51 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A ferocious masterpiece... "words cannot express".
Metal Box is an album as impenetrable as the case in which it comes... a fifty-minute swirling bombardment of Kraut-rock rhythms, dissonant keyboards, jagged guitars and Lydon's bitter lyrics and screaming vocals. It follows on nicely from their first album, which took the sound of the Sex Pistols and fused it with disco, Kraut-rock and the kind of guitar music that...
Published on 6 July 2005 by Jonathan James Romley
19 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Metal Box Remaster Disappointment
Well this was a wasted opportunity. Three cd's with a so called remastered Metal Box spread over them. It sounds worse than the previous cd release.
Why not one cd of the album, properly remastered, one for bonus tracks (there are definitely some options available there) and a third dvd of tv and live performances?
Now that would have been great.
Published on 6 Jan 2010 by the pelican
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51 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A ferocious masterpiece... "words cannot express".,
Metal Box is an album as impenetrable as the case in which it comes... a fifty-minute swirling bombardment of Kraut-rock rhythms, dissonant keyboards, jagged guitars and Lydon's bitter lyrics and screaming vocals. It follows on nicely from their first album, which took the sound of the Sex Pistols and fused it with disco, Kraut-rock and the kind of guitar music that would later become known as "post-punk". As a listening experience there is little else to rival it, with Metal Box offering up twelve tracks filled with a pain and anguish that can seemingly only find true catharsis through the screaming angular music found within. This is the sound of a band falling out of love with each other... and with the world around them.
The opening song, the near-legendary Albatross (which is almost eleven minutes of Beckett-like lyrical ruminations, over screaming guitars, a heavy and monotonous bass-line and some trance-like percussion) picks up where Theme (the opening track of their first album) left off, giving us more of Lydon's existential anguish and torment, as he screams about death and all manner of other related-horrors that infuse the album with a bleak, gothic and claustrophobic sound. Unlike the first album, the emphasis here is more on sound rather than song, so there's no real standout singles like Annalisa or Public Image, instead, we get longer tracks with much reliance on layered instrumentation. This is very much a precursor to those Radiohead classics, Kid A and Amnesiac, with PiL creating a landscape of cold synthesisers, an aching violin and that great integrated sound of Keith Lavene's scratchy, distorted guitar and the dub pounding bass of Jah Wobble.
This is dark music, as bleak as albums like Tilt, OK Computer, Regeneration, Blood on the Tracks and The Final Cut... although it has a sound that is unlike any of those albums, or indeed, anything else you've ever heard. The album progresses on from the epic Albatross onto the dark Memories, which sets Lydon's grating vocals and doom-laden lyrics against a backdrop of distorted, echoed guitars and a funky monotonous bass-line, which is further complemented by an Eastern-tinged and somewhat alien violin (or possibly keyboard) refrain wailing away in the background. It leads us perfectly into my favourite song on the album, the mesmerising Swan Lake.
The production here is fantastic, with the band retaining a minimalism, which builds towards that feeling of suffocating claustrophobia, with the actual distance of the instruments from one another becoming completely apparent through the use of different recording techniques. This creates an even more alienated sound, which works wonderfully with something like Swan Lake... which begins with that unmistakable Keith Lavene guitar sound and Wobble's bobbing bass. Like much of the album, the song becomes a testament to Lydon's despair following the death of his mother (and possibly some of the lingering pain left over from the death of Sid Vicious also), with lines like "I see it in your eyes" and that piercing closing refrain "words cannot express" really encapsulating (along with Lydon's vocals) the true pain and numbness of grief. The song is a definite band highlight, with Levene's guitar playing (sometime layering three of four different styled guitar parts over one another to create a sound that is beautiful, yet dissonant at the same time) at an absolute peak... whilst Jeannette Lee's violin is purposely piercing to match those swirling synths.
