Ahhh, the dreaded reformation album. Ironically, for something representative of a bands rebirth, it can ultimately be the kiss of death for many a group, sending an artist back to the grave as fans and critics alike batter the soil firm with a shovel, making sure they’ll never again rise from the dead. Many have tried, few have succeeded, like The Stooges who pissed all over a perfect three for three record with the god awful ‘The Weirdness’, and Gang Of Four, whose return LP ‘Content’ had very little new to say for itself. Devo and Magazine have offered fairly solid comeback albums but failed to ignite any real excitement and originality, traits they both once ensconced with ease. Most reformation albums wind up in a state of miserable self-parody. Thankfully, ‘This Is PiL’ is an evolution; a step forward with eyes locked straight ahead, no heads turned over their shoulders looking back to past glories.

The opening title track is filled with countless repetitions of John Lydon screaming “This Is PiL” in various forms, from twisted whispers to curdling screams and manic howls. It’s a statement of intent, an almost boisterous introduction that immediately reinstates what a wonderfully original and idiosyncratic singer John is, whilst also clearly reaffirming ‘we’re back’. ‘Deeper Water’ is a delectable slice of guitar pop; ‘Terra Gate’ is as brutal as the group get, a glorious racket of thrashing guitars. Throughout the twelve songs there is an enormity of variety in style and tempo, from the spoken word ‘The Room I am In’, which is backed by gorgeous Neu!-like accompaniments, to the ten minute closer ‘Out Of The Woods’, which is carried along by a river of rolling bass and twisting electronics, PiL still proving they are impossible to pinpoint stylistically.

And yet the most refreshing thing about ‘This Is PiL’ is the notion of the album, what it represents and ultimately embodies. There is nothing safe here, it doesn’t rely on conventionality or predictability or even past glories, and it takes the band back to their very essence – being a forward thinking, experimental pop group. The album’s most misguided, flawed moments, such as the bizarre ‘Lollipop Opera’, don’t fail because they play it safe or rest on laurels, it’s because the experiment fails somewhat. But at least there is an experiment, true to the band’s all-embracing attitude of creating new material, taking risks and accepting the possibility of getting it wrong. It’s an admirable and revitalising stance that leaves you asking the rarest of questions to a reformed group – what’s next?

By Daniel Dylan Wray

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