Sounds, 19th September 1987
© 1987 Sounds
Public Image Limited
The Bitterest PiL
Is John Lydon, with his green teeth, orange hair and cliched snarl, as relevant now as he ever was when he emerged in the mid-'70s as the scourge of western society?
'Happy?' confirms that he his.
'Happy?' is a modern day scream at the blinkered ignorance and self interest Lydon has been observing from his arm chair in LA. It doesn't matter that John is as much a part of the establishment as the Queen, or that you wouldn't mention 'Happy?' in the same breath as 'Second Edition' or 'The Flowers Of Romance'. He's still on the attack, and his barbs are thoughtful enough to suggest that he hasn't been corrupted by the business.
He also knows that to contend with or even provoke '87's total lack of concious is to be part of it. Therefore 'Happy?' is a surprisingly ordinary mishmash of heavy metal riffs - taken one step back from Album - girlie backing vocals and Lydons screaming cat antics.
'Seattle', PiL's latest single, could have been titled after Liverpool or any other Northern city, as it deals with the enforced industrial wasteland in which people have to struggle to survive. Lydon, with his sardonic rhyming couplets, is a social commentator who use's his vicious cynicism to cover up the fact that he cares.
But Lydons most inspiring emotions has always been hate and he use's it to good effect in 'Angry'. With the ridiculously simple chorus 'You make me angry' Lydon launches a furious attack on those who base their lives on trends. 'No excuse, you are no use', he snaps. 'The Body', meanwhile, starts with 'When you run about/Without precaution, you'll get diseases/Need abortions, and up till now/No vaccination can give you back your reputation', and it could be an AIDS and unwanted pregnancy warning rolled into one. During the harsh 'Save Me', he draws parallels between the stupidity of religious fanaticism and the greed of Thatcherite ideals.
The main trouble with 'Happy?' is that the songs sentiments are far better than the songs themselves, and it's left to 'Fat Chance Hotel' to remind us of the PiL of old, the PiL that used to shake the neighbours walls.
To it's credit though, 'Happy?' is the only album to be released this year that actually talks down to it's audience - it seems as if Lydon wants to slap some sense into the wobbling piece of blank gristle called society whilst taking the piss out of the mess that we're all in.
'Now your understanding, don't be vegetating'. John Lydon was born to provoke and Happy?' is as cynical as the question mark that supports it and hangs ominously over us all. The sad truth is, we need Lydon as much today as we have ever done!
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