“This is Pil” is PiL’s first studio album in 20 years – and their tenth overall. It is a return to true form. You can think of John Lydon – the band’s only remaining original member, and its mastermind since its inception – what you want, but “This is PiL” combines the best elements from the various stages of the band’s career. From early post punk, via experimental dalliances to the alternative rock of their late career, everything is present on this release.
The best PiL songs have always been the albums’ long tracks, in this case the nearly ten-minute “Out of the Woods.” It moves perkily with a simple, yet superb bass line, ambient guitar flourishes and Lydon’s typical rants. “One Drop” is exceedingly catchy, and “Fool” even hearkens back to the original band’s masterpiece, “Metal Box” (1979). My personal favorites include “Human,” “Reggie Song” and especially the aforementioned “Out of the Woods.”
Granted, “This is PiL” may not be the album of the century, but it is a solidly crafted record that should please any true PiL fan. It is none of those sad and mediocre reunion albums many bands release after years of silence. To the contrary, it dovetails with the rest of the PiL discography. It is not as stark or experimental as early PiL, but it fits in seamlessly among the straight indie rock albums of the band’s late phase. That is only logical, since the current line up also features Lu Edmonds and Bruce Smith, who were both in Public Image Limited back then.
Interestingly enough, Keith Levene and Jah Wobble have also reunited to play early PiL songs, together with a Lydon impersonator. While they sound quite good and it certainly is legitimate to do that, the reunited PiL need not fear comparison to them.