Rolling Stone, 14th November, 1991

Transcribed by M

© 1991 Rolling Stone

Metal Box:
100 Greatest Album Covers

A distinctive product deserves a distinctive design, so for its second album -- a wild mutation of postpunk chaos and reggae two-stepping -- Public Image Ltd. wanted an equally unconventional package. According to guitarist Keith Levene, the group considered sealing the discs in a sardine can that could be opened only with a key ("except we wouldn't give the key") or creating a "sandpaper-type record, which would fuck up all the other records when you put it n your collection." Instead, PiL encased a limited edition of Metal Box in a round, embossed tin can, like those used to protect film reels.

The music came on three 12-inch records, which were pressed at 45 rpm to bolster the impact of the bass and drums. The packaging was maddening: The discs were nearly impossible to remove, and there were no track listings anywhere. It was also a burden on PiL: "Just to make 60,000 of them cost the band 33,000 (pounds) and cost Virgin 33,000," says Levene. "But it was worth it -- I mean, what a laugh." In the US, Metal Box was released as Second Edition, a standard double album; the British original currently sells for about seventy-five dollars in New York record stores.

Last year, Virgin Records UK created a limited-edition Metal Box CD in a miniature metal can. By that time, says Charles Dimont, art director of the original Metal Box, it had become a design cliché: "I can think of, oh, half a dozen items that have come out in metal boxes since then."


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