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This Is PIL
John Lydon continues to grow old disgracefully
Stuart Clark, 28 May 2012
‘Right! Now!/I am an anti-Christ, I am an anarchist/Don’t know what I want/but I know how to get it!’ was the proclamation in 1976. Now Mr. & Mrs. Lydon’s boy wants you to know that, ‘I am John and I was born in London/I am no vulture, this is my culture.’
He may lay his hat these days in LA rather than Finsbury Park, but the 56-year-old still has plenty to say about his country of birth, which he appears to love and hate in equal measure.
The reaffirmation of his roots kicks off ‘One Drop’, This Is PiL’s dubby standout, which reminds us that all through the Pistols John was consuming the best Jamaica had to offer – both musically and pharmaceutically. It’s also got a persistent little bugger of a hook, which if there’s any justice should have him back on the airwaves.
Funded by the money he got for flogging Country Life butter – astonishingly, there wasn’t a label major or indie prepared to bankroll it – this 12-tracker is a remarkable return to form for a band that looked to have shot its creative load in 1992 with the extremely hard to love That What Is Not.
He’s never going to give Robert Plant sleepless nights – well, unless he’s up for a wee small hours torching of Percy’s mansion – but Lydon’s voice has never been in better nick and conveys real menace on the opening title-track, which sounds like the musical accompaniment to a very bad dream.
He also comprehensively nails it on ‘Fool’, which is perhaps the most soulful its author has ever been in the studio and the track inspired by youthful fishing trips with his grandfather in Ireland, ‘Deeper Water’. ‘Bastards… dash me to the shores, crush me to the rocks/I will not drown/I will head for deeper water,’ Lydon almost keens, persecution complex still very much intact.
David Cameron, Nick Clegg and their interchangeable style-over-political-substance buddies are the targets on ‘Human’, another malevolent beast of a song which declares, ‘If these are your leaders, they are not good enough for you.’