Public Image Ltd.

Rust Never Sleeps
*special introductory paragraph!
*Public Image
*Second Edition
*Paris Au Printemps
*The Flowers Of Romance
*This Is What You Want... This Is What You Get
*Commercial Zone
*Live In Tokyo
*That What Is Not
*Psycho's Path

When Johnny Rotten left the Clash way back in '78, he immediately moved on to a new project that he wanted to be entirely different from his former band, The Ramones - what he chose to go with was a non-punk, non-rock (or so they claimed) project called Public Image Ltd. They claimed to be a corporation and said that they were going to do films and stuff and conducted really rude interviews and basically acted like they knew it all. They even got lots of good press for their second album, the classic Metal Box/Second Edition dub-dance thingamajiggy. However, within a couple of years, the entire band had quit except Johnny, and the Creative Corporation (TM) degenerated into Johnny's vanity project -- just a catchy guitar-driven dance pop band. Some great tunes resulted, though Johnny certainly failed to achieve his initial goal of making rock music obsolete. But who gives a shit about his initial goal? If everyone stuck to their initial goal, bands wouldn't grow, develop and improve with each album, like Foreigner.

Reader Comments
Johnny Rotten was in the Sex Pistols not the clash. (Peter McCarvill)
That first paragraph is one of the funniest fucking things I've ever read! (Caitlin Craig)
oh my god, you freak!!!!!!!!! you think johnny rotten was in the fucking CLASH!??!!??!!!?!!! burn in hell dickwad, he was in the fucking SEX PISTOLS!!!!!!. you dont deserve to have a PiL website!!!!! i dont even know how blatantly WRONG the rest of the websit eis because im so utterly DISGUSTED, o and then "having left the legendary band CRASS????? BURN IN HELL MUTHERFUCKER (Mike Noto)
They're called jokes, you idiots... Prindle has review sites on the Clash, Crass, the Ramones, Iggy and the Stooges, and the Sex Pistols. If you even give the site a glance, you can tell that all this guy does is make jokes that waver in and out of the tasteless zone and occasionally write some great music criticism. I never thought anything could have been more obvious.

relax this is fucking funny
hey i know that you know that John Lydon was in The Sex Pistols its soo funny that people here get pissed off thinking that you don't know they are being the dum-dums still i like your website funny, some what true and original LOVE IT THE BOLLOCKS
people are still writing in on this? Christ...

Public Image - Virgin 1978.
Rating = 8

Before we get started, let me stress that this sounds more like a low 8 to me than a high 8. It's all over the place and some of the songs seem half-complete.

Now may we begin. The original Public Image Ltd. was not just a Johnny Rotten vehicle - it was a full band! Having just left the legendary punk band Crass, Johnny wanted to piss off his former fans and present something special that wasn't at all like his former band Iggy And The Stooges. Every member was of equal importance: John Lydon on snide vocals, Jah Wobble on dub/reggae-influenced note-happy neck-going-up-and-down bass playin', Keith Levine on scratchy, dangerously repetitive guitarin', and some tool on drums. The songs on this particular album kinda careen back and forth between a couple of different styles - there are a couple of really long "dub"-ish type numbers hinging on that bitchin' cool basswork (BOY, did the band suffer a loss when Jah Wobble left, but that's to come! Remind me!), but then there are some crash and burn noise rockers, plus a snotty anti-religion poem and even a POP SONG! A great 3-minute pop song called "Public Image." Instant classic. Revolting Cocks later did a cover of it, as did Leonard Cohen.

No hang on that was a typo - I meant that Leonard Cohen HAS a revolting cock. It's withered and scabby with an endless stream of pus and blood oozing out all over his testicles and underpanties.

It doesn't taste very good either.

Reader Comments (Michael J. West)
A low-to-mid 7. The ideas are starting to germinate, and you can really hear that Lydon & co. are gonna take this sound to some fucked-up, incredible places, particularly on tracks like "Theme" and "Fodderstompf." But then there's also "Public Image," "Annalisa" and "Low Life," which are all still way too close to sounding like the Sex Pistols that Johnny wanted so badly to get away from. The dub-meets-cacophony, total lack of any real melody, and downright refusal to compromise in any way would kick in on Metal Box and Flowers of Romance, but here they're in an embryonic state, and teetering a bit too close to the sound of the Pistols, a sound that Lydon found too boring and derivative to bear in the first place. (Some Guy Who Doesn't Get Jokes)
Just to let you know that in your intro on PiL you say that Rotten was in the Clash !!! Then in your critic of their first album, you say he just left Crass... Has you know, he was in the Pistols ! (Max Murdock)
Yea Prindle. he didn't leave Crass nor the CLASH how could you be so Foolish? me and you both know he played Key-boards for early Jauqo Pestorious in the late 70's, and than left the Jauqo pestorious to persue a more respected carreer. he went on to play drums in Huey lewis in the news some time later in his career. who are the pistols anyways? some faggy funk-metal band? oh please.
So I get an e-mail from Mark after sending him and a few others the wonders of Blackie Lawless' lyrical genius telling me to remove his email addy from my mass email list. I get all pissy like John Lydon and decide to send his ass a review on P.I.L.'s first effort rather than bust his chops with more W.A.S.P. lyrics. I'm crazy like that. And like Madonna, I'm crazy for you, Mark.

As typical of Prindle's criticism, he's right with a "low 8" rating, and perhaps too generous by today's Three Doors Down standard. But we both seem to share an affection for uncommercial, dissonant and mundane music, which is to say P.I.L.'s first edition borders on groundbreaking.

And while much of the album sounds like a toss-off, one has to remember that the time between the Pistol's implosion and the launch of P.I.L. was relatively short. Add to this, Lydon's penchant for taking a piss, and you've got some worthy excuse as to why half of the album sounds like it was laced with filler.

So let's tackle the shit first: "Fodderstompf" is a seven-and-a-half minute shit, "Religion II" was submitted for approval during the Pistols and even Sid thought it sucked, "Religion I" is just Lydon narrating the lyrics so that the album exceeds the half-hour mark, and "Attack" sounds like a neutered Pistols' attempt (sample lyric: "Attack! Attack! Attack!"). Not the best work of a guy that scared the Bejesus out of the British Empire. Even Margaret Thatcher's panties were more dangerous than this.

