Album: First Issue

Artist: Public Image Ltd.

Label: Light In The Attic

Release Date: June 11, 2013

PIL 6-11


 Public Image Ltd. need little to no introduction; one of the many influential bands to emerge from the 70s Brit-punk scene lead singer, Johnny Rotten—who at this juncture began donning his formal name John Lydon—formed PIL after the demise of Sex Pistols. Archival label Light in the Attic’s mission has frequently been to release never-before-heard, unreleased or little known artists, so it is astounding to learn that the reissue of the  PIL (hardly an unknown band) 1978 debut First Issue is actually a “first,” as it was never officially released in the States. 35 years late due to “its sound [being] considered too un-commercial by major-labels for an American release,” according to Light in the Attic—and one year after PIL’s ninth album This is PIL—we now have First Issu# with two special treats, bonus track “The Cowboy Song” and an hour long 1978 BBC audio interview.

 Beginning with the simply orchestrated yet abrasive, almost 10 minute track “Theme,” Lydon wails the chorus “I wish I could die” over the menacingly slow, 1-2 crash of drums and cymbals and heavy bass eclipsed by a shredding guitar; thus begins the deviant album. Then follows “Religion I,” and “Religion II”; the first track is a reading of the lyrics while the latter is a bass laden, pummeling track. The unrelenting words poke at organized religion with such crucifying passages as: “Do you give away the cash you can’t afford/ On bended knees and pray to lord… The apostles were eleven/ Now there’s a sod in Heaven.” But never fear: John Lydon attacks all he believes who show hypocrisy.

 From “Annalisa,” to whom he yells, “Think I’m proud to be your enemy”; to the “Low Life” he describes as an “Ego-maniac traitor”; to the bourgeoisie he addresses in “Attack” (“You who sits on golden arses/Tinkering your cocktail glasses”); Lydon defiantly expresses his angst ridden views. And of course there is “Public Image,” the 1978 single that preceded #First Issue#, wherein Lydon skewers those (especially media) who sheepishly focus upon his (and “the system’s”) aesthetics rather than more meaningful matters.

 And it is his fondness for the public and media that makes the hour long interview an intriguing—yet at times, tiresome—addition. When the first official question of an interview is: “You know you have a reputation as surrounding yourself with yes men and heavies, what do you say to that?” One anticipates the most awkwardly confrontational interview to unfold. However, what develops is an uncomfortably off-putting interview as the journalist’s initial threatening, even possibly deft, stance transitions to quiet unease. Lydon’s hostility towards the Pistols, how the band crumbled, and being continually asked about his defunct band is ever strong as he expressed his weariness for being asked the same questions.

 Lydon clearly loved to prove difficult at times and coyly provided sarcastic responses to questions. Towards the end of the interview, with even larger gaps of silence and audible tapping of impatient fingers, the interviewer interjects, “Books…books, got any plans to write a book?” “Oh, yes. A cookbook…it’ll be about what not to eat. Don’t eat anything out of a can, don’t eat anything in a plastic bag and starve to death ‘cause there’s no alternative.” Oh, John. When asked if there were any other topics he’d like to discuss Lydon replies, “I don’t know, who else is there to criticize?”

 The interviewer states that she’s bored with the negativity…at this juncture, so was I. Thus, back to the amazing music of the debut album.

 DOWNLOAD: “Religion II,” “Low Life,” “Public Image,” “Annalisa”

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