Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Public Image Ltd. - Album

Today (January 27th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Album, the fifth studio record from Public Image Ltd. This 1986 release hit number 95 in Canada, number 34 in New Zealand and number 14 in the UK. Here in the US, it spent sixteen weeks on the Billboard Album chart and rose only to number 114. When released in different formats, the title changed its name to "Cassette" and "Compact Disk".

At this point, the band really only consisted of John Lydon (on vocals). For this record, he brought in some studio musicians to assist: Steve Vai (guitar), Jonas Hellborg (bass), Ginger Baker (drums), Tony Williams (drums), Nicky Skopelitis (guitar), Ryuichi Sakamoto (Fairlight CMI) and Bernard Fowler (backing vocals).

Side one opens with "FFF", a high octane rocker. The title stands for "farewell, my fairweather friend" which is the spiteful sentiment that the lyrics convey.

"Rise", the first single, rose all the way to number 35 in Belgium, number 30 on the US Billboard Dance chart, number 29 in New Zealand, number 11 in the UK, and number 10 in Ireland. The lyrics focus on apartheid in South Africa and the brutal imprisonment of Nelson Mandela. In 2014, the British publication NME ranked it at number 206 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

"Fishing" is another song full of disgust and disdain. Here, Lydon repeatedly tells someone to "crawl back into your dustbin". The rhythms on this one are very tribal and hypnotic.

"Round" was the B-side to the second single. For me, the repeated line "mushrooms on the horizon" are a harbinger of nuclear war which was very much a public concern in the mid-1980's.

Side two begins with the banging beat of "Bags", a song whose lyrics summon up for me an image of trash in the desert. Could it be a body in those bags, dumped by some criminals? The mind wonders.

The second single was "Home" was on the UK charts for one week, peaking at number 75. The subject matter here is also war.

The record ends with the eerie opening of "Ease".

Prior to this review, I was only familiar with the track "Rise". I found Album to be a solid listening experience with production that still holds up very well three decades later.

For more from Public Image Ltd., click here.

1 comment:

HERC said...

There's a certain beauty to "Rise" that proves Lydon/Rotten is more than a human loogie. And then his tradwmark whine/drone kicks in near the end of the song and we realize he will always be who he is.