

Not ever letting up on their brand of accessible avant-garde music. A hypnotic groove is played with a cello as a violinist plays what almost sounds like gypsy music. All of this is put over a drum beat that isn’t unlike Adam and the Ants. John Lydon is in top form with more of his spaced-out vocals! What’s better than anything else? It’s less than three minutes long! Whether or not is has to do with a short attention span, I’m more impressed at a 3-mintue song filled to the brim with sounds and ideas instead of a 10-minute song that tries to do the same. The length is perfect! The song is perfect!

Under the House A-

Whenever I think they’re going to start losing me, they do something to capture my imagination again. What a fantastic album! The thundering drumbeat, while still engaging, isn’t as intrinsically awesome as the previous tracks, but the array of sound effects they bring in continue to dazzle my ears. Very much like a horror movie song, or something! Lydon’s surreal vocals, again, are perfectly executed.

Hymie’s Him A

More of a disjointed song like “Track 8” was and nearly as awesome. It’s an instrumental and we don’t hear Lydon singing at all. Again, the textures are phenomenal! The drumbeat is very detached, but it’s so loud! The way they did this song makes it more instantly enjoyable than any sort of Brian Eno song, in my opinion, even if it’s not quite as vivid.

Banging on the Door A-

I love the atmosphere! It has a very dark and thick atmosphere conjuring a sort of industrial feel. Sound effects coming in and out of the mix lends to the intriguing atmosphere. A bass guitarist is brought in (I believe it was just Levine playing it) and Lydon’s style of vocal delivery continue to be perfect.

Go Back A

Another intoxicating ditty! This one features a more disjointed drum beat with Lydon delivering a bouncy performance. A drunken keyboard loop pops up every once in awhile! But the real star of this show are those guitar licks from Levine. Must be one of his career highlights… I can’t go into any of the technical details of his work except that it suits the song perfectly.

Francis Massacre B+

Definitely a take on Frank Zappa’s instrumental mayhem sound in the early ‘60s. The drumbeat is non-changing, though, which keeps it from getting too obscure for audiences. Although, this is almost certainly the least obscure song of the bunch. Just a bunch of chaotic noises popping in and out of the speaker as Lydon’s singing sounds quite a bit like Tim Buckley’s Starsailor. It’s not bad, actually! The weakest bit on the album… but that’s by default.

BONUS TRACKS:

Flowers of Romance (Instrumental) A+

Of course the version with Lydon’s singing is better! But here you get a chance to hear all those weird instrumental bits in greater detail. Appreciated, and this is a great track in both contexts.

Home is Where the Heart Is A

Everyone who missed their Second Issue album should be thrilled to hear this song! A seven minute-long bit with a catchy bass groove going along! The sound effects are utterly intoxicating. Excellent!

Another A+

That settles it: If you’re going to get this album (and I definitely hope that you do) get the one with the bonus tracks! You’ll have to hear this! An infectious bass groove and drum beat, and their texture and atmosphere is FANTASTIC.


This is What You Want... This is What You Get (1984)

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This is What You Want... This is What You Get

Bad Life B

This is what you want… this is what you get. Hey, I did want a somewhat stripped down funk-pop tune. If we’re going to compare this to their work on Flowers of Romance, then here we go: It’s nowhere near as experimental, atmospheric or enjoyable. The song length seems a few minutes too long, and it’s not engaging enough! It’s meant more as a somewhat detached pop ditty resembling a less refined Oingo Boingo ditty… The keyboard sounds are rather prevalent and the drummer is kept rather busy! Nonetheless, it is a fun song, right? Well, I could think of worse things to spend five minutes on.

This is Not a Love Song A+

This is probably PiL’s most well-known song thanks partly to a memorable music video (that could be the quintessential ‘80s video). The melody is simple though catchy as hell. A disco-fied groove keeps the beat and a few creative moments with the arrangements manage to keep it perfectly interesting. Lydon’s vocal performance is especially nasal and notable for having a number of overdubs (to create an interesting effect that I don’t think I’ve ever heard before in a pop song). Well, this is a lot of fun!

