10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A bleak claim to musical significance
Early PiL is, without a doubt, immensely greater than the mess that became the band in the late 80's, early 90's. Jah Wobble, Keith Levene, Jim Walker and John Lydon never got on splendidly, but they could really put an album together well, and formed the best PiL line-up that there ever would be. Album opener "Theme" is an 8-minute epic that few people have ever...
Published on 14 Sep 2002
2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars hypnotizing
I believe people overrate this because they know a priori it comes from John Lydon. I am a HUGE fan of the Pistols (I even have been at the Filthy Lucre concert years ago) but this is completely different ... and hypnotizing. Someone may call it "experimental", I just just get tired of the same tense acute voice repeating the same sentence over and over, and the various...
Published on 4 Sep 2011 by F. Panin
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A bleak claim to musical significance,
By A Customer
Early PiL is, without a doubt, immensely greater than the mess that became the band in the late 80's, early 90's. Jah Wobble, Keith Levene, Jim Walker and John Lydon never got on splendidly, but they could really put an album together well, and formed the best PiL line-up that there ever would be. Album opener "Theme" is an 8-minute epic that few people have ever heard......you will either lose yourself in the solid wall of hypnotic noise, or very quickly press the skip button. The two Religion songs are interesting, the first seeing Lydon reciting a powerful and cynical prayer, before backing it up solidly with the second song featuring a gritty, bone shaking guitar riff. The bouncy "Annalisa" keeps things moving well, and the tragic "Low Life" (based on the now dead Sid Vicious) adds a more personal side to this album. The roaring classic "Public Image" is a perfect, exciting song that hits home immediately and makes you love it, on-pain-of-death. And finally the grating "Attack" and the pointless "Fodderstompf", which has some nice banter but will not be listened to more than once, the two songs that keep this album from 5/5 status. Altogether though, a thrilling, underated album.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars they only wanted to be loved...,
By A Customer
after the sex pistols fragmented, johnny rotten reverted back to his real name (lydon) and set about carving a pistols-free and lot more experimental musical path. so, along with old pals jah wobble and keith levene, plus newly recruited drummer martin atkins, lydon formed public image ltd, or 'pil' for short.
released in 1978, 'first issue' (or 'public image', i don't know) is part one in the trilogy of pil's best albums (which, coincidentally, are their first three albums).
musically, there are some ties with the past, especially on the bouncier numbers, such as the single 'public image'. but for the most part, the newly-made pil trademarks are already there: lydon's sneering has been replaced by agonizing shrieks and howls and the drums sound like machine gun shots. keith levene's guitar work is all scratches and slashes, razor-sharp riffs. but the true star here (yeah, take a step back, john) is bassist jah wobble. there's a famous quote of his: "nobody listened to the bass in rock music before pil." gone are the times when the bass was just some quiet boom in the background. as soon as you hit play, wobble's signature low-end dub rumble comes at you from all sides, the grooves rattling the walls and shaking your senses.
'first issue' is basically an album of bleak, claustrophobic noise rock, with subtle inflections of dub and even disco (that would become even more obvious on the next album). the journey begins with the nine-minute dirge that is 'theme'- "I WISH I COULD DIIEEEEE!" screams lydon. you'll either become entranced or get bored swiftly. 'religion I & II' is lydon's voice chanting out the evils of religion, first completely solo, then reprised with instrumental backing. the pace picks up for the ever-so-slightly reggae-sounding 'annalisa', signalling for the brutal barrage of the next three songs: the single 'public image' (lydon nags the punk fans for not getting it), 'low life' (lydon mercilessly puts down malcolm mclaren) and 'attack'- well, i dunno what this one's about, but it's still good. the album concludes with it's strangest track, 'fodderstompf', an inkling of what was to come next. keith levene swaps his guitar for synthesizers, creating a disco-esque rhythm track, while wobble's bass pulses away. it's a seven-minute jaunt with the band members trading cynical and frequently very funny snipes and jabs, their voices distorted and high-pitched, repeating their mantra "we only wanted to be loved!". it all ends gloriously with lydon spraying a nearby fire extinguisher into the mic.
the pistols were good, in fact they were great, but pil are the real thing. after you've got the pistols album, get this one and get ready for a shock. it's a great album, and the next one's ('metal box') even better. wobble left after that, and from there everything started to slide a bit (unsurprisingly), but the first album they made without him ('flowers of romance') was still pretty good.
public image ltd- the real john lydon...
