Category: Public Image Ltd.

John Lydon, Public Image Ltd. return with first new album in 20 years

Public Image Ltd is releasing its first new album in 20 years

John Lydon, a k a Johnny Rotten, has returned to the studio with his post-Sex Pistols band, Public Image Ltd., a k a PiL, for the group’s first new album in 20 years, “This is PiL,” set for May 28 release.

Four of the dozen tracks that make up the album will be issued on an EP slated for national Record Store Day on April 21, ahead of the full collection. PiL reunited at the end of 2009 to play its first shows in 17 years, and returned to U.S. soil for the first time the following spring at the 2010 Coachella music festival.

“Well, 12 songs, where do I begin?” Lydon said of the new album in a statement issued Thursday. “Everything and anything that attracts my attention. ‘One Drop’ is about my early youth in Finsbury Park. Fantastic! Hello, we’re all teenagers don’t you forget it! At any age, stay young.

“ ‘Lollipop Opera’ is basically a beautiful bunch of background noise and music to sum up Britain and all its wonderful ambidextrousness! ‘The Room I Am In’ well that’s about drugs and council flats,” Lydon’s statement continued. “And there’s a tragedy that still continues. ‘I Must Be Dreaming’ well, you know, I must be to put up with these governments.”

The lineup on the new album includes two musicians who joined PiL in 1986 — Lu Edmonds, multi-instrumentalist and former guitarist with the Damned, and drummer Bruce Smith from the Pop Group and the Slits — along with the band's latest addition, bassist Scott Firth, who has played with Steve Winwood and Elvis Costello.

Lydon, who has lived for many years in California at the beach near Venice, formed PiL in the wake of the 1978 implosion of the Sex Pistols, taking a 90-degree musical turn from assaultive punk rock into dark and moody, often expansive explorations that relied heavily on the interplay among the musicians. It was a template that influenced subsequent doom-and-gloom bands including Joy Division, New Order, the Smiths and the Cure, and even more latter-day bands such as LCD Soundsystem.

"Imitation really is not the sincerest form of flattery," Lydon said in 1984 when PiL came through Southern California on tour. "We're not selfish about any of that, but it's really annoying and insulting to listen to an album by someone else and know they've taken all your ideas and are claiming them to be [their] own."

At that time he also predictably expressed his intention to remain unpredictable.

“We get enough [hardcore punk fans] to keep it interesting,” Lydon said. “But there’s no fun in appealing continually to the converted, so it's very nice to see such an odd diversity [at PiL shows]. That’s what makes it so damn relevant, because it is so varied. At some of the gigs we get what look like college professors with beards — obviously in their 40s, from the hippie period — and they’re pogoing in tweed suits. It’s hysterical good fun.”

He also had great fun invoking the name of the Carpenters — a group at the polar opposite of the pop music spectrum from the Sex Pistols or PiL — in making a point about the importance  of openmindedness when it comes to music.

“I see no reason why I shouldn’t like the Dead Kennedys and the Carpenters,” he said. “They’re both valid.”

RELATED:

John Lydon's latest noise

Coachella 2010: Who had the scarier visage, Fever Ray or John Lydon?

Driving Mr. Rotten: John Lydon cruises L.A., slams Green Day, takes credit for Lady Gaga

-- Randy Lewis

Photo: Public Image Ltd., from left, Bruce Smith, Scott Firth, John Lydon and Lu Edmonds. Credit: Paul Heartfield

Driving Mr. Rotten: John Lydon cruises L.A., slams Green Day, takes credit for Lady Gaga

Johnny Rotten has lived in Los Angeles for the last two decades, and for a time considered his post-Sex Pistols project Public Image Ltd to be an L.A. band, he told The Times recently when he loaded into the passenger side of an old Volvo to get ferried to a video interview downtown. If any of that information is news to you, the video above will perhaps serve you well. In it, Lydon, whose work with the aforementioned two bands transformed rock music in myriad ways over the course of the 1970s and '80s, is his typically acerbic self.

The punk archetype, who turns 55 on Monday, pulled no punches over the course of two hours in the car and at The Times building, especially when the subject of the current breed of punk bands came up. Specifically, Green Day, whose music Rotten apparently dislikes.

Said Lydon when asked about his inheritors: "Many of the punk bands are cop-outs and imitators and have made it easy for the likes of Green Peace -- Green Day, who I hate. I really ... I can’t stand them. To me, they’re like coat hangers, and haven’t earned the right, they haven’t earned the wings, to be wearing the mantle of punk. They haven’t had to go through the violence, and the hate, and the animosity that us chaps way back when had to put up with. We had to fight for every single footstep."

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Coachella 2010: Who had the scarier visage, Fever Ray or John Lydon?

Johnny

For those few not in an Empire State of Mind at Friday's small-hour sets, two equally spooky punims awaited you at Public Image Ltd. and Fever Ray at far corners of the field.

Which was more terrifying? Well, one was a death-gripped grimace with acrobatic head adornments that suggested a pagan god-beast. The other was Fever Ray in makeup.

We jest though, Mr. Lydon. Public Image’s reunion-of-sorts set was actually a surprisingly eager traipse through the foundations of post-punk. For kids who have never known a nightclub without the Rapture or Bloc Party on repeat, it’s strange to imagine a time when disco beats and punk venom seemed an antithetical and radical pair. But cuts like “This Is Not a Love Song” and “Tie Me to the Length of That” had all the snarl of Lydon’s pioneering punk act the Sex Pistols, but atop a still-ambitious and spacious take on disco, dub and avant-garde effects. Lydon’s aging ungracefully in all the right ways – like the picture of Dorian Gray, his music in PiL feels ever more vital, while he makes Keith Richards look like Taylor Lautner onstage.

Fever Ray is one of very few bands that didn’t benefit from Coachella’s pastoral setting. The Nordic-noir Swedish electronic act (helmed by the Knife’s Karin Andersson) needs a pitch-black, claustrophobic space for her stunning stage sets to work their spatial magic. Indio’s palm trees kind of broke the spell, even if her tunes were as spectral and spine-chilling as ever, and a perfectly immersive nightcap to a long day.

But in the end, there was a clear winner in the battle of Coachella’s most haunting complexion. To paraphrase Winston Churchill’s famous comment about drunkenness, when the bands hit the showers afterward, Fever Ray scrubs hers off.

-August Brown

Photo: Johnny Rotten of the band Public Image Ltd. (PiL) performs at Coachella on Friday. Credit: Karl Walter/Getty Images

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