It came as a surprise to me when I realised, sifting through our reviews one fine day, we hadn’t done a single Punk band! I’ve only heard a little bit of it, and Baba T is a huge fan of the Punk aesthetic and ethic, so I set out to review the Pistols, and their only album ever.
The Pistols aren’t the first punk rock band, but they pulled massively in two different directions, compared to the Ramones. Firstly, they distilled all the lyrics down to the pure anarchist manifesto that is the sum of the lyrics of this album. Secondly, they added a bit more dynamics to the music and a little bit more technical proficiency in their instrumentalists. Only a bit. Except for Sid Vicious, of course, who couldn’t really play bass, yet is surely one of the greatest bassists of all time, if only for sheer attitude.
No matter, Glen Matlock recorded these studio lines. They are just OK. As is the guitar playing(whoa, guitar solos!). As is the drumming. They are more proficient than the Ramones, but The Ramones really were about all four members there, whereas The Pistols reek of Johnny Rotten + 3 guys playing Punk Rock. Great as the Pistols are, I prefer The Ramones any day of the week.
The one thing that really strikes you about the Pistols though, is Johnny Rotten’s ‘singing’. He sounds like he is barely tolerant of the establishment and is doing them a huge favour by pointing out that which is bleeding obvious to him. Brilliant.
I know the Sex Pistols were massively influential, but frankly I’m not sure how much their music had to do it. We all know about Malcolm Mclaren, who did a fantastic (if opportunistic) job of promoting the Sex Pistols as bonafide outlaws. And then there is Sid Vicious and that hooker chick he was dating whose name escapes me. See what I mean? Most of the stuff related to the Pistols that got a lot of attention is their behaviour than their music. I mean, the songs themselves aren’t too consistent. Of course, ‘God Save the Queen’ is an absolutely fantastic. ‘EMI’ is great too. But the real Anarchist manifesto here is ‘Anarchy in the UK’. Brilliant. But the other songs? I’m afraid they’re not too hot.
Punk Rock is music boiled down to its bare bones in all its glory. And this here is the only sort of a politics that bare-bones music could adjust itself to: anarchy. It’s fantastic as far as the big perspective is taken, looking at the Pistols as a response to stuffy middle class comfort. Despite the massive influence this album has had, I wish it had had a couple of other great songs. Four out of twelve isn’t enough. This doesn’t quite sound right.
- El Bajista
For more PUNK ROCK reviews, click HERE.