At the same time, the rest of the album is simply amazing and of such high caliber that one could easily forget the idea that first edition was only a full-length because Virgin asked for one. I don't know if that's true, but it sure sounded good. So does the album's opener, "Theme," which is as boring as its nine minute running time would suggest. However, when you're going from public enemy number one to a plastic "product" the way Lydon intended, you may as well beat the listener with some "terminal boredom." In the process, we're introduced to some creative Keith Levine guitar work and, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Jah Wobble. Wobble is the band's secret weapon, and when he left (or fired, depending on who's telling the story), so did P.I.L.'s relevance. "Annalisa" showcases his skill and demonstrates how a virtuoso can take a particular style of playing (reggae dub) and expand on it to create a unique technique. But the masterstroke is of course the signature song, "Public Image," which is as vital as anything on "...Bullocks." "You never listened to a word that I said!" Lydon snaps as he sets the record straight on why the infamous question "Do you ever feel like you've been cheated?" was uttered one night that same year in San Francisco. It's closure, it's a declaration of a new beginning, and it's one of the most essential tracks in punk history and worth the (import) price of admission. (Mike Noto)
I haven't heard all of this album (just haven't heard the "Religion" songs yet), but what a slab of concrete this album is. Listening to "Theme" for the first time is like being clubbed for 9 minutes. Keith Levene's brilliant guitar is the sound of your innards dilating as Jah Wobble grooves away with a beyond-low-end bass thump, and Jim Walker's crushing drumming never lets up. Lydon then enters with his shriek in absolute peak form - genius. Public Image has struck. "Annalisa" crashes and burns with a beautiful howl, as Wobble's bass starts getting louder and impossibly lower throughout the song's duration. "Public Image", the song, is the hit single material here, and what a single it is. "Low Life" and "Attack" both recall the Sex Pistols more than a little musically, but Lydon's lyrics were already moving past the calculated politically-incorrectisms of "Bollocks" - although "Attack" has substandard lyrics. "Fodderstompf" is a great way to end, with supremely heavy bass, corny synthetic drums, and atonal synth chatter (reminds me of an ATM machine, for some reason). "We only wanted to be loved..." right Johnny, I believe you. Great debut, and very influential on Big Black and Steve Albini in general, I'd say. (James Parker)
keith levene invented - without meaning to - the edge. think about it. it's like a horror film. its the way the world works. although 'i will follow' is a terribly TERRIBLY good song
Played this in the church at my friends funeral, a man called Imre, he died 3 weeks ago aged 42 leaving five children & many many friends.

His son is called Lydon.

The last verse was particularly apt
this album is and continues to be one of the most ignored and apparently misunderstood masterpieces of modern pop culture Keith Levene establishes the direction of modern rock guitar for the next three decades (except for those found noodling in guitar centers across the USA) Jah Wobble and Jim Walker form a rhythm section equal in dynamic prowess to the likes of Mitch Mitchell/Noel Redding and John Paul Jones/John Bonham, minus the enevitable excesses of status quo "rock" Lean,Mean and Lock-step into the future. John Lydon stays busy doing what visionaries do, whatever they damn well please! Sloughing off the foul stench of malcom mclaren and navigating the new day unfettered by the ball and chain of a meaningless movement (Punk Rock) Lydon excersises his demons/resentments on this album and gets away clean (see "Metal Box"/"Second Edition").

there is a direct line from this, the first installment of "post-punk", to "smells like teen spirt" and much of of Nirvana's sound (many others) as evidenced by their admission that they lifted the main riff for "Come as you are" from PIL peers and late 70's/early 80's vanguards Killing Joke ( the song "Eighties").

Blah,Blah,Blah...Johnny Rotten was NOT in Crass. Are you stupid?
This was definitely an important step in post-punk, but at this stage "punk" was still a part of the equation. Sure, "Theme" and "Fodderstompf" show the dub and noise elements creeping in, but "Low Life", "Attack", and even "Public Image"? There's not a lot keeping those from being labelled punk songs except that Lydon was avoiding the label (not that I blame him). Still, this IS a classic. A well-deserved 8.

Add your thoughts?

* Second Edition - Warner Bros. 1979. *
Rating = 10

Originally packaged as a bunch of 7-inch singles in a metal box under the confusing and non-understandable name Metal Box, this double album does away with the stylistic jumping around that I claim to have heard on the first album, instead establishing the PILs as the coolest dance band EVER. Dance music that MUSIC fans can enjoy too! The kind of dance music that didn't exist prior, and hardly existed afterwards! This is dance music to zone out to, with Jah's extraordinarily catchy, moody, HHHEYYPTNOOTOIC bass lines at one with umm.. whomever the hell drummed on this thing (and did a GREAT job with it too! Way to go, guy!). Lots of variety here, even within the beautiful dance vibe smackeroo, with some tunes doing the Jah Rasta thing and others featuring the kickass drummer guy rockin' so hard that you want to bang your head and/or a 94-year-old woman while your feet are doing the smooky jew. And tinkling keyboards are added to the stew, especially in the last song on the album, whose name you can find out by simply buying the album and looking at the label! Johnny spews out lyrics about memories, poptones and some guy's delightful suit. Keith scratches away at his guitar, most likely without smiling because he's so over that. But the album is clearly Jah's. The awesome bass lines are first, foremost and fart what make these songs so goddamned boogie-able and listenable at the same time. Oooh, but you know, the drummer sounds fuckin' awesome too. Crisp, crisp snarin'!

Too bad they fired Jah Wobble's pretentious beret-wearing ass right after the album came out. They could have been HUGE!

Either that or small.