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I'm not the same as when I began...,
John Lydon was 22 years old and almost certainly reeling from the media traumas inflicted upon him following the aftermath of the Sex Pistols when he recorded this blistering effort under the moniker of his new band, Pil.
Harrowing and hilarious in turns,from the euphoric trashing of the past in 'Public Image' to the hysterical dub-psychosis of 'Fodderstompf',Pil's first album is often a suffocating and discordant pleasure best sampled with the headphones on or blasting out in the small hours with the neighbour thumping on the ceiling below..Keith Levenes gyroscopic, shrill guitar lines blurred with Jah Wobble's doom laden bass with Lydon's mocking, detatched vocals cutting through the middle make this an unforgettable experience.
Critics claim second effort 'Metal Box' is the superior effort , but Pil's first release acts as a startling statement of intent that resonates today..never mind the bollocks, heres Pil..
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new world,
In 1979 the Sex Pistols still had singles released on the back of the rock n roll swindle film.I liked them as an impressionable 13 yr old as a kind of cartoon band.
They made their mark earlier and had such a massive impact,but now it seems like ancient history.
PIL however I immediately liked just for the music,and still do today.They sounded different to all the punk bands.
Looking back on that period,I find the most interesting of the late 70's crop of bands were the ones doing their own thing,be it PIL,Tubeway Army,Cabaret Voltaire,Suicide,Siouxsie,Throbbing Gristle or even old dogs like sparks.The numerous 'punk' bands often sounded like pastiches of pistols or even just pop music with the volume turned up and an aporoximation of a snarl.
Punk became like my generation's 60's,a golden age where everything was good and to be a poseur (i.e not sounding like a zerox of buzzcocks) was a crime on a par with the moors murders.PIL helped blow that narrow minded way of thinking out of the water and still sound remarkable today.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Memories; who needs them?,
Blasting out an accapella impromptu version of Religion to an assembled mass of born again in 79 Chelmsford. Unfortunately with their kind hearts, I had chosen the wrong throng, they were Quakers. They smiled and clapped, something of a surreal moment. Although unfortunately marred by a local wanting to take venegance. People did not need any excuse in the 70's for violence. A quick mexican stand off, eyes a twitching ensued, before the tension disipated but was never forgotten. The point of this recollection?
The lyrics resonated because the 70's were still in the twitches of a religious era, albeit at the end. Sunday School, hymn singing and scripture reading were all staple indoctrination of young people in the 60's and 70's. Even now 40 agnostic years later I can still remember all the hymns and carols inculcated at Primary School and Sunday School.
Rotten became Lydon in the brief walk of fame from the bad boy band Pistols to the adult experimental sounds of Pil, a walk consumed with trauma.
The weight on the shoulders was heavy. Those caught in the media glare were given full demonic exposure. Emerging from adolescence, to find your image plasted over newspapers, billboards, record covers and TV, haunting the imagination of pubescent brains needs some form of adjustment. It leads to narcissus forever gazing into his own reflection finding it airbrushed into perfection.
The Pistols were vilified by the adult world, they alienated one source of potential support, the 68 generation by proclaiming their redundancy. The Spitfire pilots, the Airey Neave generation were unutterably appauled. The war had been fought and won, for council estate people to mock the establishment. The notion of the war also hung heavy up until the 70's, a marker to measure manhood and adversity. The establishment was clear why the war had been fought, to uphold its values, the same values "needing to be upheld" which lead to two pyrrhic victories.
Up until 77 there had been no direct art/media critique of the system by its white inhabitants. The walls suddenly closed in on the four sacifical Pistol lambs. They were squeezed tight by the system. Young people up and down the land, pushed and pulled at the crushing edifice to free the Pistols and thereby free themselves. A mixture of people who after the initial tussle returned back to their imaginary Roxy/Bowie/Bolan fantasy worlds. Meanwhille the world after 77 raged with physical, social and cultural struggle.
