Public Image Ltd. - Public Image (First Issue) - Review
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critics' view

Johnny Rotten had started the year on stage in America with the imploding Sex Pistols, infamously sneering “this is no fun… no fun at all… ha-ha-ha… ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” to a somewhat bemused audience, seemingly oblivious to the disillusionment and general shoddiness before them. By the springtime he had formed a new band with The Clash’s founding guitarist, Keith Levene, by the summertime they were in the studio, and by October, the blinding debut single, “Public Image” was in the shops. Fans were thrilled to hear that Punk’s figurehead was perfectly capable of forging ahead on his own terms; Johnny Rotten was dead, John Lydon reborn. As he himself put it, it was “a slagging of the group I used to be in… they never bothered to listen to what I was fucking singing, they don't even know the words to my songs… they just took me as an image. It was as basic as that, they really were as dull as that.

The debut album was hot-on-the-heels of the single, and was released just in time to be included in Christmas stockings. The quartet lined up: John Lydon (22, vocals, piano); Keith Levene (21, guitar); Jah Wobble (20, bass, vocals) and Jim Walker (23, drums). Just as he did on last years “Bollocks”, Lydon gets a good boot into “Religion”…

Stained glass windows keep the cold outside while the hypocrites hide inside… Fat pig priest, sanctimonious smiles. He takes the money, you take the lies… This is religion and Jesus Christ, this is religion cheaply priced. This is bibles full of libel, this is sin in eternal hymn

How refreshing to hear someone shouting out against these holier-than-thou puritans who’ve been plaguing, corrupting and persecuting mankind for centuries. When will we finally come to our senses I wonder? Post-Punk is the only religion you need in 1978. Interestingly, Lydon had similar problems getting this past band members; bassist Jah Wobble in particular did not approve. My respect for his single-mindedness soars further with this knowledge. The doped masses have long since been divided and conquered; the majority of these robotic subordinates have been brain-washed into shouting you down and trying to shut you up when it comes to “matters of the cloth”. Bollocks to their bollocks.

For all the forward-march progression of the bass-heavy openers, Pistols fans would have been delighted with the two-pronged assault of “Low Life”and “Attack”, the former of which very much puts me in mind of the mighty “E.M.I.” track from they who cannot now be mentioned. The album’s mock-disco closer “Fodderstompf” was a mess-around that turned out to be casually fantastic with shout-out slogans such as “be bland, be dull, be boring” and “we only wanted to be loved” repeated ad nauseuem to the point you can’t help but submit and join in with the whacksters. It tickles me to know that this became an anthem on the gay disco scene, a happy accident. Right here, Lydon and his new gang, complete with a one-man bass powerhouse, delivered the goods unusually and quite brilliantly.

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