The next two songs (Poptones and Careering) move further away from the more rock-like sound of something like Albatross and Swan Lake and more towards absolute noise. The former is a particularly abrasive parable about a young girl being driven out into the middle of nowhere, presumably by an older man with the intention of rape... the music becoming as ugly as the subject matter as the song intensifies ("hindsight does me no good, standing naked in the back of the woods... the cassette played, poptones!!"). It's one of the most abrasive pieces of music ever composed... something that becomes even more disturbing when coupled with the bleak lyrics and Lydon's cold, emotionless delivery. Careering is even darker still, with Wobble's bass taking a greater precedence alongside that mechanical, almost industrial percussion. The lyrics are even more like Beckett, seemingly cut up and repositioned at random to create a brutal portrait, which never entirely becomes clear.
After the lengthy and agitated No Birds the album moves into the most Can-sounding track on the album, the three-minute instrumental piece, Graveyard. The rest of the album's second half continues seamlessly, furthering the bleak and mocking tone of the first half with scalding tracks like The Suit, the bombastic Chant and the surprisingly haunting and very beautiful closing track, Radio 4 (...a heavenly wash of beautiful synths and a hint of real bass). This is the perfect way to end the album, offering a sense of hope after eleven tracks of bleak beauty... and it's all the proof we need to see that this incarnation of PiL were one of the most exciting, important and extraordinary bands of all time.
After Metal Box, the band would undergo a change of personnel and produce the even more abrasive percussion based album The Flowers of Romance (...a record I still don't fully appreciate) before another change in line-up would turn the band into a vehicle for Lydon's personal take on 80's indie-pop. However, Metal Box remains a testament to the band when they were at their utmost creative peak... and, in my opinion, is one of the most original and remarkable albums ever produced.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lydon ,Wobble and Levene's masterpiece.,
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Originally released in 1979,this,even today,sounds like a trip into the future.It wass famously released originally as 3 12-inch singles,so breaking down the begining-middle-end of conventional albums.The contents pretty special too.
Jah Wobble's bass thunders out as the backing,with Levene's guitar and Lydon's vocals swirling over the drum/bass mix.It is the reason for the original 3 12 inchers(the bass tracks could be cut into the vinyl that much deeper).
Hard to pick out highlights as it works as a totality,rather than a collection of tracks,but "Poptones" and "Careering".Any fans of dub reggae,Holger Czukay/Can, and/or Captain Beefheart will find something to delight in here.
It isn't easy listening,and if your knowledge of PIL starts with "Album" or later releases,you'll probably be scratching your head in puzzlement as you listen to this.Listen to it with an open mind,and enjoy.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wired punks (buzzing),
You don't think -do you- that punk was only about reductionist riffs and complex trousers? If you do then doctors -none of them reputable, all of them struck off- recommend an immediate course of `Metal Box'
Jah Wobble's bass on the anti-hit that is `Pop Tones' owes nothing to anyone while Lydon-formerly-Rotten's stream-of-consciousness is of course put over in THAT VOICE (strip away the rest of his band before PiL and THAT VOICE still sounds downright unruly)
And of course there was an interface between punk and reggae that went way beyond The Clash covering `Police And Thieves' Look no further than `Albatross' to realise this, and also to catch the sound of perhaps angst-ridden young men making music as a means of getting rid of something, and indeed of `getting rid of the albatross' as Lydon / Rotten mentions a few times. As if that wasn't enough the gulf between Wobble's bass and Keith Levine's wired guitar is unbridgeable, so the drummer -Dave Crowe?- makes no attempt to do it.
When it comes down to it I'm one of those reviewers who's going to tell you that `Metal Box' is seminal. It's also essential for anyone who believes that `music' is a term which covers all known bases and those yet to be labelled. My advice to anyone who can't go for that is to avoid this set like the plague, but then dividing opinions is a good thing when it's an alternative to consensus, bland or otherwise.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent record,
Metal Box is the second PIL album and their masterpiece. One of these rare things that crosses the sky of rock from time to time. Formed by John lydon after the split of a well known band, PIL turns the back to the past : with cynicism. Exit the image shaped by Mc Laren, place to the music, a powerful funk carried by the hypnotic bass of Jah Wooble that sometimes evokes Holger Czukay of Can, striated by the minimalist riffs of Keith Levene (between James Blood Ulmer and Tom Hemran from Pere Ubu) and chanted by a muezzin voice who once used to call himself "Rotten".
