Album Review: Public Image Ltd - This Is PiL

16 June 2012 | 5:22 pm | Bryget Chrisfield

Opening with an extended John Lydon belch, This Is PiL sees Public Image Ltd at their deranged, challenging best.

Opening with an extended John Lydon belch (beg yours), This Is PiL sees them at their deranged, challenging best and it comes with a warning: “You are now entering a PiL zone.” This is the band's first studio album in 20 years and an enormously rewarding listening experience. Lydon's vocal is as caustic as ever, percussively delivered. He has a way of manipulating/twisting words that makes you wanna steer clear of the perverse secrets nestled in the recesses of his (undoubtedly dark) grey matter: “It said what/What did it said/It said that/Now that is a rat/Rat-tat-tat/Go gossip that.” Council flats are portrayed as gaol cells (The Room I Am In) and Lydon's spoken-word portrayal will transport you to solitary confinement.

The instrumentation of Lollipop Opera is hypnotic. The best way to dance along is lurching forward and back like a chained British bulldog straining the boundaries. Snarl optional. Occasional guitars sparkle atop a somewhat sickening drone as Lydon's vocals taunt you while you sway. Reggie Song demonstrates the musicians' dedication to providing the perfect foundation for Lydon's rant: oscillating, multi-layered riffs courtesy of Lu Edmonds, Scott Firth's penetrating bass and Bruce Smith's effortlessly unpredictable drumming. Closer, Out Of The Woods, runs just shy of ten minutes. It incorporates a charging “Here we AAAAAaaaare!” rallying chorus and Deliverance-esque, hillbilly banjo breakdown but would more suitably soundtrack an updated take on A Clockwork Orange. The release winds down, sucked through a spacey wind tunnel.        

It is possible to experience terror in musical form and this album sounds like the aural equivalent of tattooing yourself with a safety pin and biro. Repeat prescriptions of 21st Century PiL come strongly recommended. Not for everyone, just those with advanced sonic receptors.