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From the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Public Image: First Issue

Public Image Ltd.

1978

Public Image: First Issue
Album Summary

Public Image: First Issue is the debut studio album by English rock band Public Image Ltd, released in 1978 by record label Virgin. It is considered one of the pioneering records in the development of post-punk. In 1979, NME reported that a court in Malta had halted sales of the album because the lyrics of "Religion" offended public morals and decency. Upon its release, Public Image: First Issue received a 2- (out of 5) star review in Sounds. Reviewer Pete Silverton said that the single is the "Only wholly worthwhile track on the album." He dubbed the rest of the songs as "morbid directionless sounds with Rotten's poetry running just behind it." Nick Kent of NME was similarly negative, quipping that "unfortunately the 'image', public or otherwise, is a good deal less limited than many of the more practical factors involved in this venture." However, the album is now considered a groundbreaking post-punk classic. AllMusic critic Uncle Dave Lewis stated that the record "helped set the pace" for the post-punk genre, adding that it was "among a select few 1978 albums that had something lasting to say about the future of rock music." Pitchfork's Stuart Berman wrote, "First Issue's industrial-strength stompers anticipate the scabrous art-punk of the Jesus Lizard and Slint, while Levene's guitar curlicues on 'Public Image' are the stuff Daydream Nations are made of."Public Image: First Issue is, along with Metal Box, included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Wikipedia

Rating

2.46

Votes

6956
Genres
Rock
New Wave
Post Punk

Reviews

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Mon Jun 28 2021
2

“Okay, okay, hear me out. What if we took the mediocrity of the Sex Pistols… but made it longer?” - John Lydon, probably

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Fri Oct 02 2020
4

Boy, John Lydon (formerly of Sex Pistols) wants you to work for this album. Track one is a 9-minute long, post-punk, noise-rock grind. Track two is a spoken word tirade against organized religion. Track three is that SAME tirade but put to music. It isn't until track four that it starts to feel like an actual album. This is often credited as the first true post-punk album and it really is that. Lydon takes the in-your-face, don't care about aesthetics approach of punk and the "I really have something to say about humanity/culture/you" ethos that he brought to Sex Pistols... but then strips out all of the nihilistic, anarchic, devil-may-care FUN of the genre. This really feels like Lydon's expression of discontent with the state of the scene and anger at the industry that supports music. Even with all that, I found it interesting and engaging as an album. Maybe that's because I actually really love punk so I can appreciate this album. Despite Lydon's rejection of punk, this album is still so very punk. Standout tracks are: "Public Image" for its strong ties to Sex Pistols and "Fodderstompf" for being the most experimental. Seriously, that track is WAY out there.

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Thu Mar 25 2021
2

The singer's gutteral vocals in certain songs would be really at home in early back metal or crust punk bands like Venom or Deviated Instinct...but sadly, they are over this boring music. Devoting an entire track to your very edgy anti-christianity spoken word poem (religion I) and following it up with literally the exact same poem set over a repetitive jam (religion II) is awful, and public image should feel bad about it. || Parts that were listenable when I dove into work and tried not to pay attention. I'm giving this a 2 because a 2 is more forgettable than a 1. I don't want to have to think about this trash again.

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Wed Apr 14 2021
4

This is an album for musicians, I can tell. It's also an album for pissed off people. Is this punk? If so, I might like punk! The instruments and vocals combine in absolutely punishing ways. First, they break down your religion, then trust in society, government, etc. The vocals are divine - visceral screams, howls, and shouts. It seems that he's actually railing against society here. Favorite songs are Fodderstompf, Theme, Religion I, and Attack. Low life is the worst song, but it's only because it is forgettable. My favorite point on the album is in fodderstompf when he says he is just doing this to get the album done in the easiest way to fulfill contractual obligations. God it is a smart song. Sarcastic, but a smart critique on the music industry.