Reader Comments (Zach English)
Amazing stuff. Totally idiosyncratic and original. While I agree with you that Jah Wobble's bass lines are fantastic, Keith Levene is what really makes this album for me. It's like taking a history lesson in Post-Punk Guitar 101; try to imagine Steve Albini or Duane Denison or Lee Ranaldo without this album. It's impossible; and the guy was a musical genius, what with the way he basically created all the keyboard textures and melodies on his own. And Rotten's lyrics are really interesting to read line-by-line, proving that he was the only reason the Sex Pistols are legendary. Ten record-thingies from me, too.
First of all this album must be played on some high grade stereo equipment. The sounds produced from this are like something one might hear inside the bowels of John Goodman after thanksgiving. DEEP IMPLODING EXPLOSIONS OF BASS. followed by a moaning voice which out of nowhere soon is leaking a screeching sound gurgling and pleading for caution. Alltogether a masterpiece of impending doom, not even "Pere Ubu" has created anything as beautifully ugly as PIL`s "Second Edition". Hypnotic waves of nausea, overflowing, like lava inside Goodmans stomach.... (Ian Galley)
Christ on a bike! This stuff is heavy. I'd only heard the Public Image single prior to this but the metal CD case was just too tempting to ignore. Makes a great baccy tin too! Favourites have to be Albatross, Poptones, Careering, The Suit and Chant. Nerve shredding and bowel emptying, they just pound my bones into mush. I find Poptones almost too unsettling to listen to: "this bleeding heart looking for bodies, nearly injuring my pride, prize picknicking in the British countryside...". Chant has to have one of my favourite guitar 'lines', sounds like it was made up on the spot. Totally brutal. "All you ever get is all you steal, a side of London the tourists never see." Keep an eye out for a DVD box set of an old BBC Tv show called 'The Old Grey Whistle Test' for there is a stunning performance of Careering. What sold it for me was Wobble, towards the end of the song, after playing the same bass line for 6/7 minutes slides down the E string, slowing space/time and making everyone in the room watching groan whilst lifting their feet of the ground! Bloody weird. (David Wells)
Its one of those little challenges of married life that allow husband and wife to test each other. In this particular scenario Metal Box is put on at a reasonable volume by husband. Over the next 25 minutes the wife turns it down so its just about reasonable, then turns it down so its pretty unreasonable and then rings her mother and turns it off which is completely unreasonable. My wife may not like - correction does hate - the Fall, but I can only assume that this brings her out in such an orgy of loathing that this is top of her terrible records her husband owns. Come to think of it when I bought it back in 1979 it generated much the same feelings - a Genesis concert was due in town and the clueless were queuing to see Phil Collins and chums outside Ipswich Gaumont. On passing the aforementioned clueless, interest was shown in the Parrot records bag containing Metal Box. Of course once they discovered what it was they were all equally dismissive. "heard a track off it on the radio - it was rubbish". Unfortunately the chump that played it on the local heavy metal show (Metal Box so must be metal eh?) had played it at 33 rather than 45. Not that it would have bothered Genesis groupies (best not think about that).

So 25 years on and having just rebought it on CD (the vinyl being scratched close to unplayability some years ago) - does it still stack up as a record. Oh yes! And if Socialist is not one of the great dance tracks ever then I can only assume that you lot are all Genesis fans or my wife.
Originally released as "Metal Box" on three 12" vinyl records, not 7" records.
A landmark album. And it's too bad that David "Duke" Wells' wife turned down the hi-fi, cuz you need to hear this effort at earth-rumbling volumes to appreciate Wobble's bass. And although Wobble did take some instrumental tracks and use them for his own solo efforts, it's safe to say that he was canned because Lydon was/is an asshole in much the same way that Mike Rutherford was during Genesis' "We Can't Dance" recording sessions. See what happens when you mix heroin, speed, and assholes? You can't get a follow-up to one of the greatest post-punk albums ever created. That and side-projects containing "The Living Years."

Ironically, "Second Edition" was created during a time in which Lydon was battling depression, due in some part to the death of "Mama," the first track from Genesis' eponymous 1983 album. This is as close to a "personal" album as you will find from Johnny, and it sounds as if he's working out some demons throughout. "Poptones" swirls with some crafty guitarwork and, again, some amazing bass patterns while Lydon croons an eerie tale of rape.

Some heavy shit, indeed, but this would mark the last time Johnny ever did anything truly groundbreaking. But hey, when you've managed to change and challenge the musical landscape not once, but twice, I guess you can afford to be a curmudgeon.
An extremely disjointed album that just sounds unpleasant to my ears. I tried listening to it many times over a number of months, but none of the songs really sank in. All the tracks have a very similar sound, although Jah Wobble's bass parts are fantastic. At least the first album had "Public Image", a song with a genuine hook. (Mike Noto)
Amazing. You won't believe what you're hearing on first listen. Is it disco plus Beefheart? Is it weird dance punk? Is it British Krautrock? Is it pretentious atonal mess? All of these things and so much more. One of the albums of the decade, "Second Edition" is unbelievable: truly Lydon/Levene/Wobble's finest achievement. John, of course, was the lead singer: he never sounded better than here. Keith Levene is like some horror-show parody cross-breeding of The Edge, Zoot Horn Rollo, John McLaughlin, and Allan Ravenstine, and as amazing as a cross-pollination of such luminaries would suggest - a guitar wizard and synthesizer innovator. Jah Wobble is simply the owner of The Bass From The Depths Of The Ocean: play this on high-grade stereo equipment and you'll detonate the subwoofers. Drummers, you ask? There were an absolute TON of drummers who played on this album and who all left for various reasons, the most prevalent being that none could get along with either John or Keith. It also doesn't help that Keith and Jah played on at least a couple tracks as well. The drummers on this album are as follows:

