May 21, 2013
No hint of mellowing for ex-Sex Pistol John Lydon
Nearly four decades after crashing onto the music scene at the age of 19 as the lead singer of British punk outfit the Sex Pistols, John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) is enjoying being back in the limelight.
Lydon is in the early stages of a North American tour with his long-running post-Pistols band, Public Image Ltd. Trademark orange hair on end - now more of a faded yellow - and with the mixture of ecstatic visionary and escaped mental patient that is Lydon's stock-in-trade stage presence, he pounded out his lyrics to a sellout crowd in Williamsburg, New York, last week.
There is little hint of the mellowing that besets many other singers as far into their 50s as he is. "I'm not an old codger yet," Lydon said in an interview at a Manhattan hotel after the concert.
Lydon is promoting his new album, "This is PiL," a sprawling, hour-long musical journey that both evokes the PiL of old and pushes into new territory.
The hotel, part of a generic chain, is about as far away from punk rock as one can get. Lydon, wearing bright orange trousers and checked shirt, is an incongruous figure among the business people and families milling around in the lobby.
After overcoming the initial horror of discovering there was no bar and that he was going to have to get through the entire interview without a drink, Lydon settles into an enormous armchair the same color as his trousers.
A couple, obviously from out of town, slink onto a neighboring sofa to eavesdrop, looking for that New York celebrity story to tell their friends back in the 'burbs. Lydon rolls his eyes.
"Regardless of the obstreperous behavior of corporate record companies, they've not been able to keep me down. It's taken nearly two decades but I'm right where I belong," he said.
The band reformed in 2009 after a 17-year hiatus, and "This is PiL" is their first studio album in 20 years. The title track, which leads off the album, seems aimed at both proclaiming the band's return and reminding people who they are.
A mixture of big, bassy, fast-moving tracks, some slower guitar pieces and Lydon's at times-unaccompanied voice, "This is PiL" has an epic album feel without being overblown.
Or in Lydon's own words: "It's those juxtapositions of events pinned down with some gloriously sweltering bass that we can hover around."