Q Magazine, March 1992
© 1992 Q
Public Image Ltd:
That What Is Not
by Paul Davies
Fifteen years on, and every
bit part player who ever thrashed a punk rock guitar in anger seems to
be lingering over fading press clippings and penning none too essential
memoirs. To their credit, Strummer, Jones, Weller and Lydon have refused
to be drawn into this rose-tinted navel-gazing dance of nostalgia and
prefer to get on with the job in hand. In the case of Johnny One-Note
(as one esteemed American commentator was moved to describe him), this
means the release of PiL's first album for nearly three years.
And what a fiendishly sizzling brew of unbridled ferocity and bellicose guitar firepower it is - dense, intense and bludgeoning metal which may very well have been the outcome of some grisly laboratory experiment involving Napalm Death, Guns N'Roses and a bucketful of melodiously impressive tunes. Lording it throughout this 50-minute bout of ear canal surgery are the imperious Lydon vocals, homing in like a vengeful cackling vulture and tossing off the choicest of neatly turned, sawn-off aphorisms and scorching one-liners with practised ease.
"Welcome to the 21st Century," intones Lydon witheringly, as he lays waste to the strictures of censorship on Acid Drops, a sleek, driven, wall of metal noise ramming home the message. Lucks Up is a gleeful slice of Schadenfreude wrapped up in a mutation of Black Sabbath's War Pigs, the song bidding farewell to a hopeless junkie acquaintance with the less than sympathetic flourish, "Un-fucking-lucky you, boo hoo". Cruel, QP33 [aka God] and Covered negotiate similar corridors of oppressive mayhem where guitarist John McGeoch cranks up the neighbour-annoyance levels to a pleasurable max as Alan Dias and Curt Bisquera thrash out threatening rhythmic combinations.
Love Hope and Unfairground mix up noisy metal riffs with a psychedelic electric boogie and psychotic harmonica, Lydon's released cluster bombs of lyrical invective giving the thrusting guitars an unearthly edge. Emperor kicks off with a cute Spanish 1-2-3-4 before launching into a sliver of ragged retro punk which paves the way for Good Things, a bizarre meditation on government, politics and religion hitched up to a convoluted electro funk gospel groove. The one obvious hit single is Think Tank, something of a reprise of the themes of 1978's Public Image, full of neat lyrical paybacks and a memorable chorus.
The fear that John Lydon might have been in danger of burning, or indeed chilling, out as he slips into his later thirtysomethings is vanquished here with a convincingly realised gusto. Bring the noise!
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