What the world needs now, is love, sweet love, breathed Jackie DeShannon back in the middle of the swinging sixties. John Lydon didn’t get the memo, not if ‘Double Trouble’, the opening track of PiL’s new album is anything to go by. A four-minute, Neu-infused, expletive laced treatise on a broken toilet. “Domestos is Domestic bliss” he snarls. Religion, boredom, apartheid and apathy are no longer in his sights. The new enemy is banality. The utter dullness of modern, selfie-stick wielding life. “Give me a row, right now” he demands. As ever, Johnny has a point.
Pornography and America get a dig in ‘Bettie Page’. Lydon seems to have always had a love / hate relationship with his adopted homeland. But then, he has a love / hate relationship with everything, so nothing new there. The sport metal call and response grunting sounds like a perfect pastiche of the kind of posturing tropes made mainstream by the likes of RHCP. Lydon just doesn’t care. HE DOESN’T CARE.
‘C’est la Vie’ revolves around a resolving groove. It’s a trick they repeat throughout the record, allowing Lydon to meander across the top. ‘Big Blue Sky’ is in a similar vein, the fat dub of the bass providing the foundation, before a huge, balladeering chorus kicks in. In ‘The One’ they channel Ray Davis. Is it a love song? Almost. Lydon’s singing like he’s on tiptoes – a rare delicacy. ‘Whole Life Time’ is more immediate and punchy, the chorus reminiscent of mid-eighties PiL, in their Laswell pomp.
There have been so many iterations of PiL throughout the years, it’s hard to know what the definitive one is. From the primordial splendour of the first few albums, to chart success with ‘This Is Not A Love Song’. To jettisoning the entire band for a bunch of slick session players and Stevie Ray Vaughan, somehow always the same, but different. On What The World Needs Now the dub grooves and motorik beats are present, as ever, but what’s most clear about this record is that the band are having fun. They’re enjoying themselves and it shows.
“Fuck sex, it’s bollocks” Lydon croons on album closer, ‘Shoom’. A nihilistic, modern take on on ‘Fodderstomf’. Lydon’s manifesto laid out for you. A Victorian end-of-pier vaudeville demon, crashing through your belief system. It’s all bollocks. Everything. So what is it the world needs now? According to Lydon it’s “another fuck off.” In a world of reality tv, butter ads and Facebook altruism, you can’t help feeling that he’s right.