Public Image Ltd. – Second Edition (1979)

Britain was not a nice place to live in 1979. Successive Labour and Conservative governments had done next to nothing to improve the country’s economic woes. This was due to a committed belief in appeasing trade union interests who clearly were not interested in being reasonable or democratic. During The Winter Of Discontent in 1978-1979, the country was in a chaotic state. The public services went on strike and Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan was refusing to acquiesce to their wage demands, leading to things like rubbish piling in the main streets of London. This led to Margaret Thatcher being elected in 1979, who was very much anti-democratic as well, just in a completely different way.

Out of all these turbulent times, came some great music. John Lydon was carving himself up a great solo career, and he was totally feeling the mood of the times. His mother had passed away and The Sex Pistols were a thing of the past. He took one step ahead of his contemporaries and made Second Edition. It was released in 1979 in various forms (such as the Metal Box LPs) but it’s seen as a totally underrated classic today.

There is no midrange on this record. It’s all bass and treble. To be honest, there never has been such deep bass guitar on an analog made recording before. John Lydon has moved on from the anti-singing on The Sex Pistols and instead adopts a vastly different vocal style. It’s repetitive too, but not overwhelmingly so. It is actually bass on a huge array of musical influences that John Lydon dug.

We begin with the Albatross piece. The bassist Jah Wobble consumes the song with the bass, whilst Lydon screams and bemoans urban life. It’s a thrilling listen from the beginning. It goes over 10 minutes, so be patient with this album.

The follow up has John Lydon screaming again in Memories about having such useless memories. It’s deeper than you’d think, with spacey science fiction keyboards, possibly inspired by dub music. He doesn’t sound very happy throughout the record here, which isn’t always a bad thing.

Swan Lake deals directly with the passing of John Lydon’s mother. We can sense the pain and anguish in this song as he deals with internal emotions from the experience. It’s a great and relatively short song. “Words cannot express…” Indeed.

Poptones is catchy enough to have a repeated bass riff going through it that is cool, and John Lydon talks about having a picnic in the British countryside. It’s a good listen.

The follow-up Careering talks directly about the uselessnesses of modern living. John Lydon really does a good job here and stands out as quite possibly the best and most flexible punk singer ever.

The instrumental Socialist is actually not political, apart from the title. It’s a short and funky track with some interesting bass and keyboard textures throughout. Not bad for a piece of its kind.

Graveyard is yet another instrumental, but eerie in its name and textures. It’s not as good as the previous piece before it but is listenable nonetheless.

The Suit is perhaps directly political. It talks about office politics and climbing the company ladder. It’s rather humourous in retrospect and has a brilliant bass riff throughout. Excellent.

The piece afterward Bad Bady has little meaning but is still good listening. By this point, we sense this is a great leftfield and artistic album, for it is enjoyable on that level.

The songy No Birds is a really touching piece vocally. John Lydon sings from an emotional place. You’d think otherwise, especially during The Sex Pistols. The fact is that John Lydon is an underrated and intelligent vocalist. This song is proof of that.

Chant mocks all the street protests and strikes of the time. It should come as no surprise, given the backdrop of the times in the UK. John Lydon humourously rants about the things that people do in street protests. It’s a great social observation. It segues into the next and last piece of the album.

Radio 4 is a keyboard instrumental with a few other textures. It’s nicely done, although not 100% necessary for this recording. By this point, we have finished our rather artistic journey with John Lydon.

Sadly, this album never sold well and contemporaries such as Joy Division were in the spotlight more than these guys. It was too arty for the mainstream. But hold it right there, it’s not rubbish at all. In fact, John Lydon came as an artistic power with this recording. It has inspired many musicians who dug the deep bass guitar lines, trebly electric guitar, precise drum rolls, and haunting vocal imagery. John Lydon is still making music with PiL. But this is his finest effort with the group. It’s worth checking out if you are craving something just a little bit different.

