Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Public Image Ltd.: Second Edition [Island, 1980]
In which former three-chord savage J. Lydon turns self-conscious primitivist, quite sophisticated in his rotten way. PIL complements Lydon's civilized bestiality by reorganizing the punk basics--ineluctable pulse, impermeable bass, attack guitar--into a full-bodied superaware white dub with disorienting European echoes. Much of the music on this double-LP version of the exorbitant three-disc, forty-five r.p.m. Metal Box is difficult; some of it fails. But the lyrics are both listenable and readable, and thanks to the bass parts even the artiest instrumentals have a leg up on, to choose a telling comparison, Brian Eno's. Don't say I didn't warn you, though--it may portend some really appalling bullshit. No matter what J. Lydon says, rock and roll doesn't deserve to die just because it's twenty-five years old. J. Lydon will be twenty-five years old himself before he knows it. A-