Lydon coping with disintegration, his mother being one source of support became very ill. His best friends slow demise, the band's slide into fragments, he left the debris and created PIL.
Elements of this album appear to be fill-in material. Untangling the zeitgeist from the music needs another generation to look afresh. Fodderstompin, nice bass sound, but if this was attempted by another act, there would have been a howl. "Theme" rises and falls with another type of howl, one emitting from the precpice of Beachy Head. PIL was a two fingered salute to the world, as meaning arose from disintegration. The Pistols was the Albatross on his neck. This album was a sketch for Metal Box, where more sound ideas arose. The public's reaction to this allowed the motherlode to be created.
I do not play it very often, perhaps too many memories are encoded in the grooves but the fact it can envoke memories for me is its greatest strength. So much music is purely background whilst this demands to be listened to.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars PIL's debut offering...,
Following his departure from The Sex Pistols, Johnny Rotten became John Lydon and hooked up with Keith Levene (briefly in The Clash), John Wardle (more commonly known as Jah Wobble) & Jim Walker. Taking their name from a Muriel Spark novel, PIL/Public Image Ltd. became pioneers of the post-punk scene alongside acts such as Gang of Four, The Slits, The Pop Group, Wire, Subway Sect, Scritti Politti & Siouxsie & the Banshees. This took the punk-ethos to a music that was more adventerous and subversive than the somewhat trad rock'n'roll that punk had become with people like Sham 69 & The Lurkers...
Recorded 'on the hoof', 'First Issue' just scrapes the 30-odd-minute mark that their record-contract stipulated- so is not as epic as the classic follow-up 'Metal Box (Second Edition).' The album opens with the epic-dirge 'Theme'- feedback, a dubby-bassline, a riff that predicts White Stripes' 'Seven Nation Army' & Lydon's screams - offering up an antithesis to the pub-rock of 'The Great Rock'N'Roll Swindle.' Lester Bangs namechecks 'Theme' in the great book 'Psychotic Reactions & Carburettor Dung' & Simon Reynolds writes eloquently about PIL in the recent book 'Rip It Up & Start Again.' It's surprising how mindblowing PIL were - not something you'd expect knowing how tedious Lydon has become appearing in reality shows and making a series of mediocre albums when PIL effectively became a solo-act in all but name after Levene left...
'Theme' is certainly very existential, endless repetition of "I wish I could die!!!" - though the conclusion is more hopeful, "I will survive." 'Religion' (a song originally called 'Sod in Heaven' & rejected by The Pistols) comes in two-parts - I an acapella recital of the song, then followed by II, where the band comes in. The first-side concludes on a more robust note, the violent 'Annalisa' which showcases the band in full-effect- Lydon's sinister-holler, Levene's scraping-guitars (possibly only rivalled by Magazine's John McGeoch), Wobble's thick-dubby-bassline & Walker's tight-drumming. The song itself tells the story of a German teen who self-immolated against her parents...
The classic single 'Public Image' is up next, personally I think it's as strong (if not stronger) than Sex Pistols classics like 'God Save the Queen','Pretty Vacant' & 'Anarchy in the UK.' Lydon is certainly putting his world to rights here (as he does on much of the album - attacking himself, life, previous peers, organised religion, parents, and his own record company with the pisstaking-'Fodderstompf'!). 'Public Image' is the song that shows that Lydon was himself, and he was not a product of McClaren's pop-machinations - it's also a timeless statement of individuality, like the greatest rock & roll ('Like a Rolling Stone','Search & Destroy','Hand in Glove','Blank Generation','Bring the Noise' etc). I think the guitars on this are only really rivalled by those sheering-riffs on Magazine's 'Shot By Both Sides'...