In the late 70's, PIL is unique with this punk Funk : only the bands Siouxsie & the Banshees and Wire offer a music as original as theirs. Inspired, Lydon makes psalmodies on the breathtaking " Careering" which with " Poptones" is enough to justify the acquisition of this precursor recording.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sharper Metal,
I can only compare this to Second Edition - the only previous version of this seminal album I've ever owned. It sounds a fair bit brighter and edgier than Second Edition - definitely a big improvement. If you're hesitating because you are uncertain about the quality of the remastering there is no need to. This is a sonic step-up from what you've heard before.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still Sitting Pretty,
Falling backwards into a soggy mess is one memory I have of watching PIL. Leeds Queens Hall Futurama Festival 1979 with the classic line up of Wobble, Dudanski and Levene. My alcohol level had finally taken its toll, the sonic bombardment of Albatross drove me down down down into the burning pit of fire. I couldn't get back up, there was just wave after wave of high frequency guitar and rib rattling bass coupled with the most desolate screams of despair. I ended up crawling to the side covered in cack. I was both transfixed and consumed with nausea, a double bind.
So when I eventually recovered I bought the tin edition and played it to death disco. You can't really dance to it, there's nothing boy meet girl about this, with references to middle class sterility in Totteridge Park, geting up early to get to the sales and a piece dedicated to Radio 4. Ironically this was the catalyst for listening to the station, a partnership that has kept me in good stead since. The war in Ireland wafts through Lydon's lyrics, the death of his mother and the bland nature of success. Malaise is what this album captures, just as the economy for the super rich and those in jobs was beginning to turn and the taps were being turned on for the foundations of the consumer culture. Lydon conveyed a deep sense of unease with everything around him.
The Pistols had undertaken a full frontal assault on British Foundational Myths and they began to shimmer in the heat of their attack. Then there was the last ditch effort as every newspaper under the Sun focused its ire and directed its readers to wack their frustrations on these apocalyptors of society.
There was a lot of suppressed and not so suppressed violence to conduct and direct. For four lads from West and North London the pressure must have been colossal. The problem is that they were never united in defence and Sid found his own method of coping leading him to spiral downwards.
Lydon eventually shifted his stance to create a form of anti music based on reggae and kraut experimentation, a shift away from the blues patterns and guitar solos to the use of repetition. His sneer mutated into a hysterical form of disgust as the world polluted his soul. Everything had melted before him and he had insights he wanted to convey. This album conveys bleakness in a rawest form. I do not believe another album of such desolation would ever receive such a mass audience, people tend to want to stay away from admitting their futility, put a brave face on and play something upbeat. Nothing wrong with that as a strategy of survival but it means denying a certain set of core emotions and running away from a common mass human experience.
Flowers of Romance is bereft of Wobble, who went on to find God. Lydon never really recovered from his revelations and self loathing. He went onto provide homeopathic remedies of his self illumination, each album a greater dilution with some gems appearing now and again.
At least he has never reneged on his past, he still wishes to live it, but he hasnt turned round and said oh I was young and foolish then. He has however begun to discover his sense of Englishness which is odd given his iconoclastic destruction of all the silliness around it. Well perhaps as you get older you can get away with being eccentric. It he had reneged then that would have been the greatest betrayal of all and to answer the question, yes I personally would have felt cheated.
41 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Second Edition becomes Metal Box again....,
The last few years have seen John Lydon's other project PIL getting a deserved bit of posthumous acclaim- bands like The Rapture, Radio 4, & Primal Scream have all been compared/contrasted to this lot (& other post-punk acts of the era, such as The Slits, Gang of Four, Pop Group & Wire). Tributes are obvious, from Radio 4's name to Alan McGee naming his post-Creation indie label after Poptones (pity he decided only to sign Byrds-impersonators, a bit at odds with Memories anti-nostalgic line "I think you're slightly late"). PIL even got on the front of Mojo this month- for an article that was all too brief (this would have once been done by Uncut, a magazine that seems to have swapped places with Mojo & only focuses on Beatles-Dylan-Stones-yawn....) So, it's nice to see Metal Box back- though people on a budget should just buy the twin-set of Public Image-First Edition & Second Edition- as all the same tracks are present. A pity that this reissue of Metal Box couldn't take in the alternate single versions of tracks like Memories & Death Disco- memorably waxed lyrical over by Lester Bangs in Psychotic Reactions & Carburettor Dung- as they picked up on the idea of alternate single mixes (though this was an idea really found on Miles Davis' On the Corner...) A squandared chance to make the ultimate Metal Box...
