by Chris Familton
With a sound comprised of vocals, guitar, bass and two keyboards Death Mattel swung wildly between urgent 90s electro pop and punk with impassioned, earnest vocals to a closing track that was easily the pick of the bunch. Its subtle snaking keyboard melody showed that an understated approach suits them best but they failed to ignite much response from the arriving crowd.
Public Image Ltd have always been a polymorphic collective built around the charismatic John Lydon. The central tenets of their sound are the deconstructed elements of 70s England – reggae, dub, krautrock and the distilled attitude of punk. Boldly, Lydon and co opened with the wailing lung and drum workout Four Enclosed Walls and then Metal Box’s ten minute plus Albatross. Challenging perhaps for those there for the later ‘hits’ but it was a sublime exercise in how the elements listed above can coexist so perfectly as Lydon intoned “Sowing the seeds of discontent” with a theatrical malevolence. Last year’s album This is PiL contributed four songs and they were well chosen with One Drop and Deeper Water in particular filling the room and moving feet and heads. Familiarity for most came mid-set with 1989‘s Disappointed and from there the show took on a different and more interactive feeling with This Is Not A Love Song and the closest PiL got to sounding like the Sex Pistols on the caustic sneer of Public Image and Rise.
What made the show so damn good was the impressive state of Lydon’s voice, now a strong instrument of demonic operatics and something akin to Tuvan throat singing. With a band that were masters of fragmented noise, surging melody and deep and rolling dub Lydon was left to be the ringmaster, the self deprecating and comical evangelical preacher. It is a role he has built his career on and one that is defiantly and uniquely his.
this review was first published in The Drum Media, Sydney and online at themusic.com.au