Public Image Ltd - What The World Needs Now - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Public Image Ltd - What The World Needs Now

by Chaz Miller Rating:9 Release Date:2015-09-04

As a preface, let me get the usual charter member version of Public Image Ltd (PiL) versus the subsequent version of the band controversy out of the way first. This PiL is not the one of the late-1970s/early-1980s, which featured charter members, Keith Levene and Jah Wobble. Comparisons have always been made, and probably always will be, but with nearly 40 years passing since then, in tandem with the fact the new PiL band members have remained consistent since John Lydon resurrected Public Image Ltd nearly a decade ago, this new incarnation can be considered its own valid entity now, complete with its own unique sound.

Like most new releases, numerous listenings are required before making objective commentary, and such is the case for Public Image Ltd’s new release What The World Needs Now… After one run-through, it may not sound as John Lydon claimed it would be prior to its release: “My best work ever!” Repeated plays indicated that perhaps Mr. Lydon’s assessment was correct however.

What is remarkable about this album, and what makes it an improvement over its predecessor, This Is PiL, is how well thought out and well-crafted the tracks are. The band plays with real gusto, musical segues are potent, and more so than ever, this version of Public Image Ltd has reached its zenith. Lead guitarist, Lu Edmonds, shines with his multitude of stringed instruments, while bassist Scott Firth and drummer Bruce Smith provide the familiar thunderous rhythm section. But as good as the instrumentation is, the high-point of this release is the lyrics and their delivery. Replete with 4-letter words from start to finish, Lydon is in fine form here. John’s words evoke those of the halcyon days of the Sex Pistols and Public Image Ltd's First Issue, but are now evolved and relevant to the modern times in which they were written. The best example of this is the final track, ‘Shoom’, which also can be considered the highpoint of the album. In what would appear to be an intentional decision, this is the only song where the band pretty much plays the same few notes over and over like a loop with little variation as the background to Lydon's exceptionally confrontational lyrics. This technique emphasizes the already powerful words even further. On this particular track the F word is used to great effect. They are not gratuitous, but rather, give the thoughts behind them the potency they require. The last two words delivered at the end of the track make for the perfect coda to all that has gone before. Suffice it to say these lyrics finish what the title began: What The World Needs Now... ("is another F-up").

What The World Needs Now… kicks off with the single, Double Trouble, and the album version of this track will never get airplay. It's simply too top-heavy with obscenities, which makes the last track, ‘Shoom’ (at least on a lyrical level), the perfect reprise. But again, the usage of the F word is never invoked in a gratuitous manner, or shock for the sake of it. Taken in context, they can be both hilarious, dead-serious, or both. Only a puritan would not laugh out loud when hearing them used this way, and only the infamous John Lydon could have pulled this off. In between, he is at his confrontational best: angry, satiric, ironic, clever, and more often than not, makes more relevant social commentary about the state of affairs in the world today than ever before. The track, ‘Corporate’, is the perfect example of this.

Throughout, Lydon weaves his potent word-play seamlessly into the instrumentation to the point where they blend to perfection. Together, the already great lyrics and melodies become more than the sum of the parts. If the vocal acrobatics weren’t present, the power of these songs would be lost. Conversely, without Edmunds, Firth, and Smith, the words would lose their punch.

Overall, this is a very cohesive and perfectly executed album. My only complaint is that it is almost too perfect; slickly produced, which yields a deep and full sound experience, but will probably sound better live as a straight-up vocalist, two guitarists, and a drummer act. Public Image Ltd is the perfect example of a band that indeed does sound better live than in the studio. Certainly that was the case with this album's predecessor, This Is PiL. The live versions of that album’s tracks, featured on the bonus DVD, were superior to the studio versions. In summary, I would recommend this album to long-time fans and newcomers alike. The former will be more than satisfied that Public Image Ltd is still evolving and surpassing previous albums, while the latter may find this release to be something of a revelation with its fresh and in your face impact. While it is true Lydon released no new music between 1997 and 2012, this album is indeed his best work in over 30 years.

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