This was the last album proper from the great PIL line-up, generally centred around Lydon, Keith Levene & Jah Wobble; though Wobble's Betryal, PIL's follow-ups Flowers of Romance/This is What You Want... & Levene's Commercial Zone are all worth picking up. Lydon since those has been very patchy- apart from the great Baambaata & Leftfield collaborations & the odd track like This Is Not a Love Song, Fishing & The Body...
The era of post-punk was one that produced some of the most interesting music of all time, easily the most fertile period in British music. Taking the ethos of punk, the influences of dub & burgeoning electronics, often with an anti-establishment persepective, many UK bands began to push the envelope. PIL were at the forefront of this shift- shunning conventional live performances, wearing suits (pre-empting Blur & Dexys) & being antithetical to the uniformity of punk sold out. Metal Box is contender for the greatest album produced in this era, from the late 70s to early 80s- though albums such as Entertainment!, 154, Cut, Y, Secondhand Daylight, Closer, Dub Housing, Reproduction, This Heat!, Sandinista!, Remain in Light etc should be acknowledged...
These 12-tracks were actually a double album, the ultimate PIL statement which I believe was not greeted with the same critical fervour it is recalled today (don't blame me, I'm too young!). It stands up there with the greatest inventive guitar music of the last few decades, from Captain Beefheart & Can to more recent acts like Mission of Burma, Slint, Butthole Surfers, Tortoise & Clinic. It's an album that has a sybaratic quality, the strange chemistry of dub, alien guitar & alienated vocals works perfectly. The dub-influences on punk are apparent throughout, especially on tracks like instrumental Socialist, Graveyard & the brilliant Careering. PIL's debut was brilliant, but this is their definitive statement & the best thing Lydon had ever been on...
Personally, I detected a Beckettian-vibe to earlier tracks like Theme & opener Albatross (over ten-minutes) certainly continues this, with a tedious cursed worldview. Lydon & PIL rejecting what went before- this was the year in which the remains of the Pistols fell apart & the other John known as Sid died in dire/exploitative circumstances. Lydon was elsewhere & also dealing with personal loss in his own family, which he addresses in Death Disco (aka Swan Lake)- a moving track with sublime keyboards. Though it doesn't go on long enough; quite simply this is Chic in Hell- Lydon noting that "words cannot express..."
Memories is like prime Pistols (Bodies, No Feelings), but honed & even more potent with the musical assault of Levene & Wobble (& whoever else). The concluding part of the album is even more immense, from No Birds- with its horrifying perception of the modern world ("I like the illusion...of privacy...A caviar of silent dignity...A layered mass of subtle props...this could be heaven")- which piddles over later attempts to make similar statements from bands like Blur & Primal Scream. Chant is the ultimate Krautrock-inflection on punk, as great as something extreme on Tago Mago- Lydon & co in a trance of repetition...Radio 4 is the final track, an instrumental that might have been intended as a joke, but with its keyboard refrain & Wobble's original bassplaying feels touching...
Metal Box is quite simply one of the greatest albums ever produced, more worthy of being in those endless Top 100 lists than retro stuff like The Stone Roses & Definitely Maybe. It's easy to see why Massive Attack referenced PIL on their debut album Blue Lines- though if this was a Massive album, it would be Mezzanine. I don't care if this line-up of PIL reform as the PIstols did (it's unlikely)- but this album remains in print, with the greatest cover/packaging an album has ever come with. & it's an album that no one should be without...forget the Pistols, get the real thing instead-
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An All-Time Great,
Metal Box is album that should be heard by everyone. It is a work of rare emotion, intensity and beauty. A beauty which, paradoxically, reveals itself through ugliness. It manages to be both challenging and rewarding.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent blast from the past,
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I hadn't heard some of these songs for over 30 years, but they still sound fresh and unlike anything else you will ever hear.
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone...,
...loves this post punk classic album, apparently. But not enough to offer a track listing for the uninitiated like me?
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