Archive for July, 2012

Metal Box

Some people manage to be involved in one masterpiece in their life, others, such as John Lydon, manage the feat twice. Not content with being involved in one band that changed the face of music, namely the Sex Pistols, he went on to break new ground with Public Image Ltd.  Brilliant, defiant, anarchic and joyous as the Pistols were,PIL,in many ways, were the better band. For one, their body of work surpasses that of the Pistols and for another the music had more depth. There are many great PIL moments from the pulsating debut single ‘Public Image’, the eastern tinged ‘Flowers of Romance’, the commerce baiting ‘This is not a love song’ and that ode for every alienated outsider (and we have all been that person at times) Rise, they are a band that always try something new.

However, their magnum opus is Metal Box. A dark dub fuelled bass courtesy of Jah Wobble underpins the scratchy, twitchy guitar of the great Keith Levene (drums were handled by Wobble, Levene, Richard Dudanski, Martin Atkins and David Humphrey) over it all we have Lydon delivering some of the most pivotal vocal performances of his career.  Albatross is a free form classic that drives forward, menacing and dark, Wobble’s lolloping bass, Levene’s stabbing guitar and Lydon singing about getting rid of the Albatross, throwing off the shackles of the past and riding the crest of a wave onward. God, I will never forget the first time I heard this, on vinyl, aged 15, it showed me that music could be pitch black dark with a atmosphere that can only be described as both hypnotic and claustrophobic.  The song Memories follows and it is both dancy and angry. The production is fantastic as at a point the sound changes altogether and lifts the song ever higher. Where to go from there?

A good band finds a tune a great band finds a classic:  Death Disco is an epic, Wobble doesn’t waste a bass note, Lydon sings, wails, screams about the loss of his mother to cancer and Levene plays the motif of Swan Lake on guitar. Somehow when I write that it looks like it shouldn’t work but by God it does. It manages to be skanky and terrifying in one breath and for some reason that I can never figure out the BBC let them play it on Top of the Pops ha ha.  Speaking of Pop (seemless segway) we have the song Poptones, which has an absolute beaut of a bass line, again we have dark lyrical themes as John says: “It’s straight out of the  Daily Mirror so I can’t guarantee its authenticity.” “This was another newspaper story which fascinated me. A girl bundled blindfolded into the back of a car by a couple of bad men and driven off into a forest, where they eventually dumped her. The men had a cassette machine with an unusual tune on the cassette, which they kept playing over and over. The girl remembered the song, and that, along with her recollection of the car and the men’s voices, is how the police identified them. The police eventually stopped the car and found the cassette was still in the machine, with the same distinctive song on the tape.

Careering is a song about an IRA man turned businessman and has a synth that just drills in to you, driving into your spine and makes you want to move. No birds do sing , Graveyard,  The Suit,  Bad Baby and the Socialist all add to the rich texture of the album but Chant is an absolute belter, it feels like an army should be singing it. In the end, the album is rounded off by the instrumental track Radio 4 and is a mellow ending to a gothic/dub classic. Look I feel like putting it on now…but before I do I would just like to add that the original pressing of this album saw the vinyl in a metal canister like the ones they used to put films in. Genius. Buy it.