8/10

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV (1971)

Led Zeppelin really shines on this recording. Prior to this recording, Led Zeppelin had given us the Led Zeppelin I, II and III albums with each one being a step ahead of it in a logical progression. This is their best effort ever and sounds so awesome, even nearly 50 years later. The artwork and Zoso symbols have their own mystical meaning behind them as well. In short, it’s just brilliant.

We begin with Black Dog, which is a layered and interesting piece. “Hey-hey mama, gonna make you move, gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove!” sings Robert Plant. It’s a cool song with distorted guitar riffs and sexual wordplay. Just awesome.

The next song Rock And Roll is a straight ahead rock and roll piece that has stop/start motions and a 50s piano to boot. By this time, we sense that something very special musically is here, and this album is just a super listen.

The Battle Of Evermore follows with Mandolin (a Chinese instrument) by guitarist Jimmy Page and Sandy Denny doing backing vocals. It tells a tale directly inspired by The Lord Of The Rings book series. It may sound weird written here, but it is actually not a weird listen. It’s a beautiful and soulful piece.

Stairway To Heaven is quite possibly the most overrated rock song in history and has often been abused in its popularity. Still, there is no denying that this song is great. It starts off with fingerpicked acoustic guitar, before having various layers and elements segue into it, and finishes with a soul touching guitar solo and Robert Plant’s lone voice ending. It’s such a wonderful song to fit into the album. Led Zeppelin fans love this one. Interestingly enough, many people namely Christians think if you play this song backward, it has satanic quotes on it, though that’s not the purpose of the song whatsoever.

We go back to The Lord Of The Rings (again) with Misty Mountain Hop. It’s a keyboard driven song that sounds quite relaxing indeed. It’s a slightly weaker track but it’s still essential listening on the album. Sounds majestic.

We have the pounding Four Sticks next. It’s a good one, with Robert Plant singing some eastern music influenced harmonies. It’s brilliant, in many respects, of course.

Going To California is a delightful semi-country ballad. It’s so simple and beautiful that fans of Led Zeppelin III will love this one. But as the harmonies at the end of the song tell you, it’s much better a recording than many of the pieces on that particular album. Inspired and great listening.

When The Levee Breaks was originally recorded by another blues artist way back in the 1920s, so this is a cover. However, it is mind-blowingly awesome and sounds really trippy. It takes you into another world of music and is super special. It ends the album well.

This album not only defined the hard rock of the time, it deeply transcended it. It was such a special album in terms of overall quality that it has featured in many history books as one of the greatest albums of all time. It’s definitely in the top ten of the listings for the greatest albums ever. If you like hard rock with great performances and attitude, start here. You won’t be disappointed.

9/10

Public Image Ltd. – Public Image: First Issue (1978)

The Sex Pistols officially ended in January 1978 when Johnny Rotten had enough of Malcolm McLaren’s intervention in both the music and image of The Sex Pistols. At the last concert of The Sex Pistols in San Francisco, Johnny Rotten put the question: “Have you ever felt like you’ve been cheated?” to the audience. Indeed, he was asking an honest question. He left The Sex Pistols immediately to carve out his own musical journey.

The other members of The Sex Pistols did not fare so well. Sid Vicious disgraced himself with a murder-suicide act, Steve Jones became a heroin addict in the 1980s and Paul Cook did nothing special. Glen Matlock licked his wounds as well. Johnny Rotten dropped the stage name and went back to being John Lydon and went on a brief break whilst carving out more intellectual musical territory.

He teamed up with various individualistic and quality pseudo-punk musicians of the time and recorded new songs. The result here is the Public Image: First Issue album. It’s not even their best as John Lydon’s group, but it’s a very good beginning to a much more varied musical palette.

So beginning with Theme, it’s actually a piece about the parody of melancholy and bad feelings. To be honest, it’s good that it is a parody piece, otherwise, it would be awful. John Lydon of new still had the ability to see through human stupidity, after all. It’s one of the worst tracks on the album, but we can see past that as it is John Lydon finding his feet.