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Fri Jul 22 2022
5

Garotte-wire guitar, dub-rumbling bass, frantic drumming and That Voice. Raw, bloody and wild. The good stuff, straight out of the vein.

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Thu Mar 04 2021
2

I really hated this, even more than Le Tigre. And honestly, looking back at my prior ratings, I think I'm supposed to have it like the bourgie scum I am. Surprising amount of preaching in post-punk, just preaching to a different choir.

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Mon Apr 26 2021
2

Over-rated post punk purveyor. Probably had to be there. Best Tracks: Annalisa, Public Image, Low Life

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Mon Feb 27 2023
5

How is this one of the lowest rated albums on here?! You people have no taste. This is one of the greatest post-punk albums ever made, thanks mostly to Mr Keith Levene with the incredible guitar, and Jah Wobble with the gorgeous dub-style bass. Lydon's lyrics give the album an extra kick. I've heard this album countless time and I love the sex pistols and a lot of other work Lydon has done so of course I'm very biased about my adoration of this album. On a first listen, I don't think I 'got' this album. So in all fairness, it will take time for someone to appreciate just how good it is. Fav tracks: Religion II. So angry. I love it. Annalisa and Theme are great. Theme in particular has a great opening bassline. And lydon's screaming on it must have disgusted so many listeners :)

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Wed Mar 24 2021
3

Pretty chill and a lil Chaotic lol

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Thu Jun 09 2022
3

This album is okay, I guess. The kind of music that sounds decent stone cold sober, but even better after a drink or two. It's as if the edgelords you knew in high school formed a band and actually turned out to be pretty good. Fave track: Religion II. Nice bass lines all the way through, solid drums. Worthwhile but I didn't adore any track.

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Wed Mar 17 2021
2

Not my thing and the singer sounds like Carl Weezer from Jimmy Neutron on some songs

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Thu Jul 22 2021
1

“Public Image: First Issue” by Public Image. Ltd. (1978) Kid atheists are so cute. I just want to kneel down, give them a hug, and tell them to go play outdoors, but don’t run in the street. They’re so sweet at that age. Actually, “atheist” is not quite the right term for these fellows, since it’s not THEIR belief or non-belief at issue here, but rather it’s the belief or non-belief of OTHERS that they’re singing about. And that’s a different matter. They’ve graduated from thoughtful consideration of metaphysical commitments to evangelistic iconoclasm (“Religion I” and “Religion II”). They could have learned a lot from John Lennon’s “God” on the album “Plastic Ono Band” (1970). They like to stand outside the Church throwing spit wads at stained glass because they see hypocrisy, blindness, avarice, absurdity, and (one could add) ephebophilia. Well, boys, you should see what it looks like from the INSIDE. Your critique would become more intelligent. Their self-proclaimed “Theme” is summarized: I wish I could die I wish I could die I wish I could die I just died Terminal boredom You see, they’ve traded their illusions for a nullity. These mental rug rats have grown ‘up’ to go beyond Sex Pistols (lyricist John Lyndon) to semiautomatic Nerf Knockoffs. It’s like watching reruns of Scooby-Do. John Lyndon characterizes his antagonists (and this album is all about antagonism) as egomaniacal anarchist bourgeois morons with shit for brains (his terms, not mine). These enemies are subject to his “Attack”. But his weapons are so weeny. I almost don’t care who wins. John, spend some time in the totalitarian universe of your antireligious compatriots and get back to me. We’ll talk. 1/5

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Mon Apr 26 2021
4

Muy pank, pero ya menos crudo, más estilizado (¿por eso se llama post punk?). Es maravilloso lo que pasa muchas veces con los instrumentos, como que encuentran en distintas canciones y momentos una oportunidad para brillar. Todo cool, dan ganas de escuchar esto en vivo. "Theme" es un gran inicio y luego me gustaron mucho "Religion II", "Public Image" y esa maravilla chistosona "Fodderstompf" con su "We only wanted to be love" repetido demencialmente. John Lydon, mis respetos (?). 9/10

