Public Image Ltd. have returned. Or at least John Lydon with some new-old comrades what we now call PiL. The roster this time is more than intriguing: with Lu Edmonds and Bruce Smith two interesting artists returned – joined by multi-instrumentalist Scott Firth [here: double bass, bass guitar and synths] to prove that PiL still had appeal. (No pun intended.) 2009’s shows were a hit as well as the following legs in 2010 including a vastly enjoyable performance at Sziget Festival, Budapest. Then news came that an album was in the making. Now this was something riskier than pure touring. (And playing really well I should add.) Was the butter money well-spent?
It’s always a controversial business to cry about the original line-up, reminiscing about Public Image and the metal box. Of course, those were records that laid down the fundamentals for at least two vastly influential musical styles (post-punk and post-rock they are called) but those days are gone. But PiL have definitely got something back.
The greatest thing about the PiL of today is how the rhythm section (composed of ‘s simple yet dynamic drumming and Scott ‘s mile-deep basslines) can create a conglomerate of sound above which Lu Edmond’s lines float and enter or exit at the wish of the artist. This gives a feel of something continuous with some spontaneity, the feel of every song (or at least, the majority thereof) being jam-based and organic. This is further emphasized by the fact that John never wanted to record the album in takes or instrument-by-instrument. Preferably one take and only live. This decision is probably the best he could come to: it conserves the raw energy of the band and with as decisive and spot-on a mix as this on the album it doesn’t really matter if you’re on the bus, at home, doing sports or actually at a concert by PiL. You’ll be wanting to jump and shout along the lyrics with John & co and will not be able to believe how what you’re listening – an inexplicable mix of dub, rock, electronica, post-punk and psychedelica – could come together in such perfect and straightforward harmony. While looking like a mad ride.
This is PiL.