I stumbled upon Public Image Ltd.’s 2015 release, What the World Needs Now…, with high recommendations.
I found this album to be difficult, uncomfortable, confrontational, emotional and very revealing. For an album that was termed to appear as not caring, it seems to care quite a lot. And while the fuck off attitude of John Lydon may be what is expected, there’s a lot more happening underneath – well beyond the first four tracks.
The poetry of John Lydon is paired down, no nonsense, insightful, hilariously maddening and also quite tender. A fistful of truth inside a hailstorm of experience devoid of false hopes and external prophets. Lydon himself being a prophet inside his own realm, while simultaneously being the anti-prophet to everyone else. I assume he’d say “Lydon prophet? He’s fucking bollocks!” -OZ
A reaction to society, truths and religion, Kurt Vonnegut wrote, “Well, when it became evident that no governmental or economic reform was going to make the people much less miserable, the religion became the one real instrument of hope. Truth was the enemy of the people, because the truth was so terrible, so Bokonon made it his business to provide the people with better and better lies.” John Lydon is no Bokonon.
So what happens when posed with the ‘religion’ of musician worship in the form of musicians as prophets and deliverance? Well, you get what the world needs now. And it is another fuck off. And I’m inclined to say it’s one of the more enlightening sentiments I’ve heard in a song in awhile. As I read through a few reviews prior to writing this one, I found them lacking any of the edge that PiL brings to the table in What The World Needs Now…. I wondered why this could be so overlooked.
Rather than immediately get into a nasty discussion, let’s just read a couple reviews. Yes, let’s.
“What the World Needs Now… is the sound of a band not really caring too hard about their current stature. Luckily for the listener, the pros outweigh the cons.” –PopMatters
Hahaahahaha. Well, yes. The pros definitely outweigh the cons. How rather nice of PiL to care enough to not care about their stature.
Another review excerpt from one of my favorite publications, Pitchfork.
“Other mid-tempo tunes on What the World Needs Now… don’t fare as well. The line between compelling repetition and tedious wheel-grinding is pretty thin for this group, and though Lydon always battles valiantly to breath [sic] life into flatter songs, he can’t save them all. Things never quite fall apart completely, though it does become tough to find a heartbeat inside the fuel-deprived ‘Big Blue Sky‘. It doesn’t help that the tune’s disengaging loops and arena-rock choruses last for over eight minutes. […] Those kinds of struggles come during What the World Needs Now…‘s second half, which makes the album feel a bit like a five-mile race run by a sprinter.” -Pitchfork
Well, that sure is a mouthful. Key phrases to consider: “arena-rock” and “flatter songs.” (I remain uniformed, however, of John Lydon and the band’s running prowess. Maybe if they trained longer or worked Saturdays? Just a thought…) Either way, I figured Pitchfork was on to something, as I must have missed the mark on so many of my opinions. I fashioned a letter.
If there’s one thing I am sick of, it’s John Lydon belting out a fucking flatter tune to appease the arena rock masses. I assume you also know he is a huge butter whore, which also explains A LOT. I heard he got PAID actual money for doing those commercials. Thankfully, you, Pitchfork, have revealed his equally butter-flavored sellout album for what it is. Delicious on popcorn? Sure. But have we music aficionados been reduced to this…
Or even this…?
(Even the flippant remark that he does not support butter farmers because it was their career choice. Does this Pistol have no shame?)
I for one am sick of reviewing this shit, despite the fact that my irrelevancy in the realm of things is far greater than the apparently irrelevant discussion of relevancy within music. Surely this shameless Butter Whore must realize his own irrelevance? Did the Sex Pistols wonder at their own relevancy over tea and crumpets? One may never know. What I do know is this. I call on you, Pitchfork, to join me in boycotting musicians! Let us no longer waste our thoughts on these pedestrian endeavors, forcing us to meander the musical dregs only to degrade ourselves with such creative slag! As soon as you put down your tablets, we’ll do the same!
God save the fucking margarine – all the best!
Relevancy. Does it have a place?
So I can’t help but wonder, in all of the criticisms and phraseology of review writing, if the words “still relevant” are a requirement for any artist over the age of 40. A pat on the head for still being alive and making music. Moreover, I wondered if anyone had that same audacity when questioning the relevancy of a band like the Rolling Stones, all well over 40, and still making the same record. I sought. I got my answer. That answer is “NO.”
A 2015 Pitchfork music review granted a rating of 10 out of 10 for the reissue of the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers,
the original release being 1971, in case you may have forgotten. If you had forgotten, it may possibly be because you weren’t born yet or because it was 44 years ago. But now, thanks to Pitchfork, you CAN remember. And also thanks to Pitchfork, if you want to know what’s relevant today, better travel back to 1971, when real rock ruled the world. Yesssss. That t’IS corrrrect-ah! [in John Lydon trilled pronunciation]
I continued to look through these apparently “once relevant” artists.
Beware Patti Smith fans! I found that Patti is also sadly irrelevant. 🙁 🙁 That’s TWO sad faces for Patti. I bet the Dalai Lama would have rethought his appearance at her show at Glastonbury had he bothered to read Pitchfork prior to wasting his own holiness on such an irrelevant artist. Oh well, you may be able to transcend the inter-connectivity of causation, but you can’t always transcend the wrong entourage. Better luck next time.
