Plastic Box
Disc 3

Disc 3:

Running Time: 78:25 mins

review by Scott M, May 1999 (First published F&F 9)
© 1999 / F&F Publishing

The only unreleased material supposed to be on 'PB' was the Radio 1 sessions, however, completely by chance the version of 'Love Song' they used is previously unreleased! It seems to date back to the re-recorded 1984 album version rather than the original 1983 version, a sort of (mostly) instrumental remix. When I heard this version I rang up Virgin and asked them about it, but they didn't even realise it was unreleased! They said that they just got it from the vaults and that they picked it because it was their favourite version! To be honest I can't stand the normal LP version of 'Love Song' but I have to say I quite like this remix, it's not as good as the original single version, but it has its moments!

For me it was great to get a unreleased track that I didn't expect, but I know some people were disappointed they didn't get the original 12" version, and I suppose that's fair comment. The re-recorded 'This is What You Want...' version of 'Bad Life' is next, obviously I'm disappointed that 'Commercial Zone' wasn't given a CD release here, but I actually have to say I prefer this version of 'Bad Life' anyway. Incidentally, I always wondered if 'Bad Life' was originally written for, or about, one of the 'Mad Max' movies. You're probably thinking 'what's he on about' , well, the track was originally entitled 'Mad Max' and one of the lines was "The open road, I'm getting gasoline" , and that ties in with the plot of the second movie... Next up is 'Question Mark' , the B-side of 'Bad Life' getting it's CD debut. To be honest it's a pretty nothing synth based track, that with the exception of a sample of JL signing "Remember that" is mostly instrumental, not their strongest record...

Plastic Box 3The whole of 'This is What You Want' (minus 'Love Song') follows. This album is often regarded as the worst studio album the band ever did, personally while agreeing that most of the original versions featured on 'Commercial Zone' were superior, I don't think this album is half as bad as people make out, though I do agree it is one of the weaker studio albums. It was a huge change in direction for PiL, with the final departure of Keith, John decided that working within a loose rock/pop format was the way forward for the band. The difference between 'Flowers...' and this album is unbelievable, they basically went from experimental to pop. The change saw PiL lose a lot of fans, and for a long time their credibility with the press, however, I can't (and won't) agree with the myth that 'Commercial Zone' was the last true PiL album, granted 'This is What You Want...' was a more commercial move, a move seemingly against their original philosophy, but PiL were always chameleons they always changed as it suited them, and for me this was simply just another change in direction - Don't be so fucking precious, the original stuff is great and always will be. The king is dead, long live the king... The album did throw up a couple of PiL classics after all, the hilarious 'Tie me to the Length of That' and superb 'Order of Death' . A track originally entitled 'The Slab' and written for use in the 'Order of Death' movie, but for one reason or another never was.

The whole of PiL's generic 'Album' concludes the disc. You guessed it, another change in direction, out went the funk/pop and in came big guitars, mostly down to the fact Bill Laswell was in charge of production. Apparently the original demos, recorded with the much under-rated 1984 live line up, weren't as guitar driven as the final product, but when you employ people like Steve Via and Ginger Baker there's only one way you're going to sound I suppose. Of course the purists were outraged, "John's sold, now out he's doing metal". However, while the purists were outraged, the rock sound of 'Album' brought back some of the Pistols fans who had been scared off by the first couple of albums, PiL were finally doing music they could relate to! PiL even found themselves with a hit single in 'Rise' and had as high a profile as they'd ever had.

Personally I think the album is a masterpiece, and it's wrong to simply label it "rock" or "metal", what fucking rock band sounded like 'Rise' or 'Ease' in 1986? 'Album' might have featured big guitars but it also featured all the trade mark PiL sounds and qualities, the big drums, John's unique vocals, the Eastern melodies, and most importantly the content. Who else at the time had the balls to sing about the constant threat of nuclear war? 13 years on the album still sounds fresh, and in my humble opinion stands alongside 'Metal Box' as one of PiL's finest moments...

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Plastic Box 3
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