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Public Image Ltd.

This is PiL

PiL Official

Aug 22, 2012 Public Image Ltd. Bookmark and Share

That Sex Pistols reunion a few years back must have whetted John Lydon’s appetite for some reformation benefits. Lucky for him, he’s got another band he can reunite with: Public Image Ltd-even if he’s not using any of the original members. Missing from the 2012 lineup are guitarist Keith Levene and bassist Jah Wobble, both of whom were instrumental in defining the sound of PiL’s seminal Metal Box album. In their place are later members: guitarist Lu Edmonds and drummer Bruce Smith, as well as bassist Scott Firth. After almost two decades since their last album, This is PiL is self-released and self-funded via Lydon’s Country Life butter commercials and recent PiL tours.

What stands out the most on This is PiL is Lydon’s sometimes nostalgic, sometimes lamenting pontifications on Great Britain, his home country. The thing is, Lydon has been living in Los Angeles for a goodly part of the time since the last PiL album. As such, it seems disingenuous to be ranting about Britain’s shortcomings. Perhaps distance in both time and place has given Lydon perspective, so much so that the voice which was once banned from all U.K. media is now waxing poetic about English roses on the plodding “Human,” which handily borrows some of its guitar riffs from very early Charlatans Hammond organ sounds.

Lydon’s cranky old man tirades sound essentially the same as his snarky post-teenager diatribes. At times this is borderline entertaining, such as on the bouncy, peppy “One Drop” where Lydon-heavily aided by an excellent rhyming dictionary-provides a simple sing-along chorus. Similarly, on the spooky “Deeper Water,” the dub-drenched “Reggie’s Song,” and over the wobbly bass lines of “Lollipop Opera,” the PiL music and lyric combination hits its mark. More often than not, however, it is downright mundane. Lydon drags from the dreary “I Must Be Dreaming” through the numbing “It Said That” with very little reprieve. This is a shame, as the rest of the band are putting their best musical foot forward. On the majority of This is PiL, they are overshadowed by Lydon’s barking vocals. The album is misnamed; it should have been titled This is Lydon. (

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