Strange to say, but the only song I like from John Lydon’s (aka Johnny Rotten) career post-Sex Pistols career, Rise, is essentially the antithesis of a Pistols song. It features a surprisingly subdued vocal performance, a guitar solo, and a discernible bassline.
The band is Public Image Ltd, often shortened as PiL. As punk acolytes should know, PiL was also the moniker the Sex Pistols used when they were down by law (standing for Pistols in London). Public Image Ltd. was started up by Lydon after he declared punk was dead at a time when it was still in its infancy. He then went off and vanished up his rear for a bit, producing a bunch of songs featuring a hefty amount of guitar feedback over echoing drums and maxed-out keyboards while he wailed some twaddle that contained little of the brash insouciance and pointedness of his lyrics for the Sex Pistols classics like Anarchy in the UK and the now dated Holidays in the Sun (a song referencing the Berlin Wall).
To this day, I haven’t been able to listen to the Public Image Ltd. Greatest Hits album the whole way through. I often have to stop and wonder “these are the hits?” I’m thankful then I’ve been spared the misses.
Rise though struck a chord with me–a jangly chord at that. John Lydon sings a string of platitudes over blissful music that sounds like it was plucked out of a Peter Gabriel single. This shouldn’t work for me, but it does. Some songs are like that. The chorus “Let the road rise with you” I find as empowering as something out of Pete Seeger’s catalog. Plus, the refrain “anger is an energy” reminds the listener that somewhere, underneath the hair gel and shoulder pads, a bit of punk rebelliousness lives in John Lydon.
Still, despite how I’ve come to enjoy Rise, I’m always left with the feeling that the song is about 8 minutes too long–and it’s a 6 and a half minute song! The single version mercifully cuts out 2 minutes of excessive droning, but that comes at the price of losing Lydon’s primal outro where he repeats “anger is an energy” until he approaches the glory of when he brought Anarchy in the UK to a nasty denouement by belching “destroy.” He falls short of that former glory a bit, but at least he tried.
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What’s your opinion of Rise by Public Image Ltd?