Anyway, Patti has not gotten a review over 6 stars from Pitchfork in years, except for the re-release of Horses, originally released 1975. She managed to pull down a 9.3 stars out of 10. (Sorry Patti, still not as good as the Sticky Fingers re-release. Maybe there’s something you could learn from them if you just go back and really study the album. Or maybe rock only ruled the world in 1971. It’s likely one of the philosophical questions for the ages.)
Ah, let us never forget the highly insightful 1 out of 10 rating given to Lou Reed & Metallica for their project Lulu.
Genius truly never met a better sidekick. And by genius I do mean Stuart Berman of Pitchfork. All I have to say is, “You know what Stuart. I like you. You’re not like the other people, here, in the trailer park.”
A few tracks of note for me
Double Trouble. Well now, anyone who has been in a long-term relationship knows this is actually a love song as well as an acknowledgement that your significant other may one day kill you in your sleep, and that’s okay because it’s worth the risk. For after all, “Domestus is domestic bliss-ssssssssssss.”
Know Now. I still laugh through the entire thing. Anyone who has ever been alive in this world should be laughing their asses off at this song. If they aren’t laughing, fuck them. Feel free to let them know, “Know what I know now so now you can go!” Clearly they do not appreciate the inappropriate hilarity of having the life sucked out of them, repeatedly, by a trusted someone. Likely, they may be your personal “Know Now” so tread heavily as you deliver the message to this special someone.
Life Time. Deep introspect of loose ends. Unrequited sentiments and love, not romantic love, but the need to redeem and place meaning. The late night tossing and turning. Therapy in offices and that same self-medicating therapy inside of bars and initiating alleyway fights. The leering sneering past mocking you until the moment you can finally stare it in the face, absent blame, now with acceptance. Especially when hiding and running has long lost is romanticism and meaning. Maybe not even forgiveness but a reckoning. Knocking the pedestal and finding your way out of the pit.
So is the poetry of Mr. Lydon: “We have a broad scale to travel. Just let it trickle in the mind. Just to know it, hear it, and hold it. Oh! Even seems unkind. It takes a whole life time, being sorry to you. It takes a whole life time, for what happened to me. It weren’t like nothing happened, but something happened, alright?! But it weren’t all right, and still, it’s not, not proper to me! It takes a whole life time, being sorry to you. It takes a whole life time, for what happened to me. We lost and found. We found another other in each other. And it’s loss and love and anger and the rage and the coincidences. In the sentence until the pages of sense, picture the puzzle. It takes a whole life time being sorry to you. It takes a whole life time for what happened to me. Picture the puzzle.”
Not Satisfied. This track reminds me of an entire life rant inside my own head that I attempted to verbalize to the intended, someone I loved or hated desperately, possibly both, and came out the other side enraged that I didn’t do my love-hate justice. All the while my object of intense affection is completely indifferent to my screams. The stabbing repetition: “I’m not satisfied! Not in my head. Not satisfied. …Not!”
The whole of experience rolling around a bass driven maze grinding along a vertigo guitar riffing the rusty corridors. I imagine a boxing ring floor littered with teeth and blood and one guy who keeps getting up and up, no matter how bad he’s beaten. The crowds screaming to him to stay down until everyone realizes it’s a death match. All fist punching to the choral “I’m not satisfied! Not!” What a great fucking track. Lydon’s desperate pleading vocals, “Why can’t I remember your name? Ain’t that your name?! Not satisfied?!” I suspect this song has to do with Lydon’s childhood meningitis struggle. Possibly a stark reminder that true terror is being locked inside your mind without hope of being understood and absent meaningful human connection.
Despite the many reviews opining on the state of Lydon’s musical relevance, there is no mention of the lyrical revelations throughout.
An unraveling of roots running deep and the imperfect process of getting to the core of why it matters. The process of taking on the world with the final mania being the battle within ourselves to wrestle some meaning out of this fog – often too late to share it with the ones we most want to. Corny? Played? Overdone? There are centuries worth of plays and novels and music addressing this simple idea: Why and the world. But still, it isn’t old. It is the stuff we’re made of, after all.
Introspect and thoughtful consideration. So states Mr. Lydon, “What the world needs now is another fuck off.” And we do need this. But not for the obviousness of the sentiment, but for missing what’s in between. What we missed and what we continue to miss in the world. What we continue to dismiss and lazily declare as irrelevant, whether music or refugee children being kicked down by adults whilst trying to run for safety. Human trafficking. Running from death. So when you consider that type of reality, music seems like a pile of dogshit next to what truly matters. Then again – music has saved many lives and it has been a universal conduit for change. Music, done well, it’s a dangerous beautiful thing.
What the World Needs Now… seems a challenge to us to finally give a shit in the form of fuck off, having been so tired of trying to convince people otherwise for so long. “Not global villages, but one globe.” It’s a pathetic easy time to gloss over someone’s anger or forget about the billions sharing the same experience as we. If you happen to be a sarcastic asshole at times, people seem to think that’s all you are. But I hold true to my opinion that socially awkward sarcastic assholes are often most sickened by societal ills. And they often show their disgust and need to protect the exploited in the form of fuck off anger fits. So it’s not a love song or even if it is a love song, it may not come in the expected form (aka, Double Trouble).
The band’s name is after all Public Image Ltd., so what else would you expect other than a mockery of public image, especially its own?
As I pass the reviews and the cynicism and the questions posed about relevancy, I wonder at the state of our viewpoints on creation in general. Why the artistry for musicianship – angry street punk or silver spoon violinist – why does anyone create? Why make statements about relevancy when the statement itself isn’t even relevant? Whom of these reviewers could define relevancy and why they are even writing about it? I know I can’t.