The Public Image Is Rotten | Chicago Reader

The Public Image Is Rotten

John Lydon relives his journey from public enemy to commercial pitchman in this documentary by Tabbert Fiiller. As usual with Lydon, you're never quite sure whether what you're hearing is candor or a masterful imitation of it—the swindle continues!—but he gives a disarming account of his chaotic post-Sex Pistols career with Public Image Ltd, whose original run lasted from 1978 until 1992 (the band re-formed in 2009). The founding lineup—including guitarist Keith Levene, bassist Jah Wobble, and drummer Jim Walker, all of whom are interviewed—crafted a weird mix of punk, dub, and Krautrock, but as the players left one by one, frustrated with Lydon's ego and the band's precarious finances, the resulting revolving-door lineup settled into conventional dance rock. Archival footage of Lydon in the bracing hostility of his youth contrasts dramatically with present-day interviews showing him domesticated, compromised, and happy in the wisdom that most of us learn to accept as compensation.


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