Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Public Image Ltd - Rise

Album: Album (Virgin, 1986) Chart pos: UK #11

John Lydon is one of those people who comes across as rude and obnoxious while at the same time articulate and brutally honest. A case in point is this 1979 appearance on Juke Box Jury, a moment so surreal I felt like I was watching a Monty Python sketch.Joan Collins, Alan Freeman and Elaine Page are next to John Lydon on the jury and it couldn’t be any weirder if they were on the same panel with Genghis Kahn or Attila the Hun as Johnny looks like the archetypal fish out of water. The most amusing thing is that while Freeman prefers to launch into some dull hyperbolic spiel on generic disco records, Johnny on the other hand approached each tune with a short derisory statement. The best bit is when Lydon describes a single by a ten-a-penny punk band (The Monks) as ‘patronizing rubbish’ much to Fluff’s shock and awe before going into a rant about how he wishes to distance himself from the kind of music he made four years earlier. Pretty ironic seeing Mr. Lydon has over the last ten years made a living from digging up a legacy best left buried.

Some followers of his music seems to chart his decline from rock legend to rock caricature from the late eighties when he released Album in 1986. The somewhat unfair criticism of the album is possibly down to the fact that this was a PiL album in name only. Levene and Wobble were long gone and instead of a solid line-up there were a revolving door of session musicians brought in by producer Bill Laswell including Steve Vai, Ginger Baker and Ryuichi Sakamoto. The single Rise was a big departure from their recognized sound instead of Wobbles bouncy bass lines and Levine’s cold, metallic guitar work we have pounding drums and jangly guitars backing Lydon’s offbeat lyrics about apartheid, racism and torture. The song itself possibly ranks as the poppiest moment since Lydon made a music career out of offending royalists, despite the allusions to torture.

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