Straight afterwards we hear the spoken word Religion I. It reveals John Lydon as a mock preacher, delivering a sermon for atheists and the anti-religious. Close listening reveals that it is calling out the hypocrisies of the Catholic Church more than anything else.

Religion II is the song version of the spoken word piece and has John Lydon screaming “This is religion!” in a furious manner. It’s a good piece and his tone and singing are awesome. Only early Liam Gallagher came close to the legendary Johnny Rotten singing voice.

Annalisa is cheerful rubbish. It’s hard to decipher any meaning about this song but it’s at least danceable. Not really that good a track. Worth skipping if you can.

The main track Public Image has John Lydon laying everything bare. It is so honest in its dealing with the realities of being The Sex Pistols superstar that it questions whether or not it was worth it. It’s a post-John Lennon confessional and did okay in the singles charts.

The follow-up Low Life points out to a person who fits the criteria, although not mentioning anyone specifically. It lacks originality but it’s a good listen.

Attack begins with John Lydon hocking a loogie, before rushing into a sonic audio assault. It sounds a little weak musically but still better than some of the other songs here.

Fodderstompf is a long and artistic parody of the hippie based music scene that had been around for some time. “We only wanted to be loved” is repeated many times, and John Lydon uses his unique voice to change between accents in the mockery of such hippie based cultural values.

To be fair, this isn’t the greatest album ever made. But it’s quintessential for fans of the master of punk Johnny Rotten and mixes trebly guitars, dub style bass lines, attacking drums and punk vocals on it. It’s a good intro to Public Image Ltd. without being a great one. The next album afterwards was their best, but this one still has its place. Worth seeking out if you enjoyed Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols.

7/10

Pink Floyd – The Dark Side Of The Moon (1973)

Pink Floyd went big with this album. Prior to the release of The Dark Side Of The Moon, Pink Floyd had not achieved much commercial success as musicians. Of course, they had critical success with releases of very good artistic and psychedelic works as a group. They had their fair share of ups and downs as well, with great albums but also losing Syd Barrett early on due to his unstable mental health. The group was ready to unleash one of their best, most popular and critically acclaimed pieces of work.

The Dark Side Of The Moon is a fantastic listen. From the go, it’s brilliant. From the cover to the concept and the songs, it’s just totally awesome. It’s an era-evoking message of art that transcends the era. It’s a definitive album for not just the 1970s, but of all time.

We get a rather psychedelic intro with a heartbeat, to begin with, before launching into the piece Speak To Me. It works as a dark and mysterious introduction to the music before us. From the outset, we have a very special and valuable album.

It segues into Breathe which is a cosmic interstellar pop song which is about human longevity. It’s a nice pop song which does very well. Roger Waters wrote all the lyrics on The Dark Side Of The Moon for the first time on a Pink Floyd album, and we sense the melancholy and despair of the times in his lyrics.

On The Run is a proto-techno and acid house style piece. It has one of the world’s first sequencers ever used on it and has various recorded sound effects and dark foreboding themes on it. It’s a great instrumental which ends in a plane crash. Emotionally and wonderfully brilliant.

Time begins with a load of clocks banging away, before having a dark and mysterious intro before lurching into a pop song about aging too quickly and other matters as well. It’s so effective, and later on, returns to the reprise of the Breathe song we heard earlier. “Home, home again. I’d like to be here when I can. When I get home cold and tired, it’s good to warm my bones beside the fire.” Mint.

The next song will blow your mind. The Great Gig In The Sky is an instrumental piece featuring soulful vocals and great piano work from Richard Wright. It’s an evocation of death and all involved with it. It’s amazingly emotional and never gives up on that. It’s one to shed tears to.

The hit single Money is unashamedly open about the love of money but is so well done and catchy that it’s a great song. Featuring cash register style sounds at the beginning, along with wah-wah guitar, a fancy saxophone solo, and a danceable groove, this song really got Pink Floyd noticed. It’s fun to listen to.

