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Album Review
This is PiL

This is PiL
by Public Image Ltd

PiL Official Ltd

Review Date
5th July 2012
Reviewed by
Danielle Street

This is PiL could easily be considered as John Lydon flipping the proverbial bird to his estranged co-founders from the group otherwise known as Public Image Limited. Lydon exclaims at the outset, "This is PiL", alternatively squarking and screaming over the sluggish track which opens the group's first album in two decades. The ex-Sex Pistol hasn't lost his trademark trill over the years, nor has he lost his general spirit of contrary defiance.

Critics around the globe have questioned the release of This is PiL, with the general consensus that the group hasn't put out a decent record since 1979's Metal Box. It was shortly after the release of the much-lauded album Lydon had lost two bandmates who helped him form the post-punk group. First to depart was Jah Wobble who responsible for enviable basslines and then a few years later the talented guitarist Keith Levene left. However, Public Image carried on with a mix-bag of members, up until a massive 17-year hiatus. Meanwhile, during this pause, Wobble and Levene used the name Public Image for performing in Japan, provoking Lydon to threaten legal action against the pair earlier this year.

Despite the controversy, he has been philosophical about the new release saying it could be viewed as either "a damn fine piece of literature or a jolly good combination of hit pop records".  Now based in Los Angeles, the former Johnny Rotten is a lifetime away from his punk roots and appears to have done a 180 on his anti-establishment stance, featuring in a butter commercial to finance This is PiL.

At the top of the album is lead single 'One Drop', a dubbed out number in which Lydon reflects on his youth, singing "we are teenagers, we are ageless". But the album really kicks in with 'Deeper Water' an apparently improvised tune that features tidal guitar riffs and flowing backing vocals. Later, Lydon turns to spoken word on 'The Room I Am In’, a piece reminiscent of the popular poem 'Religion' which featured on Public Image's first album, First Issue.

As a whole the album has seen sceptics eating their words. It has been measured against Metal Box and its predecessors, and stood up. Tracks like the buoyant ‘Lollipop Opera’, where Lydon pays homage to his memories of walking through a row of record stores are a prime example of the album's diversity and PiL's flexibility. These energetic songs are where Lydon's strength lies, conjuring up images of the faux-blonde preening upon the stage at some World Music festival. And with the release of This is PiL it’s not much of leap to imagine that this is where we will see Lydon next, putting his dairy-product peddling behind him and reaching for some of the tour circuit cream instead.


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