Review Summary: Hey now, let's not chew my ass out yet! Read the review first, then all you Sex Pistols fans can rip me to shreds. Anyways; fun and catchy music, that relies to much on the band's image. Classic? Yes. Good? Eh.
It was a chance meeting that back in 76’ a group of young punks met a man with particularly wretched teeth (apparently, he never brushed). Now, this being England, I suppose that fact didn’t matter much, what did matter much though, was the fact that this disgusting young man was singing a song by the popular British rock band The Who. Now, all the kiddies of that day loved The Who, finding their rebellious nature to be the foreground to what would be the “punk movement”. And it was not just the fact that this guy sang The Who, but that he snarled and spat out the words in a way nobody else had ever heard. Johnny Rotten was added to the band roster that day, and together with the later addition of the unskilled “bassist” Sid Vicious, the Sex Pistols were able to create a new British invasion.
And I suppose just by looking at the ratings represented on the bar graph to the right of this review, you can see just how mixed people feel about that story and the album these boys created. Opinions range the gambit from British punk purists who worship its originality, to those who simply think it’s overrated, and those who hate everything the band stands for. Well, let’s try and diffuse the situation, shall we?
Original? “Never Mind the Bollocks” is original on “some” level. If you were to claim that it’s the first “true punk record”, I would have to shove “Fun House” in your face and tell you to take a hike (and even before “Fun House”, plenty of other bands laid the groundwork for punk music). Then again, “punk” seems to be a flexible term; so flexible that some people may like to claim the Rolling Stones and their attitude made them the first punk band to have existed. That’s the word; attitude! The Sex Pistols embodied the “punk attitude”.
And that brings me to the second argument. The “punk attitude” is really everything that’s wrong with punk music, and I’m sure many others would agree.
“If I get a Mohawk and dress like a clown, maybe then I’ll be punk.”
“If I rebel against everything, maybe then I’ll be a punk.”
“If I act like an ass hole, maybe then I’ll be a punk.”
Keep dreaming you damn punks.
This is where we get our Greendays from; forty-something year-old guys dressing like they just stumbled out of a Hot Topic, singing about the most generic punk topics you could think of, and acting as “edgy” as a goddamn switch knife. You can really trace it all back here, and even more specifically, Sid Vicious, the man who got hired simply based on his looks. To think, that the punk movement started based off of some guy’s fashion sense. It sounds absurd.
And lastly, is this band really overrated? Yes and no, really. While they did help bring punk music to mainstream attention, they never really made anything that groundbreaking. Listening to this record, I hear mid-tempo rock music with a snotty lead singer. Sure, maybe it’s played a lot sloppier than their contemporaries and the gain is turned up a notch, but honestly, it’s nothing compared to what The Stooges did almost a decade before. Listen! Even on “Anarchy in the U.K.” you can hear what sounds like some slight use of the flanger; flanger on a punk album? I say thee nay!
Okay, by now the Sex Pistols fans and those wrapped up in the warm security blanket of nostalgia are already crafting effigies in my figure; so it’s probably a good time to explain what’s really good about this band. The Sex Pistols had something most punk bands didn’t, and still don’t have; melodicism. Honestly, tweak the lyrics, get a gentler singer, tone down the gain on the guitar, and what you have hear is perfectly radio friendly rock music. This is good though! And as odd as it sounds, I honestly think more punk bands would be better if they focused less on distancing anyone outside the hardcore audience and actually focused on music that sounds good to the ear. I understand that attitude and energy really compensates for lack of brilliant melodies for most punk bands, however, some bands were able to pull off both (Dead Kennedys anyone?)
So not only is this music catchy, it’s also rather fun. It’s fun to hear that “generic” punk-rock snottinies bleed through the nose of Johnny Rotten. It’s fun to jump up and down to “IIIIIII WANNA BEEEEEE ANARCHY!!!” They may not know how the hell to play their instruments, but they were pretty fantastic at playing off their strengths. In all due respect, this is a classic album; definitely. If you play this record and look at it as “harmless, cute, fun”, taking it for what it is and not at all seriously, it serves its purpose.
In the end though, it’s just not that good.
Besides some shining gems (the classics really, such as “Holiday in the Sun”, “Anarchy in the UK”, God Save the Queen”), this album can get rather annoying, at least to those not convinced by the punk atmosphere the band tries to wrap around your necks. Sure, sometimes I give in when snotty Johnny Rotten snarls, what I believe the epitome of the “punk” attitude, “don’t know what I want, but I know how to get it!” during “Anarchy in the U.K.” However, I’m completely dropped from the bandwagon the moment the idiotic “Liar” comes on. Maybe back in the day, if I were a British youth born into a working class family at the time, this album would have impacted me more. Understand the youth in Britain at the time had nothing to look forward to in life (or at least that’s what they thought). And this album really captures that anger, or should I say, Johnny Rotten does so (him being the most outspoken member of the group).
It all really comes down to just how forced this album sounds that kills it for me. Iggy Pop was never forced; he was a goddamn maniac and you knew it from just the looks of him. You listen to MC5 and you hear the rebellion broiling under their skins. The Velvet Underground, as much as they bore me, was at least a million times more abrasive then these guys could ever be. For everything fans claim this band to be, they don’t realize how better dozens of other bands accomplished these tasks.
The reason these bands never made it and the Sex Pistols did? The Sex Pistols had a pop image to sell.
Yes, the Sex Pistols were all advertising. Advertisement to high school drop outs that did nothing but listen to Ramones albums all day (generally speaking, of course). And please, don’t criticize me or my review based on my feelings about this band, I simply just don’t see what makes this record fantastic. Again, I can see how influential it is, and yes, I admit that there are several great songs on here. It’s just a lot of this album depends on how you feel about the band, and how easily you can accept the attitude that comes along with the music. The good news is, if you can’t stand the attitude of this band, you may appreciate Johnny Rotten’s (John Lyndon’s) next band, Public Image Limited (for Gang of Four-esc, abrasive dance music, with a heavy dose of avant-garde).
Looking at the comments off the first review for this album I read on Sputnik, I can pretty much sum up my feelings about the band based off a couple exchanged verses…
“What would the world be without the Sex Pistols?” – Risky Fisky
“Literate?” – Electric City
Yes, I believe that really sums it all up well.