Solitaire A-

A not-at-all disguised take-off of The Talking Heads, but a highly convincing one! Lydon’s eccentric vocal performance suits that sort of material perfectly… arguably better than David Byrne’s voice. The groove he creates was very catchy and it sounds like it should have appeared on one of their albums. Perhaps we should take points away from this track for being so blatantly unoriginal … but that’s not fair when the imitation is this damn good.

Tie Me to the Length of That A

This seems like a return to Second Edition. Featuring a creepy bass-line and a dark atmosphere. Lydon mumbles in a dark register in the background and overdubs his usual vocal styling on top of that. This is an enticing song that brings back memories of Roxy Music. It’s weird and entertaining; clearly, it’s not the work of sell-outs.

The Pardon A-

Back to their Can influences here. This one features a detached groove, very unusual and involved drumming (too mechanical to sound like Gabriel style world music … it sounds more like a bunch of people are walking down an echoey hallway). Various sound effects come in and out to lend the piece some excellent atmosphere. Lydon fades in his space-out vocals whenever he seems to feel like it. This sort of thing was probably done better in their earlier albums, but it was done very well and it’s entertaining.

Where Are You? B+

Now this one sounds a little bit *too* much like early Roxy Music. Their intoxicating groove sounds exactly like it came from “2 H.B.”!! Oh well, this song is more entertaining in a way especially since Lydon is a much more engaging nutcase than Bryan Ferry ever was! All that was taken from Roxy Music was the groove… the thick sound effects surely originated from these crazies.

1981 A-

This is a weird thing! Much more similar to the previous album than anything else. Sound effects abounds in weird, space-age waves. The drums are a little bit fuller and more involved. Lydon’s spacing out to his weird lyrics again. Call this an interesting sound effects song, I guess! At three minutes, it doesn’t go too far, which is a severe benefit.

The Order of Death B+

Hah! What is this, ‘80s prog-rock? I’m surprised at you! It starts with Lydon chanting “This is what you want/ this is what you get” and then some big synthesizer keyboard sounds come in and give us some power chords. It’s not nearly as involved as some of their other songs, which is a disappointment! But I honestly enjoy listening to it.


Album (1985)

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Album

FFF A-

Oh, hear how polished this all is! A guitar-led arena rocker with Lydon giving his vocals much more of a “rock star” treatment (as opposed to an artsy weirdo in the previous albums). I suppose a few hipsters would accuse Lydon of being too much of a sell-out, but who cares when the melody is catchy and the song is enjoyable? It’s radio-ready, the crunchy guitars are awesome (Steve Vai, man) and it makes ‘80s pop music look good. That’s all.

Rise A

One of PiL’s most well-known songs. The guitar textures are very developed here and almost seems like a tamer version of their 1978 song “Public Image.” They bring in a few interesting synthesizer loops, which adds to the atmosphere. The melody is extremely likable, which is what made the song so memorable. I couldn’t give it an A+ because there wasn’t an overwhelming need to make it six minutes long. (I often take off points for overlong songs, but this is the sort of excellent song I like to listen to many times.)

Fishing A

YES!! I’ll tell you what: if hair metal bands were able to come up with power chords as good as these, then I’d probably listen to that genre more! (I suppose I can see why some people resent PiL for this album … I just compared them to hair metal!) Lydon singing like a nutcase over the already catchy power riff turned out to be wonderful. The guitar solos are wonderful! Crank up the volume!!!!!

Round A

Still fantastic! This one is based on a more mid-tempo groove, but still has all the bite that was present on the previous track. (That’s hard to do… most mid-tempo songs sound more boring than the fast ones. I guess that’s more proof that Lydon knew how to do music better than almost everyone!) The groove is busy and intoxicating, which is a bit of a throwback to the clanky experimentalism from Flowers of Romance. However, its mainstream mentality hadn’t been compromised… FOR THE LOVE OF GOD YOU HAVE TO HEAR THE GUITAR SOLO!!!

Bags A+

John Lydon called Cyndi Lauper a “bag” in an old interview I watched on YouTube. I wonder if that odd statement had any meaning to this song! … Funny, this song reminds me of Elvis Costello’s “Pump It Up” except it’s better. The drums are as loud as hell, and it has that same sort of driving and choppy drum beat with some chanting. The atmosphere is hugely developed and wonderful with Lydon resuming to the spaced-out vocals of the previous albums. This is really a fantastic song, and wildly entertaining.