'Low Life' is nastier stuff, probably directed at Malcolm McClaren (or maybe even Sid Vicious, who was still alive at the time)- 'Attack' continues the combatative nature of the album- and moves towards later scathing songs like 'Memories' & 'Chant.' The album concludes on the hilarious 'Fodderstompf', whose duration lasts long enough to make the album long enough for the record company and rips it out of "long haired chaps" (think Virgin label-boss Richard Branson!) & "punk-rockers" alike. It's actually the most adventerous track- synths featuring for the first time (more prominent on the next record on tracks like 'Careering','Death Disco' & 'Radio 4') & Wobble offering up a great dub-funk-bassline that would still work on any dancefloor! Lydon was also stating that his favourite music was disco-based, so perhaps the refrain "We only wanted to be loved!" nods to Moroder-Summer's anthem 'I Feel Love'? The vocals are fantastic- quite Derek & Clive/Monty Python - finding a bladdered Lydon and Wobble talking in silly voices, improvising around "We only wanted to be loved" and the notion that "love makes the world go round"! A great conclusion to the album, and as dance-savvy as later records by post-punk pioneers like The Pop Group, A Certain Ratio, 23 Skiddoo & Gang of Four.
'First Issue' is an excellent-debut, though follow-up 'Metal Box' (sadly the last release from the Lydon-Levene-Wobble-lineup)is the masterpiece where five-stars are not enough...
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars rotten returns,
By A Customer
Coming straight after the Sex pistols,John Lydons PIL were a different animal altogether.The band wern't interested in the conventional punk noise and instead opted for a more experimental approach.The trademark Rotten howl is there mixed with Jah Wobbles dub heavy bass.Tracks range from the poppy punk "public image" to the deranged dischord of "fodderstompf".Not as experimental as the following Metal Box album but an original record with one of the best PIL lineups,that also happens to be one of PILs and Mr Lydons best
4.0 out of 5 stars experimental with a dash of punk attitude,
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A musically awkward album, on purpose of course. First things first it is not the Sex Pistols, on the other hand it isn't a butter advert either. It retains that bit of punk that tries to irritate you, to crawl under your skin and make you completely and utterly annoyed enough so that your inhibitions are lowered enough that you will be able to tell anyone, anywhere exactly what you think of them.
The album is slow, atonal and at times an absolute gibbering mess that might occasionally make you want to support the right to die so that you could get a mate to help you off yourself while you listen to this album. For all this albums complete rubbishness via; stupid effects, clanging noises and ridiculous `suck your host' type lyrical cringes, the album is one that you should get hold of because despite all its failings (or because of them) it is quite an interesting album, that demands to be listened to and invites you to try and work it all out, even if it is probably not possible to fully understand or grasp all that is going on.
The stomp of `Annalisa' with its gentle bile and very nearly pop `Public Image' which sounds like the sound had to come from Andromeda (it's so distant) are good places to start if you want a taste of PIL. I think everybody should at least give it listen, it's not commercial and it's not easy, with this album you get what you put in yourself no more, no less.
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful piece of bass heavy vinyl !,
I saw PIL again last night (I saw their first gig at the Rainbow in 1978 & last time was 17 years ago) they played a storming set including "Religion". I bought this on vinyl the day it was released & probably haven't listened to it for more than 10 years. I have just dug it out and cannot believe how good it still sounde! Jah Wobbles bass lines are MASSIVE & are rattling the windows as I type & boy was Lydon angry when he recorded this... Genius !
4.0 out of 5 stars Truculent,
I've recently been listening to Pil's half-decent The Greatest Hits... So Far. It reminded me that the adjective that perhaps best summarises the back catalogue of this longstanding rock group is 'patchy'. But their first couple of albums were very impressive. This 8 track release - their truculent and underrated debut of 1978 - began that era. The music to be found here is noisy post-punk, which is tense and clattering, and is steeped in the influence of other musical genres such as dub-reggae, electronica, and prog-rock. Its success pivots on the interaction between the key members of the band. John Lydon provides sneering vocal performances and sardonic lyrics; Keith Levene offers scratchy guitar sounds; whilst Jah Wobble plays booming bass lines. The results of that collision are heard most rewardingly on the band's debut single 'Public Image'. This memorable Top 10 hit matches a coruscating guitar riff to bitter words of betrayal. Other highlights include the spoken-word 'Religion', self-loathing opener 'Theme', and the venomous 'Lowlife'. The only track that doesn't really dazzle is the underwhelming closer 'Fodderstompf'. This sketchy track pairs a low-key electronic beat to silly voices from Messrs Lydon and Wobble. Otherwise, this ambiguously-titled album provides plenty of sonic clues as to how the band would develop for their classic second LP, Metal Box.
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