Public Image Ltd.: Memories
t the conclusion of Metal Box's opener, the heavy nine-minute pulse of "Albatross," John Lydon, who has been hitherto singing in an unrecognizable croon, lets loose with a sneering "Owwwnleeee the lownleeeee..." before repeating the joke again, this time in a mock-opera falsetto caterwaul. What would seem to be the record's first time that Lydon obliquely references his old band is, in fact, the very moment he sheds the Pistols' legacy and announces the path of pop reconstruction Public Image Limited would blaze until Keith Levene's departure from the band two years later.
"Albatross," it turns out, is just a primer ("Getting rid of the albatross" must've been a hint). Public Image Limited's own legacy begins with the next song, "Memories." After the slow trance of Jah Wobble's bass in the preceding track, "Memories" begins altogether differently, with a trebly, envelope-filtered bass bouncing over Levene's Spanish leslie-speaker guitar flourishes.
"You make me feel afraid/At acting attitudes/It should be cleeear by nowwww ... " Lydon sing-spiels with Jim Walker's incessant Giorgio Moroder hi-hat pulse behind him. Though the first minute or so of the song seems to be kicking back and forth, here and there, there is palpable tension building, as Lydon begins multitracking himself, one line overlapping the other ("Youuu couuuuld beeee wronnnn-gah!!"), effectively convening a ghostly chorus of Lydons. All the while Walker's interaction with Levene becomes more and more intricate, resulting in a sort of Beefhart-ian disco that feels as if it's about to boil over.
And then, with a snare-roll that sounds a signal to the rest of the band—not altogether unlike Joe Zawinul's in Miles Davis' "Spanish Key"—it does. The entire landscape is changed; in an instant, Wobble's thin bass becomes a cavernous throb, the stereo seperation as wide as the Atlantic, as Lydon's voice cuts thrillingly through the mix: "You could be wrong/It could be hate/As far as I can see/Clinging desperately..." As the energy, the menacing power of a band at the apex of its creativity comes to a climax, Lydon unambiguously seizes the moment: "Imagining, pretending/No personality/Dragging onnn and onnn and onnn/And on and on and onnnnnn-NAH!!!" driving the point home with a ferocity that makes anything on Never Mind the Bollocks seem almost timid by comparison.
Alas, that moment is fleeting; as if to announce an premature end to the song, Lydon declares only two lines later, "This person's had enough/Of useless memories/Al-ways re-mem-ber these!!" While "Memories," itself, drags on for another minute and a half or so, it's frankly over for all intents and purposes. Given what we've heard before and what follows, the listener could use a good break.
By: Matthew Weiner
Published on: 2003-07-31