Review Revue: P.I.L. – Album


Welcome back to another installment of Review Revue, where we expose the seething, pulsing heart of an independent radio station to public scrutiny. For those of you who thought the debate around Green Mind was contentious, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! For some serious sniping, it helps to go back into the vinyl era, when people had a full 144 square inches in which to make (and remake, and rebut, and clarify) their point. The cover to Public Image Ltd.‘s album Album (also referred to in other editions as Cassette and Compact Disc) appears to be the mid-80s version of an Internet flame war, with people writing their comments, other people writing their comments, and then earlier people coming back and rebutting those comments quite heatedly – after the smoke had cleared, you could hardly see any of the trademark generic album art behind all the stickers. So what is it that had everyone so up in arms?

In 1978, following the breakup of The Sex Pistols, John Lydon formed this group, which released around a dozen albums, and had at least that many lineup changes over its 14-odd year career. Originally led by Lydon and ex-Clash member Keith Levene, and rounded out by the powerful rhythm section of Jah Wobble and drummer Jim Walker, over the years the project morphed into pretty much whatever Lydon wanted it to be (a point several commenters below are very keen on driving home). As noted, the lineup of PiL had changed a lot over the years, but this was the first with Lydon as the only original member (Walker was the first to go, replaced by Martin Atkins on drums; Wobble followed soon after, accused of stealing PiL tracks for his own projects; Keith Levene held on until this particular outing). And the personnel he ended up using instead were (as you can see below) baffling to many: Bill Laswell (OK, no stretch there), Ryuichi Sakamoto (hm, that’s interesting), Ginger Baker (of Cream? Woah!), Steve Vai (???????????????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). To be honest, I haven’t listened to this album in many years, but reading these comments really makes me want to put it on and see what the hubbub was all about – as I recommend you all do. I’ll let the passionate, highly opinionated reviewers of KCMU take it from here:

pil1.jpg pil2.jpg

“Generic, featuring Ryuichi Sakamoto, Ginger Baker, Steve Vai Vie, John Lydon & Bill Laswell. This Kicks.”

“Oh my god! Even I like this! Am I maturing musically, or am I succumbing to peer pressure? ‘Ease’ is just plain great! At any rate, if all you old PIL fans slag this, I will lose all faith in the human race!”

“Ass-kicking. Face melting. Cranium imploding. Eye-gouging.”

“Oh god this sounds like early 80s dino-rock like “Who Are You” by The Who. PUT IT TO REST for God’s sake.”

pil3.jpg pil4.jpg

“This is amazing.”

“If he would have the decency not to call it “PiL,” I might be able to make a different judgement. As it is, this besmirches the name and memory of everyone who really made PiL what it was – Wobble, Levine, and Atkins, Alfred. [I have no idea who “Alfred” is.]
“P.S. George said ‘sounds like The Who.’ Neil heard him, to. [sic]”

“PiL, unlike you’ve ever heard them before. Trust me.”

“What I like is some people think that a band has to sound the same year after year. If you want to hear old PiL, then pull out Flowers of Romance! Sheesh!”

“I don’t want to hear the same sounds, I want something different. This is not different.”

“PFF sounds like ‘Get it on.'”

pil5.jpg pil6.jpg

“I just think it’s funny. I mean really, kids.”

“Face it folks, Lydon does what he wants. He’s probably glad some of you don’t like it. Besides, it’s nice to see he’s got a sense of the bizarre by getting the people to back him on this LP. He still rants ‘n’ raves, but it is different – OK, so one track bears a passing resemblance to The Who, but don’t judge the LP on that. Getting people out of their normal environment, I think, gave Lydon the push he lacked on the previous LP. But Lydon’s been unhip since “Metal Box,” so what do I know?
“(OK, Marsh, I can go overboard as much as you.)”

“Well yes, a big beat + it rocks + yes, it’s kind of funny for PIL. I like.”

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