“I first stumbled across Jah Wobble via his Bedroom Album, which was truth in advertising. It sounded exactly like a guy alone in his room with a multi-track recorder and various instruments, mucking around with various grooves and atmospheres, all cool and weirdly dreamy and easy to get lost in. But then a few months later, one of those moods (the one called Invaders Of The Heart) showed up in 12-inch extended play form, four dubbed up (and out) and ultimately quite powerful versions of the same track, bass now as big as a continent, everything else vibrating exquisitely from there. I’d never heard anything like it. I still haven’t really.” (Philip Random)
“In which John Lydon (aka Rotten) conducts a mid-1980s re-imagining of the concern known as Public Image Ltd, engages with the likes of Bill Laswell, Ginger Baker, Stevie Vai etc, and blows more than a few minds. The album is called Album (of course), with Rise the big (almost) hit single. It’s about Apartheid apparently, but to my ears, it’s concerned more with anger itself, and its inherent elemental energy. Like wind or electricity or the stuff of split atoms, the question quickly becomes not, should we have it (fact is, we do and it ain’t going away), but what should we do with it? Get drunk and wail on some guy down at the pub, or maybe get it focused, turn it into a laser beam that destroys an empire, frees slaves, saves children from lives of boredom and futility? Not bad for a punk.” (Philip Random)
There’s no shortage of rage in the Johnny Rotten (aka Lydon) discography, but nowhere else does so much sorrow show itself than in Public Image Ltd’s Death Disco (aka Swan Lake because it cops a bit of the Tchaikovsky melody), a recorded recorded immediately after the death of his mother (she requested some disco for her funeral). It actually hurts to listen to it, but in a good way (not that the whole album doesn’t lean that way) — the punk is revealed as all too human, just in case there was any doubt.
Public Image Ltd‘s fourth album, 1984’s This is What you Want … This is What you Get was a mess, the end result of a major reconfiguration of what had been one of the essential post-punk units. Main man John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) was still on board, but previous compadres Jah Wobble and Keith Levine were both very much gone amid much drug and alcohol messing around and perhaps absconding with various P.I.L. master tapes for … reasons. But This is What you Want … This is What you Get was not a complete write-off if only for its lead off track, The Order of Death, which was just a chant basically, the album’s title repeated and repeated to ultimately powerful effect. Or as Philip Random puts it, “… key theme music for the movie I seemed to be stuck in at the time, the one concerning an entire culture going down in the sewage and bile of its own corrupt desires. Or something like that.”
Nobody saw this coming in the mid-1980s. Public Image Ltd (aka whatever original Sex Pistol John Lydon feels like doing) hooks up with Bill Laswell, Ginger Baker, Riuchi Sakamoto, Stevie Vai (and more) and cranks out the closest thing to a proper Led Zeppelin planet cruncher that anybody’d heard since Physical Graffiti. The album was called Album (unless you bought it in cassette or CD format) and Ease was the furthest it went toward setting the atmosphere on fire.
In which Johnny Rotten (aka Lydon) and the ever revolving crowd at Public Image Ltd remind us that the very idea of a love song was problematic come the 1980s, Ian Curtis having slain the beast with Love Will Tear Us Apart (and then he hung himself to emphasize his point). Which didn’t mean that love didn’t exist anymore. It had just become a heavier, more complex and dangerous thing. And take note. This is the original single version, vastly superior to overproduced mess that eventually showed up on album.
The Twelve Mixtapes of Christmas have got nothing to do with Christmas (beyond being a gift to you) and they’re not actually mix tapes, or CDs for that matter – just mixes, each 49-minutes long, one posted to Randophonic’s Mixcloud for each day of Twelvetide (aka the Twelve Days of Christmas).
The mixes are in fact remnants of an unfinished project from a few years back that had something to do with compiling a playlist for an alternative to Alternative Rock (or whatever) radio station. To be honest, we’re not one hundred percent clear about any of it because somebody spilled (what we hope is) red wine on the official transcript, thus rendering key parts illegible.
Bottom line: it’s five hundred eighty-eight minutes of music covering all manner of ground, from David Bowie to Bow Wow Wow to Tuxedomoon to Claudine Longet, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Captain Beefheart, Aphrodite’s Child, Tom Jones, Marilyn Manson, Ike + Tina Turner, anything and everything, as long as it’s good.
By 1989, Public Image Ltd weren’t exactly redefining the zeitgeist anymore. In fact, it’s arguable they weren’t really a band anymore – just John Lydon‘s personal project. Which, in the case of Warrior, seemed to be about proving that he could rock at least as big as U2 (or whoever) and succeeding, with the best version a remix that’s now almost impossible to find, probably because of the sample of Old Lodge Skins himself laying down his humble but fierce warrior prayer.
“As the story goes, when Keith Levene split Public Image Ltd, he did so with a few recent master recordings under his arm. Which is a good thing. Else we probably would never have heard the likes of Blue Water, which first showed up as a b-side in 1983. Deep and weird and exactly the kind of thing you wanted cranked to the nines on your ghetto blaster when the drugs were all kicking in and you had an abandoned house to explore up the seashore a ways. Nobody was afraid of ghosts in the 80s. The real world was putting them all to shame.” (Philip Random)