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Key Tracks: "I Must Be Dreaming"
Eighties bands can do one of two things: they can keep their legacy peacefully tucked away in their wonder years or they can attempt a major comeback. Public Image Ltd made the wrong choice when it decided to produce its first album in 20 years. This is PiL just goes to show that the band should not have returned from its 1992 retirement.
Vocalist John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten), who first rose to fame with the success of the Sex Pistols, emerged as frontman of Public Image Ltd in 1978. The band's debut album, First Issue, was a smash hit--with its droning and heavy sound acting as an innovative and exciting step in the post-punk era.
It seems that Public Image Ltd never left the '80s. The vocals on the new album are not well produced and I often found myself begging for pitch correction on Lydon’s ragged voice. This Is PiL exudes a murky and oblique feel, while remaining consistent throughout.
The album opens with awful tribal undertones and Lydon screaming, “You are now entering a PiL zone!” The title track is cringe-worthy and bleakly foreshadows the rest of the album.
“One Drop” sounds like music that you would hear at a sketchy bar. With a reggae vibe, it sounds like a coarser version of a Rusted Root song. Along with the vague vocals, there is a lack of development in the instrumentals. This is especially evident on “Human,” with a drum loop that sounds like it was played by an eight-year-old.
The album has its one redeeming quality on “I Must Be Dreaming.” The song's muted trumpets and dreamlike trance create a pleasant atmosphere not often seen on the record.
Unfortunately, the tracks continue back downhill from there. The tremor in Lydon’s voice in “It Said That” resembles a dying cat, and “Lollipop Opera” has an awful megaphone effect that sounds like it was created in GarageBand.
The closing track on the album, “Out of the Woods,” clunks along in nine extremely long minutes. By this point, the final minutes are torturous and it's a relief when it finally comes to an end.
Fans of the post-punk band will be disappointed to learn that Public Image Ltd has made an unremarkable comeback with This Is PiL. It would be better to simply remember them as they once were.
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