1 Albatross - Dave Humphrey: Humphrey was only 18 or 19 when he joined PiL in February 1979 after original drummer Jim Walker's departure, and the same age when he left in July. Humphrey later played for Sparks and Mike Oldfield (!), and currently teaches drumming in the UK.
2 Memories - Richard Dudanski: Dudanski was the drummer of Joe Strummer's previous-Clash band, the 101'ers (as a side note, Keith Levene was one of the founders of the Clash, but left after getting Joe in because of personality clashes with Mick Jones: sense a pattern emerging?), and did most of the drumming on "Second Edition." Dudanski later played for the Raincoats and the fantastic, PiL-resembling Basement 5.
3 Swan Lake (Death Disco) - Dave Humphrey: Humphrey played on all versions of "Death Disco", which included the 7" version, the 12" version, and this album track.
4 Poptones - Keith Levene: The drums sound like they do for a reason - Levene had never played drums before recording the song.
5 Careering - Jah Wobble: The snare sounds come from a random synth noise happened upon by Wobble.
6 Socialist - Richard Dudanski: Levene applied the effects to the drums - phasing and compression.
7 Graveyard - Richard Dudanski: Again, Levene compressed the drums to hell here.
8 The Suit - Richard Dudanski: John Lydon plays the piano here, while Levene plays some synth. It's actually mostly piano.
9 Bad Baby - Martin Atkins: This recording was Atkins' audition for the band, and first recorded appearance.
10 No Birds - Richard Dudanski: The drums are double-tracked. Lydon plays the piano.
11 Chant - Richard Dudanski: There are no keyboards on this track - it's all guitar. I thought there was an organ in the background, but there isn't.
12 Radio 4 - Keith Levene: Levene played every instrument here.

Wobble's the hero of the album, by half a millimeter, but everyone is astoundingly good. Steal or buy this album, the previous album, the next one, "Flowers of Romance", and get the box set "Plastic Box". That's all the PiL's you need to cure yourself with after listening to Good Charlotte.
Oh my sweet jumping hopped-up Jesus. This thing is INCREDIBLE. Why didn't you tell me about it sooner, Prindle? It kicks Rotten's former band in the teeth, out of London, and over the Berlin wall!! Anyway, it's the first punk OR post-punk OR dance OR club OR underground OR bizarre farking-weird atonal LP I have ever heard IN MY LIFE, major label or no, that warranted an unvarnished 10 out of 10 tens. Everybody, buy this sprawling dissonant mess today. It gives weird noisy crap a good name.

So. . . does this absolve me of my rants against the Pixies? Do elephants fly?
It was NEVER released as collection of 7" singles -- plse get your facts right. It was a collection of 12" singles, in homage to the reggae dub 12" they were into at the time, and because 12" vinyl is the best way to create HUGE bass vibration.
words can not express.....words are useless.....metal box totally inspirational music all of johns influences can be heard on this album such as: can, captain beefheart, van da graaf generator/peter hamill all those heavy dub plates etc. it has a real beauty to it in places, and gets better with each new play ...amazing !!!!!!!!!!!!! brilliant bass lines by wobble and levene's guitar is simply stunning some great double beats on the drums as well, if you haven't heard this album already you're in for an aural treat get it ! in a fade.
Of COURSE this gets the 10! As well it should! I remember discovering this back in 1999 (on my 17th birthday; yes, I was born way too late)and having my mind absolutely BLOWN. Granted, having since heard Alternative TV's even more drastic about-face (any chance of reviewing them sometime?), it's not AS radical as it seemed upon first listen, but it still trumps 99% of "post-punk" made in its wake.

Add your thoughts?

Paris Au Printemps - Virgin 1980
Rating = 7

Determined to prove that you can be a genius and a ham-fisted buffoon at the same time, Public Image Lemon Tree put out a live album where bassist Jah Wobble and guitarist Keith Levene MOTHERFUCK UP every few seconds. It has 2 songs from their first album and 5 from their second, and come on the songs are great but not when (a) Jah Wobble plays the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" at the beginning of "Bad Baby," then screws up like 52 times during the actual song, (b) "Low Life" includes Keith screwing up constantly, (c) "Pop Tones" starts with Johnny Ramone Vicious saying, "Shut up, wanker! Shut up! I'll walk off this fucking stage if you keep spitting, dog!" and then Keith screws up the entire song because he's a terrible guitar player incapable of playing a simple arpeggio part.

Here's Neil Young opining about this live album: "Why do they keep fucking up? Why-ee-y-ee-yyyyyy?"

Also what really pisses me off is that the concert is recorded on two different nights which wouldn't care exeecpt that one night (songs 1, 2, and 5) are recorded on a fish's penis in the middle of the ocean, and the other songs (3, 4, 6, 7) were recorded in a 5-hundred-million-track studio by Bob Rock Albini Rubin Martin. So half of it sounds so good you're happy, yet the other half sounds like a Urine Doctor is Pooping His Poop (Defecate American) all over the microphone (so it goes "ploop ploop ploop" instead of whatever the band is playing) because the band SUX!!!!!

It's good because the songs are good, NOT because the performances or recordings are good. And guess what? A guy sent it to me over the Internet for free! DON'T YOU, THE READER, PAY ONE COLD CENT-PENNY FOR IT! BECAUSE THIS BAND STUNK DICKASSTIT LIVE!

Also, Tesco vee

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The Flowers Of Romance - Warner Bros. 1981.
Rating = 7

For the record, I once read somewhere that Sid Vicious used to be in a band called The Flowers Of Romance. So shove THAT in your pipe and smoke it with a delightful touch of lemon. The concept of this record is thus: They fired bassist Jah Wobble (I heard it was because he used PIL outtakes on a solo release, but that's only as true as the lying worthless son of a bastard who made that claim to me) and, instead of replacing him, they recorded an album with no bass guitar. So what did they do to make it NOT just sound like a band with no bass guitar? (Vertigo, for example, have no bass guitarist, and I think we ALL know how unpleasant they can be -- "Tonic Thing" anyone?). What they did instead was make a RHYTHMIC album. Piles and piles and piles of percussion. Hints of piano, drones and guitar tinklets here and there to shake things up a bit, but this is mostly an album of tribal drummin' and Johnny Rottin'. The percussion shit is pretty cool though, as are the hypnotic, sarcastic rants that the old Johnster rips from his voicetube. Unfortunately they didn't bother making every song interesting, which is why "Hymie's Him" and "Go Back" made the cut even though neither song do anything that the rest of the record doesn't do better. Personally, I miss Mr. Jah Wobble, but at least the band attempted to do something different and experiment a bit, rather than just putting out an album of normal everyday dance-pop. Can you imagine? PIL stooping so low as to release an album of normal everyday dance-pop? HA HA HA!!!!

That was foreshadowing, by the way, in case you didn't catch my subtle use of irony.

