Goodbye Johnny (part 2)

September 24, 2009

The old pantomime dame is at it again – he obviously hasn’t been chastened by reading this blog. Not content with making us cringe at his awful butter ad, and a meaningless Sex Pistols reunion Mr Lydon has now reformed Pil to “celebrate the 30th anniversary of the release of Metal Box.” .

Amazing. Lydon, Wobble and Levene finally back together to perform the seminal album that defined post-punk.

Sadly not.  According to the official Pil website, Johnny boy will be joined by “ex-band members Lu Edmonds and Bruce Smith , plus new recruit Scott Firth” . Lu Edmunds and Bruce Smith both have fine musical pedigrees but the fact is they ain’t Wobble and Levene.  Another rock n roll swindle.

I remember seeing Rotten drag a bunch of American session musicians on a UK tour in the late 80’s playing Pil by numbers. It was dire.

I also remember seeing Wobble and Levene joining forces with Skip McDonald and Doug Wimbish of Tackhead for a sound-clash in the early 90’s. Despite terrible PA problems on the night, this felt like a real event. A one- off happening worthy of the hype.

The fact is, the original band were greater than the sum of their parts. The Sex Pistols were all about the sneering snarling frontman, but Pil was always a more sophisticated beast. Wobble’s baseline dub and Levene’s eerie scratchy guitar were as integral as Lydon’s voice, creating edgy paranoid classics. Careering and Poptones sound as good today as they did all those years ago.

Yes Pil made decent records without them – This is Not a Love Song and Rise – but Metal Box was, along with 1979’s other monumental release Unknown Pleasures,  an epoch defining album.

Jah Wobble has retained his integrity and made some great music post Pil, always collaborating, always experimenting. His work with Holgar Czukay and Bill Laswell stands up to anything he did with Lydon. And his recent Chinese Dub work shows he’s still happy to embrace different cultures and influences.

Lydon on the other hand has been happy to rest on his fat arse and his laurels for nigh on 30 years. Pil-lock.

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