The twelve tracks on this CD live up to anybody's expectations of what PiL had come to represent in their first incarnation. I've seen other critics refer to it as "art rock" and other such bullshit, but the reality is Lydon and company long ago went beyond pop music and into the realm of new music composition. Sure they field the same sort of line up as pop bands but what they do with the instruments at their disposal goes beyond what anybody else has ever attempted. Perhaps the closest analogy would be some of the music being produced by the avant-garde jazz movement in Chicago. However, unlike those bands whose forte is improvisation and experimentation with aural soundscapes, PiL's pieces are written in advance and more a music of ideas than intuitive responses.
Thematically Lydon is still attacking the status quo. "One Drop" is a celebration of his adolescence and he defies the notion that it's everyone's responsibility to grow up and become a useful member of society. "The laws of nature/Be lawless and free/We come from chaos/You can not change us/You can not explain us/And that's what makes us/We are the ageless/We are teenagers/We are the focus of the hopeless/We are the last chance/We are the last dance". Yet he's not waxing nostalgic for his lost youth, he's talking about himself in the present tense. After all, what is being an artist if not the ultimate rejection of adulthood?
Be honest, doesn't some part of you wonder about a group of fifty-year-old men making music most people would associate with teenage rebellion and youthful excess? They're not even playing nice safe corporate rock for baby boomers, for God's sake. Instead of mellowing with age and becoming respectable members of the aging rock musicians community, Lydon sounds just as ready to sneer at icons as he ever did. However, at the same time he's not just leading some blind attack or reckless anarchy. He looks around at present day society and sees that nothing much has changed in nearly forty years, so what is there to be fucking optimistic about? Anger is a healthy response and to pretend otherwise is to hide your head in the sand.
"The Room I'm In" is a surreal piece mixing spoken word and singing, accompanied by an eerily floating electronic sound collage overtop an arrhythmic percussion track suggesting the sounds of the world heard off in the distance. We call them "projects" in North America, in Great Britain they're know as council flats, but they serve the same purpose. It's where the poor and the hopeless are stuffed into boxes in towers of concrete surrounded by expanses of asphalt and wasteland. With no chance of physically escaping these soul destroying and dream crushing prisons, lives are wasted on drugs and meaningless violence. In just under four minutes, PiL has managed to create a piece of music which brings to life the reality of those sentenced to serve life sentences in these hells for the crime of being poor. Suddenly a needle seems like a reasonable alternative.