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Fri Jul 23 2021
4

Reminds me a lot of early Swans with a bit more punk than no-wave! Still retains a lot of no-wave elements (see: that high-class piano solo in Religion II, the vocals on Fodderstompf) without explicitly being a part of the scene. This is made all the better by the fact that the no-wave movement would've been at it's genesis around this time, so PIL is at the cutting edge around this time. The punk elements are also a huge part of the sound, lending itself extremely well to the sneering sarcastic tone of the album. This is so great. More modern post-punk bands should aspire for this level of raw vitriol. And coming off of the less-than-stellar Sex Pistols, I applaud John Lydon (formerly Rotten) for making this move in the music scene. If only his contemporary political views didn't make him a FUCKING TRUMP SUPPORTER, THEN MAYBE HE'D ACTUALLY BE A COOL AND ADMIRABLE FIGURE IN THE MUSIC WORLD, YOU FUCKHEAD. LISTEN TO YOUR OWN GODDAMN MUSIC FOR ONCE.

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Sun Sep 12 2021
4

This is probably the perfect example of an anit-pop album. The songs here are just ugly, brash pieces that shouldn't have been pressed onto a record... however, it's done in a fashion which makes it impossible to look away from it, kinda like a slow moving car crash. It's basically the 70's version of Alice Cooper's debut Pretties for You (which originally inspired Johnny's musical styling in the first place) so it's quite a fitting comparrison.

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Sun Mar 14 2021
2

Very boring, the kind of stuff that did not age well

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Fri Jun 18 2021
1

Geen zin in deze weltschermz.

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Fri Jun 18 2021
1

Wat een experimentele bagger. Kan hier echt helemaal niets mee

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Fri May 14 2021
1

Awful, terrible spoken word political punk, would prefer to give it 0 stars!

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Mon Aug 23 2021
1

My hangover got even worse from this.

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Thu Sep 30 2021
1

God, what a dreadful 39 minutes. I struggle to imagine the band listening back to this in the studio and saying "we nailed it boys". Also, how the instrumentalists in the band didn't want to punch Lydon's smug little face after hearing the shit he lays down here. What a fuckwit.

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Wed Jan 19 2022
1

Hated it. Shows Lydon up for the talent-free 14 year-old esque poet and agitator that he is.

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Mon Feb 21 2022
1

Wow!!! I thought some of the past offerings by the sex pistols was bad, this has taken dirge to a whole new level. It’s absolute rubbish, I’ve heard white noise that has more appeal than this. I suppose that you have to listen to the really bad music to appreciate the mediocre and to love the good. I’m only giving this a one start because I have to award it something, if I could I would have given it a zero

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Mon Apr 26 2021
5

Me gustó bastante. Me puso de buen humor su sonido tropezado, se va cayendo por todos lados, pero es divertido. Creo que las que más me gustaron fueron Analisa y Religion con su intro. Mood: vomitando lyrics

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Wed Oct 06 2021
5

Fab! One of my favourite records!!

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Wed Jun 15 2022
5

Not sure what you'd call this style, but it's great. Similar vibe to punk, but more chill so that I can actually understand the lyrics.

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Thu Dec 01 2022
5

This is unpleasant, talentless and offensive. I love it. I can't say I like John Lydon but he has always been outspoken and this is fairly enjoyable if you like Pistols and Punk/New wave but i'm more interested in how unpopular this is to reviewers. It's from 1978 riding on the back of Punk so it's what I would expect it to be but the reviewers seem to want to compare it with serious music.

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Wed Feb 01 2023
5

The song Public Image still gives me chills - so good!

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Sun Apr 02 2023
5

Jah Wobble is the king of the groove. I don't care what everyone else is doing and sometimes I wonder if they do, but it doesn't matter because he just drives every song.

