Metal Box review by Public Image Ltd

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  • Sound: 7
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 7
  • Reviewer's score: 7.3 Good
  • Users' score: 8 (9 votes)
Public Image Ltd: Metal Box

Sound — 7
Many Sex Pistols fans will be gravely disappointed if they believed John Lydons post-pistols project, PIL, would provide them with more angst ridden punk rock. Instead, PIL sound like one of the most inspiration experimental punk bands of the 1980s. They blend steel guitar work with synthesisers, robotic drum beats and the painful croaking of Rotton. Surprisingly, there are a few tracks on this album which allow Lydons love of Reggae to shine through. 01. Albatross - starts with a catchy bass line before the jagged steel guitar comes in. Surprisingly, this song does not include a standard rift, it sounds as if the guitarist is improvising over the whole track. It is also the longest track of the album at 10:34. 02. Memories - features a tighter rhythm then the previous track, and a fair amount of flange. One of my favourite songs on the album, it includes various little bursts of Lydon singing clearly and moaning about the state of music. 03. Swan Like - easily the most danceable track on the album. 04. Poptones - a more playful song. Reminds me of Radiohead but with more punk attitude. 05. Careering - filler. The drums sound more like dustbin lids. 06. No Birds - includes a high energy bass line and vocals which sound like they were improvised on the spot. 07. Graveyard - instrumental. The bright, spiky guitar tones contrasts strongly against the bland, monotonous drums leaving you wondering. 08. The Suit - the music is very low in the mix here. It feels like a three and a half minute monologue by Lydon. Saying that, I think that it is a good audio representative of the bland city life they were trying to rebel against. 09. Bad Baby - a more upbeat number with a keyboard replacing the guitar. The high tones used in both Lydons vocals and the instruments contrasts strongly with the rest of the album. 10. Socialist - this track displays a strong funk influence. It makes me think of calmer RHCP tracks performed by a trance group. 11. Chant - features Lydon chanting throughout the track with other vocals overdubbed. Actually sounds very confrontational and threatening. 12. Radio 4 - a very Queen-esque keyboard track. Quite threatening but a very strange choice. The packaging for this album was revolutionary. The vinyl originally came in a metal film canister. When it was released on CD, this was repeated in a smaller format with only a small slip of paper to identify the tracks. I liked this as it shows that thought was put into the whole package.

Lyrics — 8
I can't honestly say if they are good or not. But they are extremely suited to the music. Lydon, who does not sing conventionality (if at all) makes his voice rise and fall in tone so much it becomes a part of the music instead of a separate entity. And in this style of band, an experimental group with trance elements, I think this is much more important.

Overall Impression — 7
This is the only PIL album I have heard. But if you compare it to other experimental albums by bands such as Radiohead I feel it honestly holds its own due to its spasmodic guitar parts and even more spasmodic vocal patterns. My personal favourite tracks are Albatross, Chant and Bad Baby. Albatross just feels extremely heavy and conjures the though of a giant fist pummelling the listener to the ground in a mute environment. Chant is just threatening and Bad Baby makes me want to laugh. My only quibble with the album is its monotone bass and drums. After listening to it for 15 minutes I've stopped caring if its track 3 or 8 and have almost blocked it out. Which is a shame, because in short doses the songs on this album are very interesting and engaging. If someone stole it, I would probably wait until I saw it in the sales or try to get hold of the original vinyl release. Hey, it's burned to computer so no rush.

8 comments sorted by best / new / date

    islanderzfan49 wrote: my dad has the original unopened
    Is it that good to listen to then? :haha
    07. Graveyard - instrumental. The bright, spiky guitar tones contrasts strongly against the bland, monotonous drums leaving you wondering.
    Spiky? ya mean Spooky?
    BaSSiSt_METAL wrote: ahahha wait nvm ahhaha its a lable i thought it was some guitar thing =p
    the amount of lose here made me lol.