Public Image LTD “This is What You Want / This is What You Get”

Another fantastic find from digging in the crates at Ella Guru, this one travels through time for 29 years from 1984 until 2013 – unscathed, unscratched, nearly noiseless – like a perfectly preserved time capsule concentrated with 1980′s supergoo. What I mean by that is simply this: PiL, in whatever it’s incarnation, always seemed able to lampoon the music habits of Pop while also making it their own. In this case we’re getting heavy doses of slapbass, simple dance rhythms, brass-strikes, synth-soaked and reverb-rich – some of which could easily have been drawn in part from Simple Minds, Culture Club, Madonna, Chaka Khan, Eurythmics, Thompson Twins, The Art Of Noise, with some more musically-satisfying influences creeping in later (Talking Heads, Devo, Laurie Anderson, Alien Sex Fiend, et alia) … you get the idea.

This Is What You Want/This Is What You Get is probably also one of the most broadly known LPs even if the whole of the LP isn’t so broadly know, because this is the source of the single that everyone seems to know: “This Is Not A Love Song” – emblematic of John Lydon’s nose-thumbing modus-operandi that seems to permeate just about everything I’ve heard from him, since the days of the Sex Pistols. Irreverence in spades, best served with doses of snark and sneer.

But further to my sentiment that this is not only a record worth having, but a record worth keeping, is not so much the appearance of one of the most recognized signles from PiL, but the balance of the album itself – as it seems to me that the single is outclassed by just about everything else on the record. Ironic? Not really – perhaps even going to prove what Lydon & Co. were probably laughing at all along: the taste of the public-at-large for music stops at the most easily digestible.

Opening the record, therefore, are the two most easily digestible tunes: “Bad Life” and “This Is Not A Love Song” … and then things start to get hairy from there. By the time you’ve gotten past the four Side A tunes, you’re deposited squarely into “The Pardon” … a soundtrack-to-a-nightmare made of hypnagogic hallucinations that could as easily been included in a nighttime driving scene from David Lynch, Richard Elfman, or Tim Burton.

In fact, Side 2 is a kind of Alice-In-Wonderland trip through disturbing (yet addictive) rhythm-and-noise platforms for Lydon’s unmistakable vocalisma: activist with a megaphone shouting slogans. By the time we’ve hit the final track, “The Order Of Death” there’s a distinct change in the overtrack – deep, saturated, analoggy synth swells (almost Pink-Floydy in soundscape) and a simple dance-rhythm as the slogan repeats up and under: “This Is What You Want / This Is What You Get” … like a flow of lava slathering the earth, trying to silence Lydon’s protest … and yet all that remains, post-flow, is Lydon’s hypnotic repetition:

“This Is What You Want / This Is What You Get”

This *IS* what you want.


Chris Sommovigo loves music, enjoys audio, designs cables, seeks Truth. Since the mid 1980's he has been on both sides of the microphone, all sides of the industry, prefers tubes and vinyl, appreciates and respects solid state and digital, and will make great efforts to be present for a wonderful meal. Aside from this present foray into editorial life, Chris remains a small-scale manufacturer, importer, and specialized retailer and has recently started taking guitar lessons again after a 32-year hiatus.

Comments are closed.