Home B+

Hah, this is still great, but the first track of the album that doesn’t sound A-level to me. I might possibly be giving it a lower rating, because all the other songs sounded *too* good to me, and I feel like I might have been tricked. Anyway, this song feels like a B+ to me. The drums are still loud as hell (which is still awesome) and Lydon’s vocals are on the wild side. It’s a greatly fun experience with some more impressive guitar work to glitter it up. The problem? It just doesn’t grab me nearly as much as the others. … I wish every album had a “worst song” sounding this excellent.

Ease B+

Still a fantastic song in any other context. However, this one seems a bit too lengthy for my tastes (eight minutes) and it doesn’t strike me as being awesome. It starts out establishing an atmosphere with, presumably, Ryuichi Sakamoto’s interesting work. That metamorphoses into more a usual arena rocker with a fine melody……. But it doesn’t completely take off. The rhythm has great drive, though, and I love listening to it.


Happy? (1987)

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Happy?

Seattle A+

Hey, I just moved to Seattle! I should have played this when I just moved in town. Lydon’s still singing like he’s out-of-it, but that’s just his unique style. The guitars are thick and jangly (presumably mimicking all the rain Seattle gets). The melody is wildly catchy, and the song is addictive. VERY GOOD POP MUSIC, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. (Hence, the reason I seem to have very little to say about it!)

Rules and Regulations A

A little weirder and darker than the last one… It proves that even though Lydon was going to incorporate ‘80s synthesizers and female back-up singers in his music, he didn’t have to be boorish about it. In fact, this is a wonderful song! The bass-line is as catchy as any of them from Second Edition, the guitars are very crunchy and the melody is still good!

The Body A-

It’s funny that I can’t understand a word that Lydon sings in the lyrics except for the chorus, which goes “We want your body.” It makes me think that it’s about some rude guys trying to pick up a comely woman… but then I read the lyrics, and it’s something about an abortion. (Don’t worry… it’s not as outrageous as “Bodies” from The Sex Pistols, although to be honest I don’t know what the lyrics mean.) The musical quality of this song continues to be very solid with its catchy melody, loud 1980s drums and great drive.

Save Me B

I’m not sure how I would score a track like this if it were on a Madonna album… I’m sure that it would be much higher than a “B!” Anyway, this is one of the weaker tracks of this album meaning that it’s still pretty dang good. It’s rather dark (a good thing), I love its bass-line and loud 1980s drums. Someone in a dark voice speaks some of Lydon’s lyrics as they sing them, which was a neat idea. Some excellent guitar solos can be heard very subtly in the background. The thing I have against the song is that the melody doesn’t stand out like the others…… It’s sure still infectious though. I give this B with reservations that it’s probably actually higher than a B.

Hard Times A-

Very dark though with a danceable beat. The riff is cold though catchy, and the bass-line is fantastic! Lydon’s vocal performance is particularly convicting here… That combined with its dense atmosphere and still catchy melody makes this a very likable song. The wildly strummed guitar that pipes up every once in awhile adds some interesting texture. Neat stuff!

Open and Revolving A

Geez, they don’t ever let up with the good pop music, do they? This one continues in that dark vein, though not quite as much as the previous two. That bass-line is extra catchy and so is that riff. Lydon’s vocals continue to be the craziest things ever, though oddly suited to the material… The chord progressions are very good… Every time I reviewed a song and complained about a lack of good chord progressions, listen to this song and see what I was talking about.

Angry B+

Some weird vocals come in and start screaming at me (without sounding at all non-mainstream). Then a wickedly catchy bass groove pops in with a number of sound effects contributing to the experience. This song is very good though a tad closer to being more of a sound-effects composition instead of a great pop song… although, again, if this was on a Madonna album, I’d be compelled to give it an A+. Unlike that Ray of Light album I reviewed recently, these sound effects are actually good, though… very inspired.