Us And Them is an extended piece about the fragility of the human condition. It’s likely inspired by Syd Barrett’s presence earlier in their lives and has a great saxophone solo once again by Dick Parry. It’s just mindblowing and awesome to hear, even today.

Any Colour You Like follows and is intended to be psychedelic. It features great organ work and trippy guitar parts to boot. It’s a very good instrumental, segueing into the next song.

The following song Brain Damage talks directly about mental health but is emotionally rousing too. As Roger Waters says, “We’ll see you on The Dark Side Of The Moon.” If that makes sense to you, then you are already no doubt a Pink Floyd fan.

We end the album with Eclipse, a great way to finish the album which references the human condition, prior to closing the album down. It finishes with the reoccurring heartbeat and samples a voice of a friend of the group’s, stating: “There is no Dark Side Of The Moon, really. As a matter of fact, it’s all dark.”

This album is truly wonderful and majestic to listen to. Normally most albums can be ignored. However, this one in no way can be ignored. It’s not only the definitive album of the time, but of all time. It has so many interesting and wonderful elements to it that words cannot express here how good the album is. Do yourself a favour and listen to this album at least once in your lifetime. With 50 million sales and counting, this is the one album to own in your collection.

Essential.

9/10

The Eagles – Hotel California (1976)

The mid to late 1970s was an interesting era for music. Whilst punk was gaining momentum, the mainstream of music was distorted in what it offered. Disco was about to be unleashed and the dinosaurs of progressive rock were still floating around. It was a rather bad time for the representation of real music within the music industry by the time 1976 came around.

This release in that year is a gold standard classic. Ironically, it came to represent virtually everything punk loathed: perfect harmonies; structured guitar parts and glossy production. The Eagles were very much a supergroup as well, which punk detested the idea of. Despite all this, the album is a rewarding and refreshing listen. It’s a deserved classic today.

The opening title track Hotel California is a blissful and radio-ready pop song. In fact, the real meaning of the song and album is not about a nightmare paradise. It’s actually a cynical stab at the poisonous nature of the music industry. It has such beautiful guitar parts, a reggae beat, and concisely written lyrics. “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” Brutal.

The following song New Kid In Town tells the tale of a newcomer who is openly and readily accepted by his peers, only to lose it all in the end. It’s a fairly relaxed sound setting and has beautiful instrumentation. It’s just as good as it was in 1976.

Life In The Fast Lane is yet another story, but the guitars are at the fore here. A Fender Telecaster style riff kicks it off, with a cool and catchy song about people who live the high life of sex, drugs and rock and roll. The characters in it know they will hit a brick wall eventually in their lives, and this is where the next song comes into play.

Wasted Time is a continuation of the previous song, making this album a possible concept album. It’s a sad lament about the lives lost and questions whether or not it was necessary to spend so much time with people after all. The string section is absolutely beautiful. It’s a nice tearjerker ballad and an excellent piece.

The following piece is the beautiful Wasted Time (Reprise). It fits the album nicely and is a purely emotional string section to boot once again. Not bad at all.

The poppy Victim Of Love comes next and discusses falling in love and all that is involved in it. It has a wicked guitar solo in it, and asks “What kind of love have you got?” A nice tune.

Pretty Maids All In A Row is a nice slow dance sort of song. It lacks energy compared to some of the other songs on the album but is nice for a change. Beautiful.

Try And Love Again sounds very country and talks about never giving up on love. That is a great statement in itself and shows how flexible The Eagles were musically, especially as they came from a country-rock background.

The final track on the album The Last Resort is wonderfully pretty but has darker lyrics referring to God. It almost stops in the middle with a beautiful piano part, before ending this pretty and interesting album on a high note.