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Wed Jun 07 2023
5

Discordant, pretentious, irritating, provocative, surly. Loved it

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Tue Jun 20 2023
5

Post punk bands are still copying this homework

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Wed Aug 30 2023
5

Hair coiffed up, suited up, as if he were on the front cover of a prestigious magazine. John Lydon had no intentions on being rotten anymore. This was the new public image and he was going to use it to let the world know that he was more than what they thought he was. Of course he couldn't do it alone, for he had the best guitarist and bassist of the time right beside him and, together, they'll create the kind of fission that would split punk in two. To this day, this is an album that is ahead of its time in crafting a new noise and a new way forward for not only disillusioned punks but curious on-lookers and listeners as well. While their finest hour was yet to come, this First Issue is an exhilarating first step forward.

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Thu Oct 15 2020
4

Unusual, interesting, good, intriguing lyrics.

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Fri May 14 2021
4

Love the sex pistols and the clash and even though this is so different from them I love it nonetheless. It's rough like the former bands, but it also adds a whole different dimension to their sound through the strong melodic instrumental feel.

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Mon Mar 22 2021
4

Às vezes gritado demais, mas som muito bom no geral

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Fri Jun 18 2021
4

Ik was positief verrast door dit album! Sex Pistols heb ik helemaal niks mee, maar in deze band is het veel minder punk en veel meer rock. Op een paar wazige rommel-nummers na was het echt wel tof. Goede bassloopjes en gierende gitaren. Op een of andere manier viel dit voor mij helemaal goed 😁

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Wed Jun 16 2021
4

Stripped down punk, as Public Image Ltd really peel back all the pomp and circumstance, leaving only the anti-religious confessions and accusations of Johnny Rotten. Often times, his voice is used more as an attack instrument rather than a melodic one. Not my favourite art-punk/post-punk project, but definitely worth the listen (the drums alone are fantastic). Fav Tracks: Annalisa and Public Image Rating: 3.5/5

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Wed Jul 14 2021
4

Fucking great album, super ahead of its time.

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Thu Aug 12 2021
4

I've really found that I enjoy post-punk, and that remains true with this album. I think that PiL's work has aged better than that of the Sex Pistols, and there is certainly a lot more of it to appreciate. I like this album much better than Metal Box, which I got on this list a few months ago. 4/5

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Fri Sep 24 2021
4

Pretty abrasive. I liked this sound.

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Wed Oct 06 2021
4

Precursors to metal box. Angular new guitars.

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Fri Oct 08 2021
4

Bought this when it came out in 1978 - it's still great. Much better than anything the Sex Pistols did.

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Fri Oct 08 2021
4

La manera en què busquen la porta de sortida del punk. Podria haver acabat amb un bodri, però una de les grans virtuts de Lydon és saber envoltar-se d'una banda que porta les seves ambicions a un altre nivell, donant vida a un disc experimental però inspirador, tan transgressor com rellevant. No és una obra mestra, però s'apropa força

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Mon Oct 11 2021
4

unforgiving, tough, stripped down punk music. Very enjoyable for what it is.

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Mon Oct 11 2021
4

Though a lot of the creative decisions can probably be attributed to John Lydon wanting to troll the mainstream, the dub-influenced post-punk still shows strongly. The brighter tracks "Public Image" and "Low Life" are great too

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Sun Jan 09 2022
4

I can understand why people would hate this album, but I think its fantastic. John Lydon really came into his own, and the songs (particularly in the first half) build on Punks foundation in an incredibly influential way (I mean, Theme almost has a shoegaze sound to it). The last couple of songs are kind of forgettable though.

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Mon Jan 17 2022
4

The first song is awesome. I know it's not for everyone.

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Thu Feb 03 2022
4

Mr Lydon, Mr Levene and Mr Wobble, TBH when I first heard Public Image Ltd I thought "What the Heck, Johnny has lost his Rock 'n' Roll roots and gone all arty farty" as I didn't see the subtle subversive nature of PIL. But then I was 19 and still in the thrall of the vibrancy of Punk. I now like "Public Image" "Religion" and "Low Life" but some of this is just taking the piss I think. Typical Johnny!