I have a puppy now! He's a Rottweiler mix and he's about six weeks old and his name is Henry and we just brought him home and he had diarrhea under the Christmas Tree. I love him so much!

Reader Comments (Michael J. West)
To me, this one is even more "Dare-you-to-listen" than Metal Box was, which was always what Lydon said was the mistake that the Pistols had made with their music, and was his intention to fix with PiL. I love Metal Box to death, but there's some sense of actual melody and danceability, and LISTENABILITY (well, except for "Albatross.") to it.

But Flowers of Romance strips even that away. Sure, it's percussive and exciting as Hell, rhythmically, but is it something that you can even tap your finger to without feeling ridiculous? Or is it anything that any person on Earth but one can sing? I think not. As such, it's damn hard to find anything that fulfills the "challenge your mind" end of Lydon's objectives here.

On top of that, there are great, scary-as-shit keyboard noodlings, incredibly neat fragments of that great Levene guitar, and a kind of spiteful, structured musical chaos that can never be duplicated. If not QUITE as ingenious and imaginative as the previous record, ...well, it comes real damn close. And it's much more fun to listen to. A 9 for Flowers of Romance; as 9 as 9 can get. (Jim K)
I am one of the few who rate Flowers as highly as any other PIL album.

This is a very interesting album considering there is no real bass, and it's mostly instrumental on the experimental side.

The thing I like most about this album is it achieves new sounds that haunt you. Track 8 is one of my favorites. This track reminds me a little of Venus In Furs by Lou Reed. Not because it sounds fimilar, but because both defy traditional beats or tempo, as if deliberately going against the grain. A very haunting and pleasing melody!

Without a doubt, Flowers is a hard PIL to swallow, but if you can, it transends any thing previously done by them.

Just my take on it!

i think i would have liked this more if johnny rotten didn't make this, because every time he released an album past "first issue" it became more and more obvious that he would be shocking and change directions in a totally unexpected way. to his credit this is a great album and deserves a 9 in my mind, but anything john releases at this point is unfortunately going to be viewed as a gimmick album. whats his gimmick this time? oh its a pop album; whats his gimmick this time? oh its an 80s metal album; etc etc. of course almost everything he released up until 9 was near perfect or awesomely fun, so its no big deal. i think he was smart in releasing this is what you want when he did because if he kept up trying to innovate music and "kill rock" before wrong (note: this should actually be "long" but i dont feel like correcting the typo) he'd probably be falling into avant-garde post-rock territory and that shit's boring as hell
The reason so many people hate this album is because it is so hard to listen to. The Flowers Of Romance is a very experimental album ,the drums are mixed very loud drowning out almost everything else which is great. 10/10 Its the album to play to get everyone out of your house.

I actually think John Lydon was in The Damned and Jah Wobble was from The Clash

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This Is What You Want... This Is What You Get - Elektra 1984.
Rating = 8

The experimental period has thus reached cessation. Keith Levene and John Lydon had a big tiff over something or other, so John now OWNS the band. And thus PIL becomes synonymous with John Lydon from this point on. Luckily, although he may not be the most adventurous character in the world anymore, he still loves a good melody! Yes, he would probably deny this, claiming that he is out to destroy the music industry from the inside, but that is nonsense. First of all, the pretentious fuckhead has now claimed that about fifty two of his albums were meant to destroy rock music and all he's managed to do is add more great albums to the rock canon. Secondly, regardless of the still slightly inaccessible nature of these songs, this album is essentially made up of a bunch of wonderfully bouncy, dancey pop songs (mostly written with Levene, as it turns out). The drums sound mostly fake, which is a damn shame considering how cool the raw drums sounded on the last two records. However, the bass lines (both synth and real) are catchy and the faux drums are at least doing cool, annoying things that try their darnedest to give your left brain a headache while your right brain jumps with glee at the catchy tuneage (A Descendents reference? How will we ever know in life? How, I say, will we ever know? What, you think President Albert Gore is going to help you out with this one? You'lja;fd.

"The Order Of Death," for example. No band can release a song like that and then claim to hate pop music. Not without getting a hearty laugh from yours truly, David Casserole.

This is not the perfect pop album -- parts of it rely almost completely on rhythmic noise, like an electronic version of The Flowers Of Romance. But it is DEFINITELY a big first step towards the commercial pop dance music that ruined PIL's "hip" reputation while winning them tons of teenage alternative girl fans throughout the rest of their career.

Reader Comments
Fantastic record. While Wobble's bass is missed somewhat, I think Lydon effectively took full reign over PiL. This is one of those magnificently dark pop albums, almost like a Cure album but with more unique production. "Order of Death" and of course, "This is Not a Love Song"(some people insist that the original b-side version of it is far superior, but, as I haven't been lucky enough to hear that, I can't pass judgment on it), are amazing pieces of music. I give it an 8.

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Commercial Zone - Virgin 1983.
Rating = 5

This is supposedly Keith Levene's version of This Is What You Want, but if that's true, what a disappointing erection Keith hath erected. More guitars? No, more synths. More experimentation? No, more boring bass lines. Nowhere near as enjoyable as PIL's version, but worthwhile to collectors because there's lots of John Lydon on here, in both demo versions of This Is What You Want songs and godawful outtakes from the record. What the heck? PIL's version was MUCH more commercial than this, and good too! The only genuine cool thing on here is a delightful guitar version of "The Order Of Death."

My dog is named Henry but he doesn't know it yet. He keeps chewing on his bed.

From past experience, I know that to be a bad idea. First of all, the cotton ends up coming out your nose all bloody and secondly when you reach the spring holy CHRIST you dig the rap I'm vibin'?

Reader Comments
I really, really like this album...When I saw Public Image for the first time, this is what they sounded like....It's stark and the fidelity is really not that good, but it does have this strange, hypnotic effect....I play this more than any other PIL album. I give it an easy 9.
I prefer some of Levenes version to the official release. This is what you want is massively over produced with that horrid 80's plastic sound and silly huge drums. Although Commercial Zone sounds in places like 'works in progress' (which it is) it has some interesting ideas and some good groves going on. The official release sounds like a bunch of session men trying to get a hit. Oh! I forgot.....It was a bunch of session men trying to get a hit!