Fat Chance Hotel A-

This starts out sounding like it could have been on Second Edition with a catchy and hypnotizing bass-line, but it turns out to be another rather mainstream song. Isn’t that riff catchy? … A little bit complicated, surely! Anyway, this is another excellent song! Those weird trumpets they frequently bring was brilliant. Who says mainstreamy music can’t be art, too? After that fades out, they bring back the groove from “Save Me” … Not too sure what the reason for that was…… it doesn’t seem to add much to it.


9 (1989)

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9

Happy? A-

Their previous album was called Happy?, and I’d imagine this is a great source of confusion for fans! The only other band that I know of who had a song titled the same as a previous album they did was Queen (they had the album Sheer Heart Attack but also a song called “Sheer Heart Attack” on their album News of the World). Anyway, let’s talk about this song! It’s pretty dang good, I think. It’s a moderately catchy tune … very heavily dated to the late 1980s with tons of production and a number of programmed beats, but it’s the sort of song that makes that period of time sound good. Lydon’s vocals sound increasingly like a pop star’s (though continuing to use his unusual style). It’s enjoyable though perhaps not the most memorable thing they ever came up with.

Disappointed A+

Now, this is good. No doubt about that. This is the sort of song that I can listen to back to back and never get tired of it (and I have done that, as a matter of fact). In fact, it’s a bit of a distraction, because I’m always pressing the repeat button and not properly listening to the rest of the album! (But I’ll resist the temptation when I’m writing the track reviews… for once…) The melody is very catchy. They retain the back-up singers they still had hanging around from Happy?, and they’re used better than ever here. Again, this is very late 1980s-ish, but if you hated the music from that decade, I have an inkling that you’ll love this anyway.

Warrior A-

Considerably darker though still somehow playful (geez, Lydon had that impression on me ever since the Sex Pistols days… after all, he’s the guy who sang a funny song about an abortion)! This sounds a bit like Kate Bush in the second half of Hounds of Love (I am fairly sure that Bush was inspired by PiL to some degree, and I’m sure the inspiration came both ways.) He packs the atmospheric synths on heavy and those snare drums are louder than ever. Lydon screaming “I’m a warrior!” throughout this is very fun… The fade-out was nice, too, and I’m not always a big fan of those.

U.S.L.S. 1 B-

Very nearly a bomb for PiL and probably the first real hint that the band’s reign was about to end. This consists of Lydon talking in a spooky voice over some very ‘80s instrumentals. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but it’s lacking that sparkle that’s usually so utterly present in all their songs.

Sand Castles in the Snow A

Yay! Here’s a fast-paced pop song with a catchy riff that, had it been played by dark and sloppy electric guitars instead of keyboards, it might have made a pretty mean grunge song! As it stands, however, it’s a great pop song. The energy is high and Lydon’s vocal melody is fantastic. The instrumentation during that “drum solo period” is wild. Excellent.

Worry C+

Much like “U.S.L.S. 1” in that it’s not a bad listen, but it’s missing that sparkle that PiL have been known to produce in bundles previously. The instrumentation is alright, but the melody doesn’t do much for me, and that riff is rather bland. Oh well… At least Lydon’s eccentric vocal presence is still here!

Brave New World B

A little better than the last one. The melody is catchier and the typical late ‘80s instrumentation sounds pretty fun here… It’s still somewhat bland, though, as if Lydon quit writing from the heart and just acting like a typical rock star --- I know, that’s something he used to preach against.

Like That B-

This is based on a rather rudimentary hook, but it’s a fun one… This thing seems enormously cheap, though, and (badly enough) it reminds me of those Arabesque records… except played by real musicians and sung by John Lydon. Well, it’s OK. Just leave it at that.

Same Old Story B-

Again, this is a fine song! The instrumentation is fine with its mid-tempo beat, back-up singers and the keyboard horns. The melody leaves a little something to be desired, however, and I’m just not too crazy about it.

Armada A-

The Spanish one; 1588!!! (Funny the silly things I still remember from middle school.) This is an interesting song and one of the album’s better ones… The riff is dark and creepy and I hear some slight Middle Eastern influences in the instrumentation, which makes it stand out above the rest. Lydon’s vocal performance suits it perfectly, and I like the melody. The lyrics are cool!


