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This Is PiL

Public Image Ltd.

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Album Review

Enabled by the expiration of obstructive contracts and a little income from an appearance in a butter ad, John Lydon revived PiL in 2009. Consisting of alums Bruce Smith (1986-1990) and Lu Edmonds (1986-1988), along with bassist Scott Firth, Lydon's band toured steadily from December 2009 through 2011 and released this, its first album since 1992's That What Is Not, in 2012. Those later set lists — one of which was documented on ALiFE 2009 — leaned heavily toward PiL's first two albums. Playing that material seems to have affected the sound of This Is PiL, though it is no attempt at replication. It's more like a stylistic evolution — one that's easier on the average set of ears than the droning dread of the first album's "Theme" or the mangled dub of Metal Box's "Poptones." Firth's liquid throb replaces Jah Wobble's rumbling and penetrating basslines. Edmonds' flexible guitar style carries significantly less violence than Keith Levene's caustic slashing. Smith's rhythms are more intricate and musical than PiL's early thud-discoid "drummer by committee" approach. Lydon, sharp and direct as ever, shows occasional signs of softening, as heard in a handful of wistful lines laced through otherwise forceful songs like "One Drop" and "Human" ("I miss those roses, those English roses"). However, he sticks to his seething wordplay with far greater frequency. This is exemplified by the standout "Terra-Gate," a vivid rant with as much intensity as Metal Box's "Chant" ("Take what you make, what you hate, integrate, into hate, it's too late," etc.). It's one of the PiL's best albums. Just as important, it has as much attitude — if somewhat tempered and pointed in some new directions — as anything else Lydon has recorded. And it begins with a belch and ends with a wail.

Biography

Formed: 1978 in London, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

One of the first and most significant post-punk bands, Public Image Ltd. (PiL) were originally a quartet led by singer John Lydon (formerly Johnny Rotten, born January 31, 1956) and guitarist Keith Levene, who had been a member of the Clash in one of its early lineups. The band was filled out by bassist Jah Wobble (John Wordle) and drummer Jim Walker. It was formed in the wake of the 1978 breakup of Lydon's former group, the Sex Pistols. For the most part, the band's early incarnation devoted itself...
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