Public Image Ltd.

Metal Box (4 Men with Beards)

Reissued the way John Lydon requested, Metal Box gets magnificently de-digitalized as three 12-inch 45s sealed in a metal faux film canister (The set is also being issued as two CDs in a smaller metal container). It has been argued that this format offers the best sound, and while that's open to question, the packaging is still a fascinating and contemptuous commentary on mass consumerism: a dismissive "fuck you" to fans, the record company and popular music in general.

Listening to the contents some 27 years after its release, it's even more remarkable that this collection of anti-music hit number 18 on the U.K. pop charts. Coming on the heels of the Sex Pistols' demise, no one was prepared for the bass-heavy dirges of "Albatross," "Poptones" and "Careering." Lydon didn't "sing" with the Pistols, but here, he was on a different planet. Purposefully confrontational, this couldn't be dismissed as a marketing ploy. The sound Lydon, Jah Wobble and Keith Levene created sounded like nothing else in rock's spectrum and the years have not diminished the visceral impact of this admittedly--and intentionally--ugly music.

The set still has one disadvantage: In order to remove one record, you have to dump out all three. I can hear Lydon's piercing cackle as buyers fitfully shake out the contents, blow the dust off their record players and then recoil as they listen to music made for nobody's pleasure.

 
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