Public Image, Ltd. – Metal Box / Second Edition

ARTIST: Public Image, Ltd.  220px-PIL_-_Metal_Box_original

TITLE: Metal Box / Second Edition



SINGLES: Death Disco (Swan Lake on the album) (#20 UK), Memories (#46 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Well, nothing hit the radio here.

LINEUP: John Lydon, Keith Levene, Jah Wobble, Richard Dudanski. David Humphrey and Martin Atkins also drummed. They went through 3 drummers in a year.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The pinnacle of the original vision of PiL, post punk, and the 70s UK ‘new wave’.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Just as the Sex Pistols influenced countless of bands that eventually exceeded their vision and scope, Public Image Ltd. also influenced countless bands that exceeded their vision and scope. But unlike the Pistols, very few, if any, released an album as essential and seminal as this.

From the packaging (originally three 12” singles packed in a metal film canister), to the sound (deep deep bass, jagged sharp guitar, atmospheric synths, wailing and intense vocals), to the attitude (zero fucks given, at all), PiL’s second album was vital to the evolution of punk, new wave, and rock in general. 220px-PiLSecondEdition

The opening cut, “Albatross”, is a 10 1/2-minute improvisation (Lydon free formed lyrics while the Levine spewed jagged-sharp guitar on a groove set out by Wobble and David Humphrey) that is menacing and compelling. The first five cuts on the album (the first 3 sides of the single set) are landmark post-punk. Then the second part of the record kicks in, throws that all away, and forces you to stand up and notice them experiment with sounds, chants, and form.

There’s something about this album that makes you come back to it. Wobble’s bass, Levine’s synths and guitar, Lydon’s lyrics, and the excellent drumming by the rotating crew all make it a landmark of rock.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The packaging of Metal Box was intended to make it difficult to listen to. There was only wafer thin paper between the records and the canister snugly fit the albums.


GRADE A+: A record that points the way to the future of pop, new wave, and rock in the 80’s and beyond.

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