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Mon Feb 14 2022
4

Johnny Rotten lives! This one certainly isn't as well known as the SP's only LP. After all the aggravation getting the SP's album done this must have seemed like a cakewalk. I quite like it.

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Sun May 01 2022
4

...and post punk begins. John Lydon in all his irreverent, pissed off, indignant glory. And great songs to boot...Theme, Religion, Annalise, Public Image. A fine album that shows the way to the master piece to come (Metal Box). 4 🌟

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Sun May 08 2022
4

Interesting enough to keep me engaged the whole way through. Annalisa isy highlight.

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Sun May 22 2022
4

Awesome record. Not quite a 5 but it's a really, really strong 4. Just great post-punk.

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Thu Jul 21 2022
4

Metal Box and Flowers of Romans are both 5-stars. First Issue clearly has been influential, contains several 5-star tracks (PI, Low Life), and plays well at loud volume, but is rather uneven and has some boring moments like the spoken word part of Religion and the album closer, Fodderstomf (which I usually skip). 7/10 so 4/5stars.

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Sun Sep 25 2022
4

Never Mind the Pistols, here is PIL. Nice variance in music and with brilliant Jah Wobble.

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Tue Oct 04 2022
4

Fresh sounding punk, seems influential.

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Thu Nov 10 2022
4

If only John Lydon hadn't grown up to be such a disappointment. This album is light years away from what he did in the Pistols. Less Furious but no less angry.

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Wed Nov 16 2022
4

RIP KEITH Prefs: Theme, Annalisa, Public Image, Low Life, Fodderstompf Moins pref: Attack

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Wed Dec 07 2022
4

I can see why some people wouldn't respond well to this album, either for reasons musical or ideological. It's not the easiest listen. But I really am enjoying it. I like it better each time I hear it. It's crashingly noisy and provocative in all the right ways, with grinding guitars and in your face lyrics. John Lydon's urgent, pained vocal style is somehow both abrasive and engaging at the same time. As for the writing, wow. I think we take it for granted now because everyone is on social media and everyone has an opinion. But that "Religion" monologue is searing and dripping with contempt. In '78 it must have been pretty shocking to hear. Then the band goes ahead and repeats it again to music (you know, in case you didn't catch the point the first time around). We may call this post-punk, but that is just about the most punk think I've seen on an album yet. Bravo. High 4. Fave Songs: Public Image, Annalisa, Low Life, Theme, Religion II, Fodderstompf

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Fri Jan 13 2023
4

Lydon's work in Public Image Ltd is as influential as his brief time with the Pistols, and far more interesting. This is by no means my favorite PiL work, and frankly, other artists did more with these ideas later (Killing Joke, Magazine, etc), but where would we be without First Issue?

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Wed Jan 18 2023
4

A little Johnny Rotten goes a long way- I personally would have cut the religion poem- but there’s some pretty cool stuff here. Post-punk before it went full new wave will always be a sound I can get behind. B

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Wed Jan 18 2023
4

Really dug this, except the last song. 4/5

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Thu Jan 26 2023
4

I know this album is weird. It's strange, noisy, and really doesn't have any pop sensibilities. But for some reason, I have always liked it a lot.

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Sun Feb 05 2023
4

You never listen to a word that I said You only seen me For the clothes that I wear Or did the interest go so much deeper It must have been The colour of my hair This is some solid punk, great album with good theme. Its not a top 10 thing, but thats not what its about AT ALL. 4/5

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Wed Feb 22 2023
4

RIP Keith Levene. Until relatively recently, I'd only heard the title track, and the pop stuff in the mid 80s, Rise, and that. So I'd got very much the wrong idea about PiL. One listen to Metal Box put that right, and it fair scared me off to be honest, I need to return to it. Certainly helped me understand their standing as post-punk pioneers. This is equally not for the faint hearted it seems. I listened to Theme twice, pretty much hating the first 5 minutes then loving it for the second 15. Public Image is a classic. Clearly not an immediate album, but a lot to like on the first couple of listens all the same.