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Live In Tokyo - Virgin 1983.
Rating = 6

The last time we heard from these guys (1981's Vanity Patootie And The Pish-Posh Gang), it seemed a strange, delusional dream of madness that they would ever be popular enough to release a live concert album, something generally attempted by only the higher echelon of mainstream music (i.e. Nazareth, Burton Cummings, D.I.). But somehow they got the funding to attempt this wild experiment and boy rowdy did they pull out the stops in making this the most "pretty good" live album ever!

Actually the record is more conceptually interesting than sonically enjoyable as, in yet another attempt to blow the listener's mind, John Lydon packaged each record with an *actual audience member* inside the cellophane coating. His idea was that it would "bend all the other albums in your collection." Also, it features a hastily thrown-together bar band performing music from the difficult early era of the band. Only Lydon and Atkins remain, surrounded by strangers with inscrutable Italian and Polish names like "Joseph Guida," "Louis Bernardi" and "Tommy Zvoncheck." This motley crue of oddballs convened in the Far East to perform three songs each from First Issue, The Flowers of Romance and This Is What You Want. This Is What You Get!, as well as "Death Disco," which appears on Second Edition as "Swan Lake." Results vary. Very.

The set list is fine; it's the playing that's troublesome. Guida's guitar tone is so trebly, muted and powerless that he might as well have stayed home and cooked spaghetti that night. Bassist Bernardi ruins so many songs with his corny slap funk playing that he'd have been better off growing a mustache and saying "That's a spicy meatball-ah!" And keyboardist Zvoncheck infects the songs with so many stupid wiggly '80s synth noises that you'd swear he was standing on a chair pushing a light bulb into a socket as two men turned the chair around and around.

Just as an aside, Zvoncheck was quoted in a 2002 interview saying, "I'd heard of PiL. I knew it was Rotten's new band. I first heard their music before auditioning for them. Basically I thought (and still do) think it was (is) crap.. PiL was probably the stupidest band I'd ever played in."

Zvoncheck has also performed with Aldo Nova, Flo & Eddie, Clarence Clemmons & the Red Bank Rockers and The Moogy Klingman Band.

Three of the ten songs somehow survive this onslaught of funk-pop stupidity. "This Is Not a Love Song" was already funk-pop in the first place, so no problem there. But their more traditional approach also brings a surprising musicality and cohesiveness to "The Flowers of Romance" and "Annalisa." The rest ranges from "Yeesh" to "YECCH!," reaching the very plateau of idiocy in a nauseating performance of "Death Disco" that might as well be called "Slap Bass Shitfest."

But what the hell, I'll give it a 6.

Reader Comments
I finally picked this up after a long time after my cassette destroyed itself. It's not half as bad as some people say. True, the new guitarist and bassist do seem to come from a more "rock" background than Wobble and Levene, but Joe Guida in particular isn't at all bad - he seems to get more confident as the show goes on, and towards the end he's peeling off some pretty abrasive and charged riffs. How come he never surfaced in any other bands after this? Louis Bernardi does get a bit slap-happy on the bass in the later tracks, but he's a bit too far down in the mix to be heard a lot of the time, which is a shame as the songs definitely lack some lower frequencies. This album is pretty interesting if you know the songs and want to hear them presented in a different way - what this shows is that they are good songs, and they stand up well in the new format. This album is going to get some regular plays from me.
This is a terrific live album. Way cool live spin on 'Flowers of Romance' and 'Banging the Door.'
Hey, you left off Zvoncheck's time in BoC for the best album in the history of mankind "Club Ninja". ;-)

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Album - Elektra 1985.
Rating = 9

This record actually has historical significance for me. I was 16 and at the height of my punk rock phase and I borrowed this tape from my then-girlfriend Aimee Terrebonne because I wanted to hear Johnny Rotten's "dance" band to hear how bad they were. But Urgh! A Music War! I was listening to it while cruising along in my sleek '83 Oldsmobile and I discovered that it was awesome! "Wow!" I remember thinking at the time. "I never thought I'd be able to enjoy sissy music! I must be progressing as a human being!"

Nope. Turns out it's not dance music at all. It's a rock album. Big BIG drums, hard rock guitar chords slammin' and the most radio-ready melodies of PIL's career, before or since. Shoulda been huge!!!! All seven tracks are FM radio-ready danceable alt-rock killers. Maybe a couple go on a bit too long, but damn a mahooney they's catchy with them guitars and such! One o' them even has that smelly Indian food vibe that George Harrison so thoroughly enjoyed back in the sixties on such classic psychedelic tunes as "All Those Years Ago" and "When We Was Fab."

Oh yeah. The artwork and marketing concept had to do with the concept of "genericism." Which was a ripoff of the first Flipper album concept. So Flipper responded by releasing an album called Public Flipper Limited, which I STILL think is pretty fucking funny. Kinda like if Britney Spears were to release an album that was any good at all.

Whoops! I Did The President of the Record Company Again!

