Drive Time Selections: Where I pick a random release from my collection and perform a close listening, or as close of one as I can achieve while driving to and from work🙂
Artist:Public Image Limited
Release:Compact Disc (Album) (Cassette)
Label:Virgin / Elektra
Album (also known as Compact Disc or Cassette depending on the format) is the fifth studio album by English rock band Public Image Ltd, released on 3 February 1986. It features John Lydon backed by a group of musicians assembled by producer Bill Laswell, including Steve Vai, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Tony Williams and Ginger Baker.
After the release of This Is What You Want, Lydon assembled yet another touring band. Martin Atkins stayed on, with Jebin Bruni and Mark Schulz joining the band’s ranks. While gigging, Bruni and Schulz assisted in writing the material that wound up on Album. Atkins left to spend more time on his own projects after touring, and Lydon again scrapped his associates prior to recording. Anyone’s first thousand guesses as to who Lydon would work with next couldn’t possibly come close, as the unlisted credits for Album read as a motley crew of established musicians who literally have no business being anywhere near Lydon, let alone in a studio with him or with one another. Well, maybe that made perfect sense, given Lydon’s ability to baffle. Bill Laswell produced and played bass, which isn’t too much of a stretch. But Steve Vai, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Ginger Baker? Baker’s involvement is especially odd since PiL played an April Fools’ joke on the press by announcing his membership in the early ’80s. “Rise” successfully marries rock with Celtic folk (a heavier Dexy’s Midnight Runners?); Lydon’s chorus is his most hospitable yet. Opener “FFF” and “Home” are other strong points, driving and defiant. The former is as good as hard rock got in 1986. But Album can be found lacking in its reliance on outright professionalism and polish, emphasizing skill over craft. Vai’s scorched shredding likely repelled Lydon’s fans more than any of PiL’s earlier attempts to alienate and frustrate. The 90-second wailing over closer “Ease” is anything but; at most points, Vai’s playing just doesn’t fit. Unfortunately, Yellow Magic Orchestra member Sakamoto pops up only a couple times. His talent is pretty much wasted here. On the whole, Album is just as generic as its title.
The truly dangerous thing about this CD is that a uninitiated person will, upon first listen, make one of two cardinal errors; they will either focus on the excellent musicianship and bypass the truly brilliant focus, or they will become so involved with the bitterness and bile that lie beneath the surface of this CD that they will forget the fact that this is a great rock CD. The fact that it is great rock is, I think, the most ingeniously subversive tack that Johnny Rotten could have taken. By making a recording that actually rocks, he thumbs his nose at the establishment. He plays their game, but makes it his own by both adhering to and rewritting the rules. Everything about Compact Disc is brilliant, from the name, to its generic-looking graphics, to its initial pounding track, to the almost tender melody of “Rise,” to the tribal “Round” and “Bags,” to the driving “Home” and to the sweeping grandeur that is “Ease,” which ends with what is possibly rock-n-roll’s most blistering, yet under-appreciated guitar solo to date. This CD is truly a classic, almost every bit one as “Second Edition.”