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Wed Mar 08 2023
4

Angry, raw and noisy music for bad people. I wouldn't listen to this every day, but it surely scared some square people. Loved it.

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Wed Mar 08 2023
4

I have always seen Lydon as a bonehead that made history by accident more than by talent. But I had to change my mind on him after I discovered PiL because you obviously need a strong artistic vision to come up with that sound. I guess you could classify this as post-punk, but its experimental nature and its blend of dub and repetitive pattern makes it unique. This one has to be the most accessible of the first three but it's still weird af, I love it.

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Fri Mar 10 2023
4

Who said Free style post punk, heh? Would I go to a PIL show? Definitely! Would I listen to this record on repeat? Don’t know. Not all the songs, I think!

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Wed Mar 29 2023
4

Fucking weird but it's growing on me

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Fri Apr 07 2023
4

Better than expected. While the Sex Pistols were clearly more influential, this album is a lot more interesting. It's definitely not for everyone though.

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Wed Apr 12 2023
4

Inga större fel på denna. Skulle kunna lyssna in mig så den finge toppbetyg men än så länge så blir det bara en fyra.

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Wed Apr 19 2023
4

This album is post-punk af. The low sound of the bass is amazing, and omg, those drums! Lydon’s vocals are great. Definitely going back to this album in the future. Favorite songs: Theme, Religion II, Public Image, Low Life, and Attack.

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Mon May 29 2023
4

The most direct route from punk to post-punk. I actually enjoy this much more than The Sex Pistols. It has a nice balance of loose experimentation and sharp hypnotic focus. Fodderstompf is a bit of an obnoxious way to go out, but I suppose that was their point.

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Mon May 29 2023
4

This is heavy, I like it. There's a catharsis in the driving anger towards certain aspects of society. I'm connecting with it.

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Thu Jun 15 2023
4

The cover of the album is a delightful counterpoint to the contents of the album. It's a lot to take but it works if you let it.

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Thu Jun 29 2023
4

this album is full of controversies: it has good sound but very strange vocals.

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Wed Jul 05 2023
4

Who took the right DNA away from the Pistols break-up is clear from this. While Vicious and Mclaran were messing around with mock-shock rock and roll covers, Lydon was accelerating away into the post-punk era with this ridiculous leap forwards. Sped-up dub bass from Wobble, scratchy funk guitar from Levene anticipating everything that would come from Gang of Four, Fire Engines etc. Lydon's atonal (even for him) speech/howl/singing fits in perfectly. There's even a (relatively) pop-rush in the title track. Fantastic.

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Wed Jul 12 2023
4

I had to give this a second listen on headphones and I did appreciate it more. This is definitely more interesting than the Sex Pistols. This was cool, Theme was an excellent opener that sneered and rambled on, Religion II was excellent with some great jabs at institutions, specifically the church, Fodderstompf was weird but it was dancey and fun. This kinda surprised me. I’m going 4 stars

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Thu Jul 27 2023
4

Falls off near the end but there's incredible music here. Was always more of a metal box dude

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Wed Aug 09 2023
4

First PIL thing that I actually liked.

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Fri Aug 11 2023
4

I liked it! Almost better than the Sex Pistols. Can't wait for more to show up in the future. As someone who wasn't around during this time, it blows my mind that John Lydon went to such a wildly different sound in such a short period of time. 3.5/5

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Mon May 31 2021
3

The good moments are great; there are just too few of them unfortunately.

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Wed Jan 27 2021
3

Cool. Recognized a couple of songs. Not bad

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Wed Apr 14 2021
3

not my favorite kind of punk album, but i rather enjoyed it. nothing was amazing to me, but a solid performace by Johnny Rotten.

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