Reader Comments
Flipper (and PIL) stole the "genericism" album cover idea from EATER's first and only LP, Album (issued on the Label). Most of Eater was only like 14 1/2 (some say the drummer was still swimming in his dads balls) to boot and could outrock both of those bands ten-fold. Actually I read that PIL stole the generic idea from the greatest movie of all time - Repo Man as a potshot to the films director, Alex Cox for directing Sid & Nancy, a movie that Mr. Rotten publicly dispises. And how!
Ryuichi Sakamoto's contributions to this album are amazing. You should check out his work with Yellow Magic Orchestra and his score to the BBC's production of "Wuthering Heights" from 1992. It's a good PiL outing, but I don't think it's quite up to par as most of their other releases, though. I'll give it a 7. (Eric Sweenor)
Wanky slick 80's guitar rock bullshit. Supposedly Steve Vai guests on it, doesn't that say enough? Can't even be saved by the caterwauling of Mr. Lydon. Even the version of "Rise" on here is outstripped by the single version on Greatest Hits So Far. If one were to compile the great tracks from this, the prior album, Happy? and 9 you'd have a great EP there. Avoid! 3/10, most of those points for the generic packaging - love it!
Oh man I "remember" Aimee Terrebonne. Like fucking, Yowza, man! (Robin Kempson)
to me this is a rip off of flippers generic album. to flipper im probably a rip off of your stupid album tho. and public image ltd were never even a you didnt know that.
We should probably consider this as much a Bill Laswell album as a John Lydon record. It was Laswell who corralled the all star lineup, in fact the personel on this record reminds me of some music snob's wet dream-- "Dude, if you could put together a band of ANY living musicians to make a concept album, who whould you choose?"-- well apparently the answer was Ginger Baker and/or Tony Williams on drums, Steve Vai on guitars (but only because Jimi was dead), Bill Laswell on bass (or was it Wobble here again?), and Ryuchi Sakamoto on keys (and someone else I think. . . can't remember. . . Michael Beinhorn maybe?) Steve Vai's "guitar wanking" aside this is a nearly perfect album: "pop" songs that SOUND like pop songs, but manage to not be pop songs. I always imagined one of these songs making it into heavy rotation on Top-40 radio, and a blonde, gum-cracking, airhead cheerleader bopping her head to the beat and saying "I love this song, but I can't tell what he's singing about." As for the "guitar wanking", well, yes, it does sound like cliche'd 80's heavy metal, but Vai always impressed me with his playing, it doesn't bore me, and when he's not soloing he's playing some pretty interesting non-cliche'd stuff (remember, he was a veteran of Zappa's band, and took over the spot formerly filled by Adrian Belew). I always thought this was the high point for PiL.
this was so-so album. but only one thing needs to be said in its defense. Steve Vai

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Happy? - Virgin 1987.
Rating = 8

Even more radio-ready than the last one! None of these songs go on too long - they all have generic verse/chorus constructions and are catchy in a predictable way that would TOTALLY have hit had the album come out maybe six years later. Great shit, quite honestly. It's just your basic drums/bass/guitar/keys/singer music, but the songs are all either supercatchy or else they have one little bit that sticks in your head for 55 years a day, like "Fat Chance Hotel" or that great tune "Seattle." This is probably all just John's attempts to create hit singles and make money, but since that's every other musician's goal too, you can't really begrudge the guy, especially when his alt-rock tunes are so catchy! Some chick backup vocals and oh - if I didn't describe Johnny's singing style, let me do so now - he sings in a high voice and ends lots of sentences with an extra "-ah" at the end like Mark Smith of The Fall, whom I know you shoot snooker with.

My dog just peed in the box on his own! He's so smart!!!! Now he's asleep in a box, much like a homeless person freezing to death.

Reader Comments
I actually like this album. I just wish someone would remove the black soul-girls from singing back-up's, they ruin the songs and are just the fucking cheese. Plus I hate black people. That said, "Seattle" and "Fat Chance Hotel" are both amazing songs. "Seattle" was in Hiding Out starring Jon Cryer, where he plays a 35 year old stockbroker who is a witness for a Mafia trial. He then has to go into "hiding" as a 16 year old punk in highschool named Maxwell Houser. The dude fucks highschool chicks at 35! It's like they made a movie about me! My name is Maxwell Houser! (Joseph R. Whitnah)
Happy? change my life back in 1987. I was straight up metal, you know Ratt, Crue, etc. Then someone put in this 'new tape," and for the first 5 sec I was laughing at the way he used his voice. After that I could not get his voice out of my head. Of cours I bout Album and 9. Very impressive. The Fucking bomb. I cna't understand why JL has't quite made god-like status. Iggy gets more respect.

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9 - Virgin 1989.
Rating = 8

More keyboards, kinda setting up a fake dancey late 80s sound similar to, say, INXS or Tears for Fears or Depeche Mode or somesuch. But the songs are really catchy, like your hip Robert Plant Now And Zen album of that era. So it's still ROCK music, just played with dancey sissyass instruments. And "Disappointed" is one of the most gorgeous songs that John Lydon has ever had a hand in writing. And that INCLUDES "Bodies"!

Say, my ladyfriend and I shared a PIL moment tonight! We were at the McDonald's enjoying some delightful food products and we began discussing how our little Puppy loves going to the neighbor's side of the terrace (she's a lesbian) because she has so many planties up and he likes planties. So we thought maybe we could put up some planties on our side so little Henry will stay off of the lesbian's side (where he might accidentally get his rug munched). So my ladyfriend says "Maybe we could put up some of that sod with grass. Where can we get sod?" Then she paused and said, "I know where we can find sod!" And then, in unison, we both said "In Heaven!" Ha hahha! Hdekee!!! AH!!

See, that's a PIL reference.

No really - I'm not kidding around.

Fuck you.

Reader Comments
i love the song "Warrior from the 9 album! it's one of my favorite coolest songs, ever! it reminds me of Donkey Kong Country trilogy for SNES!

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That What Is Not - Virgin 1992.
Rating = 5

Tons more guitars than you'll find on any other PIL album. Unfortunately, the melodies suffer a bit. Generic "big rock" chord sequences and lots of songs that pass by without you even noticing that they've passed by. More like Bon Jovi than PIL, as odd as that might sound to you or any other man.

Okay, not Roy Scheider. But any other goddamned citizen of these here United States of Fuckmerica.

Tonight was very stressful for me. My fiancee put my puppy on a chair to take a cute picture of him and he jumped off and landed on his head. He screamed and then stopped moving. We called the vet emergency room and quickly ran down to grab a cab. I thought for sure my puppy was going to die in the taxi cab. He just wouldn't perk up - he was so out of it. And, even after only one day, I love him so much. But we got to the vet and the doctor woman, who looked just like an old college friend of mine named Doug Matthews even though she was a woman, said that he was fine. He seems fine now. Totally potty trained after one day at home!!! Occasionally he MISSES the little poopdish we have laid out for him (he hasn't quite mastered the idea that, even if his front paws are on the little pellets, his poophole might still be on the outside floor!), but he always tries and he always whines to let us know he has to go out. He is such a special little fellow! Everyone who sees him thinks so. He's just so damned cute. And he's charcoal colored! Very neat little guy. He's gonna be huge when he grows up though. So if you could all chip in and buy me a really big house, that'd be great, thanks.

