Rotten returns with a curious mixture of rage and nostalgia.
Johnny Sharp 2012
Fittingly, it begins with a long, unrepentant burp. A dubby rumble of bass and icy chimes of guitar follow closely behind, and already we’re back inside a sonic blueprint that helped define the post-punk era.
"This is PiL," is the prowling war cry of this opening title-track, "And we’re quite a-PiL-ing!”
Hardly vintage repartee, but that’s not because Mr Lydon is short of things to say. "I am John!" he shouts to introduce One Drop, "And I was born in London!" Whether he might like some spare change for his tube fare home is slightly less clear, but he's got our attention. "We are the focus, not of the hopeless," he insists as a loose-limbed guitar skanks idly around the beat, and by the time he claims "We are the ageless, we are teenagers," the sheer charisma of that wailing, hectoring delivery has managed to convince you of sentiments that logic tells you are highly questionable.
So far so Rotten then, and the urgent, uptight melancholia of Deeper Water also preserves that sense of waving and drowning. But it's Human that really grabs your attention most as he informs us, “Your leaders are not good enough for you,” as a pleasingly moreish guitar motif recycles itself. But hang on, what’s this?
"I miss the… English roses, Salad beer and summer gear… cotton dresses skipping across the lawn…”
Steady on there, granddad.
By the time he sings, “All the days were long…when football was not a yawn” (I take it you missed Match of the Day on the last day of the season then, John?), you can't help wondering if the last of the eternal radicals has finally embraced conservatism.
Not a chance, on the evidence of stomping rat-a-tat oddity Lollipop Opera, which degenerates into freestyling gibberish rhymes about rooms, shrooms and brooms. Admittedly, spoken-word number The Room I Am In does throw up unedifying images of Compo from Last of the Summer Wine branching out into prog-rock poetry, but he’s back on form on the jabbering chatter of Reggie Song: “I am from Finsbury Park,” he squawks, “and I am having a lark.”
Good to have you back, you silly old fool.