That What is Not (1992)

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That What is Not

Acid Drops B

This manages to be very epic track and an interesting introduction to the album. It could very well be the strongest type of opener in a PiL album since it has that introductory feel to it although I can’t claim the melody is great to match. It’s alright to be sure… The heavy guitars are nice and, of course, Lydon’s lead vocals are great. It sounds a little too much like they were trying hard to embrace the popularization of grunge (a genre that he once ridiculed in “Seattle”). The development is actually very good and he makes an entertaining song for the six and a half minutes (better than most lengthy songs I hear). It’s not too charming (a shame considering this is PiL), but it’s still quite entertaining.

Luck’s Up B-

I’m not claiming that these are bad songs… This is very well written with a few catchy guitar riffs and interesting and varied musical ideas. It even has a real ending as opposed to a fade-out or an awkward stop like I hear too often. Overall, this is just not too compelling. Also, that chanting chorus gets a little old after awhile. Those heavy guitars are very polished and generally well-done, but there’s no personality. Of course, we still have Lydon’s vocals… His boooo-hooooo’s are neat, and he also says the F-word. Naughty!

Cruel C

There’s an interesting scratchy percussion sound, but it gets annoying and is *such* a far cry away from the creative arrangements they were consistently good for in their 1978-1987 albums. I also miss the melodies… how did these guys get so bland??? Come on, guys? Are we going to be the delightfully eccentric PiL or just a run-of-the-mill 1990s band with an interesting lead singer? This song wouldn’t be so horrible on most albums, but it’s well below their high standard.

God A

This is more like it! It’s back to normal for once, it seems. “God” features a catchy melody, bouncy guitars, Lydon’s playful vocals and highly blasphemous lyrics. That all seems reason enough to embrace the song (except for the blasphemous lyrics bit… well, Lydon seems to resent anyone who’s religious). That bass-line is stolen directly from The Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer,” but the rest is theirs. The instrumentation continues to be guitar heavy, but very weird, warbly back-up singers at some points give it an alien edge. Cool.

Covered B-

Ah well, it didn’t last. More of that regular, 1990s hard rock stuff. I still like it, of course, but I don’t love it. This is characterized by a repetitive loop of someone saying “I give, I give, I give” over and over. It’s not bad, but again it’s a far cry from the inspired ideas they used to have. I like the bass-line well enough. The melody could sure stand to be catchier. Those warbly back-up singers are brought back here, though they don’t seem to lend as much to the song. Bringing the keyboards back for a brief and simple horn section was a good idea.

Love Hope B+

Nothing sounded so grungy as this does. This seems like he’s half-returning to his Sex Pistols days except he still sounds like he’s the PiL lead singer and it’s grunge. The riffs aren’t bad, and it’s very fast paced. Occasionally this song will break into very crazy bits where the tempo is sped up considerably and Lydon sings like he’s being tortured by that Laurence Oliver character in Marathon Man. Very cool.

Unfairground C+

I like the way it starts… It’s atmospheric with light guitar strumming and an interesting drum rhythm. I anticipate something creative and tuneful, but then it disappoints me slightly when it turns into just another hard rock song. It’s catchy for the first thirty seconds or so, but it grows tiring pretty quickly. Eh.

Think Tank B-

Better. The guitars are heavy, but they’re crunchy and enjoyable. Unfortunately, this is another example of a song that gets a bit tiring after awhile. The melody is fine though it seems pretty trite. Nicely done, all around. Not horrible. That what is not.

Emperor C+

All these songs are so frustratingly “mediocrely good” that it’s getting frustrating. Well, this is a good song! I probably wouldn’t have complained much about it anywhere else. These heavy guitars aren’t bad, but they’re pretty dang common. And why do all these songs have to be heavy guitar rockers? WHAT ABOUT DIVERSITY??? … But yeah, I can’t say I dislike the song other than that.

Good Things A-

Because of that little outburst I had there, PiL decided to deliver a bit of a Latin song. The guitars are much more subdued with this one and the keyboards are more central, which was a great idea. That was always their strength. The melody is pretty good, and Lydon’s vocals are wonderfully spirited. Even a soulful back-up singer adds to the energy. Well… “Good Things” indeed.


