John Lydon, known as Johnny Rotten in his younger and less hygienic years, is not dead. Through some miracle, this music legend and most of his former band, The Sex Pistols, have lived through alcoholism, addiction, and the so-called death of punk rock. The Sex Pistols' heyday ended years ago, after their bassist, Sid Vicious, died at the age of 21. Seems his luck was not as good. Despite several revivals, the band was never able to recapture the bizarre magic of those three years from 1975 to 1978.
But, like many musicians, Lydon showed that nothing was going to keep him down. Public Image Ltd. emerged in 1978, taking the new post-punk scene by storm with their first record, “Public Image: First Issue.” It was jumbled, rude and loud, but noticeably more polished than anything The Sex Pistols had ever released. After several lineup changes and a breakup in 1992, the band enjoyed a fair amount of success, culminating in their most recent album, “What the World Needs Now.”
The first track, “Double Trouble,” is a single and it shows. It's a little bland and formulaic. At the same time, it's about as bouncy and fun as a song that sounds like your retired neighbor ranting at his wife could possibly be. Both it and the track that follows it, “Know Now,” could do with being a little less repetitive, but their sound is spot on. Track three, “Bettie Page,” is decent enough, but its anti-U.S. message is halfhearted and feels about 10 years too late. After the first three tracks, the album takes a turn for the better in a major way.
Track four, “C'est La Vie,” is longer and heavier than the first three tracks. I can only describe it as being spooky. It's a drawn-out, droning song that reminds me of Halloween. Its only problem is that it IS drawn-out. It overstays its welcome at around six minutes.
Track seven, “Big Blue Sky,” is similar in its dark tone and mournful melody. However, it shines in comparison by bringing in its own complex, sincere lyrics and gloomy vibe. By far, though, my personal favorite song on “What the World Needs Now” is track six, “The One.” It is, oddly enough, really reminiscent of a Paul Simon song. The first time I heard it I was doing what all students do best – stressing over a project. This song gave me that Paul Simon patented feeling of “everything is going to be fine.”
The final track, “Shoom,” is predictably vulgar and menacing. While repetitive, the music itself is cool enough to make up for the predictable lyrics.
Overall, “What the World Needs Now” has done something highly improbable for bands that have been at it for years: sound-wise, it manages to live up to Public Image Ltd.'s previous albums. While it lacks some of the raw energy the band's youth brought to the table, it takes the idea that a bunch of old dudes can't still be cool and smashes it into little pieces. Overall, I give it six out of 10 stars. I recommend it to anyone looking to get more into this band. Even if you don't like it, you'll be pleasantly surprised by the band's previous efforts.