This album went mega commercially, particularly in the United States. It sounds so well done musically and production-wise, even today. In fact, so much so that most punk rock bands never matched this recording. It asks the question to those punk rock bands: Was it worth it compared to this? The clear answer is no. Hotel California is a wonderful, sometimes dark album that any classic rock fan should find a place to call home.

8/10

The Sex Pistols – Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols (1977)

The UK in the late 1970s was a drastically different place than in earlier postwar times. The country had moved from the swinging sixties into something far more inappropriate and nasty. The Winter Of Discontent was just around the corner. People no longer expected to be civil in public matters.

Along came The Sex Pistols, featuring vocalist Johnny Rotten (aka John Lydon), guitarist Steve Jones, bassist Glen Matlock, and drummer Paul Cook. Sid Vicious later replaced Glen Matlock as a “bass player” but the intent was all there for people to see. These men respectively wanted to show the world what anarchy was capable of.

The album itself is brilliant. It sounds unlike the mainstream Disco of the time: raw; unapologetic and powerful. It’s a landmark that has inspired countless bands over the years in getting a fresh start in the world of music.

We begin with Holidays In The Sun. It talks about the issue of the Berlin Wall and how Johnny Rotten observed and questions if life on the other side of the Communist-built wall in Europe would have been better. From the outset, we hear a loud and noisy rock piece which is absolutely brilliant in impact. Everything about The Sex Pistols was top notch in this respect.

The follow-up Bodies tells the real-life tale of a stalker who Johnny Rotten had who didn’t know whether or not she wished to abort after getting pregnant from someone else other than Johnny Rotten. It’s neither pro nor anti-abortion in this respect, it’s just delivered. No wonder more conservative people were horrified at this imagery.

No Feelings tells the story of how people really feel about being self-obsessed with themselves. It is, of course, a mockery of this idea, and a very good sarcastic and wonderfully delivered piece as that.

Liar is similar but demands people to be at least more honest with each other. “Lie, lie, lie, lie, lie. You lie, lie, lie, lie, lie. Tell me why?!” asks Johnny Rotten. In a world of fake music and fake groups, Johnny Rotten wanted people to be more honest with each other than superficiality demanded in typical circumstances. Direct.

The anti-anthem God Save The Queen is an anti-establishment and anti-monarchy piece that was, believe it or not, a hit single. It coincided with the Queen’s silver jubilee celebrations of the time and forever blacklisted the group from being accepted by many authorities. It’s just awesome though.

The follow-up Problems showed that really, “The problem is you!” and not anyone else. It’s an impacting and direct statement that isn’t easily forgotten, even for a lesser-known track.

Seventeen is awful but is saved by the semi-chorus refrain, “I’m a lazy sod!” The purpose of this song is to articulate how people waste away their lives. It’s a very concise and honest song.

Anarchy In The U.K. is the definitive song by The Sex Pistols and is one of the only songs Glen Matlock played bass guitar on. Everything about it shows how wonderfully powerful The Sex Pistols were. What an energetic and controversial piece in the world of music.

The manager of The Sex Pistols is explicitly referred to indirectly in Submission. It’s singalong but has a deeper meaning to the song. Still very enjoyable though.

The follow-up Pretty Vacant is about what you’d think. It’s a rebellious ode to just not doing anything with the day. It has some very simple riffs by guitarist Steve Jones and proves you don’t need to be a professionally trained guitarist to make good music.

New York is not a Frank Sinatra style song. Instead, it is a total parody of the city and the birthplace of punk rock. It doesn’t bore one either.

E.M.I. finishes the record by raising a middle finger to the touchy business of recording companies that wouldn’t have a bar of The Sex Pistols. It’s so out there and to the point that it’s surprising that Richard Branson signed these guys. Explicit.

This album is now seen as a must-own for fans of rock music and those who followed afterward. It’s absolutely a great and wild listen for those who like the more aggressive side of rock. If you collect classic albums, don’t forget to add this to your own collection. You won’t regret the impact of this loud, raw and abrasive album.

7/10