Psycho's Path (1997)

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Psycho's Path

Grave Ride A-

Dark sythnesizers, crazy and wildly creative instrumentals (mostly keyboards), an infectious bass-line, Lydon singing like he’s from outer space… Yes, it’s just like the old days. You’d hardly know the difference from post-Levene PiL. I suppose that’s proof that Lydon was the only significant creative force, if you’ve ever actually doubted that. I love those keyboard sounds! It doesn’t seem as fit for the 1990s as it did for the 1980s, but whoever calls PiL dated is completely missing the point, anyway.

Dog A+

This marks the second time in his career that John Lydon needed to point out to us that God spelled backwards is Dog. Alright… thanks… Musically the song is as good and creative as ever. Adopting even more of a darker tone than the last one, he opens it with an atmospheric synthscape with somewhat Oriental undertones. After that, he brings in a weird and catchy groove. A lot of complicated rhythms combined with a number of orchestral build-ups and peppery frills makes this one of the more memorable songs on the album.

Psychopath B+

Still compelling though not as much as the previous two. That low accordion groove is utterly ear-catching! Very nicely lends to an interesting atmosphere! Though the overall feel of this track is a tad on the tedious side… I have an overwhelming take-it-or-leave it attitude toward it mostly because the electric guitar sound isn’t too interesting. Also, I don’t hear too many hooks in the melody. Of course, this is all relatively speaking… its thick and enticing atmosphere alone warrants a B+ rating. It has a great build-up, also…

Sun A+

You can see a goofy music video of this on Youtube! This is a pretty goofy song altogether (although the lyrics are certainly excellent). The groove is unusual and delicious… a weird, indescribable thing with polka leanings. A pounding drum beat, accordion and crunchy guitars plays an addictive groove. Here is a successful song about crazy things, which automatically means it’ll turn into a personal favorite.

Another Way B+

Nicely done! Again, the atmosphere is hugely well developed… bits of it remind me of PiL or Kate Bush in the 1980s at their best. My only complaint is that it’s six minutes long and really didn’t need to be… Bits in the middle seem too much like they’re dragging on without doing much interesting. The involved groove is certainly addictive though.

Dis-Ho C+

Seemingly an attempt at updating his sound for the 1990s… Based on this techno song, it wasn’t such a fantastic idea. But it’s better than Madonna. Included with the techno beat, there are certain odd synthesizers with an attempt at creating an atmosphere… Though the synthesizers he picks sound rather icky. Probably realizing that going techno was a questionable idea, he gets rid of the techno beat mid-way into it, though honestly the song isn’t much more interesting.

Take Me B+

Ah, much better… though this isn’t particularly distinctive. A mid-tempo song with tons of atmospherics though nothing too unique. The melody is nice enough, but not exactly memorable. As usual, the most appealing thing about this song is Lydon’s spaced-out vocals! Very cool.

A No and a Yes A+

It seems that whenever Lydon gets creative with his grooves, the song’s better as a result. There’s some slight world-music tones to this with a complicated though easy-going groove consisting of a pan flute and xylopones… over a very mainstreamish drum beat. The chorus makes the matters positively weird by putting in some weird strings. In the end, this is one of his more compelling songs!!

Stump B

Hilariously, this sounds like a bad 1990s (or 2000s, for that matter) Euro-club-dance song. But then Lydon starts talking over it, and it gets better! Well, not one of the most compelling tunes (mostly because there is no tune and it only goes back and forth between two chords), but it’s kinda funny.

Armies A-

Lydon wisely chooses to end this with the weirdest song of the bunch… though it’s also the most inaccessible one. Perhaps wanting to prove that he could write another Flowers of Romance if he wanted to (though hard to prove that if he didn’t actually do it). Well, here’s one song at least… A weird atmosphere and a number of synthesizer sound effects… a lot of them sound like they came from an old ‘80s arcade game with a broken speaker. An ugly though interesting song.

BONUS TRACKS

A bunch of remixes. They’re not very good. Though to be fair I haven’t actually sat through these. (Took a brief listen to each of them and decided that they’re just not worth it.)


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All reviews are written by Michael Lawrence.