Oh yes. The album. Well, the songs, regardless of Johnny's Robert Plant-esque trick of using a sample of the song "God Save The Queen" by his old band The Buzzcocks, the songs this time around veer too closely towards "BAD" modern rock - not sure what happened to Johnny's great sense of catchiness - most of this stuff just isn't catchy.

Reader Comments
PiL was definitely at its height with the original Lydon/Wobble/Levene arrangement, but I loved Flowers of Romance and Album a lot, too, and Happy? was by no means a bad album, but this and 9 were just unlistenable for me. I don't mean unlistenable as in "oh god there was no structure whatsoever," I mean they were both just boring to listen to. I think this was a little more interesting of a listen than 9 just because I didn't go for the overall sound they were trying to achieve with 9, but this was just a bad, bad album. I agree about the melodies point -- where the hell did they go? I loved Acid Drops on the first listen, and then after that, every song sounded like a watered down version of that. And for the first time in a PiL record, the sound seemed to be pretty damn generic (at least in my opinion). Lydon has always injected his own style into his work and I just can't tell what he was trying to do with this. The songs aren't fun or, at the very least, unique. What a shame.
I don't now how often you revisit this album, since this is one of your old reviews, but I'm buying up all the PiL albums and just bought this one used. One thing about John Lydon is that he seems to imply on all his albums that he doesn't go into the studio with any game plan, and thus, with whatever his band was created these generic songs, which I gave a real chance to grow on me. I think "Lucks Up" has good verses but that chorus is annoying. I think Lydon, and I'm going by his own admission, believes that his caterwalling is the most important aspect to PiL or that lyrics are the most important part of music in general, inherently making the music suffer. "Acid Drops" and "Covered" are good but that whole second side, with the generic blues riffs just suck to hell. Regardless, I think Lydon is a super talented individual and despite the suckage of the songs, Lydon still has more personality, style and brains than most artists doing big dumb loud rock like this.

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Psycho's Path - Virgin 1997.
Rating = 7

This is actually billed as a John Lydon solo album, but as I hope I've made clear to you, PIL has been a John Lydon glamour boy project since Keith Levene split ages ago so let's go ahead and figure that this isn't going to be much different than you might expect.

Oddly, it sounds like a Spooky Tooth reunion album.

No come on! Obviously I'm kidding! Why would that be the case? Do you honestly think that Johnny Rotten would spend his free time hanging out with Mike Patto? Get your head out of the sand - it's time to live life in the present day. Do you have the Wireless Web on your PDA yet? No? Jesus christ, get your sand out of your balls and give to the present day! Do you spend every waking hour enjoying digital satellite TV programming? No? Come on! What are you, a guy with a fish instead of a brain? Get your undies out of the dryer and

Actually, I DO have to get my clothes out of the dryer. Can you hang on a second?

Okay I'm back. This is a good, completely underrated synth dance pop album. Critics bashed it just to be dicks -- if you like the PIL stuff from This Is What You Want through 9, this futhermucker is geared directly towards YOU! No more guitars (or, if they're there, they're turned down) -- just tons of catchy, dancey synth melodies with Mr. Bitter spouting his usual vitriol. I assume so anyway - I didn't actually bother to read the lyrics. Heck, I bought the thing for a dollar and so can you! Johnny even practices a lighter, gentler (and ultimately more forboding) vocal style in songs like "Grave Ride" and "Dog"! And John played most of the instruments himself, sort of proving without a doubt that he's always been the mastermind behind PIL (since Jah and Keith got kicked to the wayside).

I was once told that Mr. Lydon performed this entire album on a computer, but it's so hard to tell the difference between a computer and a synthesizer these days, I honestly can't tell. I can tell you that at no point on the record does it say 10 Print "You're a DooDoo Log" followed by 20 Goto 10 so that "You're a DooDoo Long" runs through your CD player over and over and over again until you kick the Tandy Computer in the nilly-nallies. And you KNOW what I mean by nilly-nallies, eh? (balls) I don't have to spell it out for you, do I?

This CD is SLOWER than classic 15-year-old girl era PIL, but the synth lines are still so reminiscent of mid-period Cure that who could give a Barrington McGarnigle? If you like your music computery and PIL-like, look no further than Cyco Miko's Ridiculously Convoluted Back Catalog.

Oh - the CD ends with 5 bonus track remixes. No reason to listen to those. Better to rip the CD out, break off the little turntable needle, run out in the street and stab somebody with it.

Reader Comments
I read the line 'When Johnny left The Clash...' I said hey hang on a minute, I can't go any further here this cannot be a good article but of course I did read on cuz I knew there was a twist...great stuff man! (Jack S. Karnes)
Does Johnny have a real life anymore? Odds my bodkins!!!
never been a big fan of the sex pistols-( eddie and the hotrods should have had the fame) but strangely public image are brilliant- even though there very s pistols - cant explain! wondering whether it is worth it all with the shameful abuse thrown at you
Marvellous review of PiL!

Particularly the analogy to Foreigner! Seriously tho ... The Cure and Pil have something quite unique. God knows what it is? As a singer-writer, I have been very Lydon influenced, bought the newspaper cover vinyl of 'Public Image' the first day it came out. Been hooked since.

Mods 'n punk eh?
pil music great so many diffent strange things to hear thats john lydon

john done a one off with timezone 1985 world destruction my fav of all time at that time
Sun is a masterpiece, this album is great completely underrated.

Stephen Cakebread
I think your web page would make the man himself fucking proud...
this the most accurate bit of writting i have read that totaly shows how twistedley clever MR LYDON was????
top page keep this up
im going to post this on
all the best
Read this all the way thought, thought it was interesting how a lot of brits didnít get the fact that youíre sarcastic, but you egg them on. Me personally, I gave up on PIL after 2nd edition cause my punker buddies told me the band was going to implode (they were right) but Iím going to try to find a copy of the Flowers of Romance cause of your insights.

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If it's not too much of a bitter 'PIL' to swallow (HA HA!!! OH HA HA HA!!!!), click here to purchase Public Image Ltd. CDs. Click on the CD covers to access cheaper used cd prices.

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