Highlights: One Drop, Deeper Water, Terra-Gate
It’s 2012, and when John Lydon starts singing about the dead or dying Britain (which is dead or dying, still), it’s one of the world’s most life-affirming, heart-warming things. In fact, you are all but swallowed by the bittersweet feeling of nostalgia. If taken for what it’s worth, This Is PiL (their first in 20 years) is a welcome return (to form); as cluttered, contrived and bizarrely appealing as you would expect.
We start on an obligatory introductory note, “This Is PiL”, which does well what it should, but it’s for the following three monsters that you would want to have this album. “One Drop”, “Deeper Water” and “Terra-Gate” are all ugly, difficult, masterful PiL numbers with unlikely/unpredictable hooks and sparkling guitar sections. The whole record boasts terrific production, so even if it’s plodding (and it does become plodding when we get to a more experimental territory – “Lollipop Opera” is expendable), it still sounds both interesting and inventive. Stylistically and instrumentally, we are all over the place, what with all the reggae and club music overtones and acoustic guitars and industrial noises, but more than anything else – the album sounds like your classic Public Image Limited experience. Difficult, maddening, pretentious, but giving you sensations you won’t get anywhere else.
Lasting more than an hour, the album is an exhaustive listen, and there’s absolutely no guarantee your head won’t be burning when the repetitive, almost-10-minute-long “Out Of The Woods” closer is over. Still, there’s no denying that when phrases like “I’m no vulture, this is my culture” burst out of Lydon’s mouth, it’s bloody fucking effective.