'For a band who cared so little for public approbation, this reunited Pistols seem determined primarily to scotch one lingering myth in particular: that they were crap musicians'

Sex Pistols Filthy Lucre Live Virgin CDVUS 116

Gazing out upon a sea of superannuated punks, John Lydon opines, somewhat implausibly, "Finsbury Park has never looked so fucking good!" A pause, then, sneering: "Any journalists out there?"

The old Rotten paranoia, long simmered in Santa Monica sunshine, seems all the cheekier set against the backdrop of blown-up tabloid outrage which constitutes the band's budget set-dressing. After all, have any other band of such limited musical means ever made quite such spectacular mileage from their relationship with the press? Or, to put it in academic terms, has myth ever outdistanced reality quite so brazenly?

Oddly enough for a band who cared so little for public approbation, this reunited Pistols seems determined primarily to scotch one lingering myth in particular: that they were crap musicians. "We're not that fucking bad after all, are we?" asks Lydon almost plaintively after one song, as if that was ever the point.

Perhaps befitting a band whose finest moment was the chorus "no future", the Pistols have a great past ahead of them. It's all here, Bollocks and B-sides, bashed out with scuzzy aplomb for a few dollars more. Not that there's any shame in that - this is, after all, a group whose later albums boasted of their status as Swindle and Carri On.

Here, they start with the most gratuitously offensive part of their oeuvre, the charming abortion tale, "Bodies", chanted along en masse by the crowd. As Lydon notes later, "It's singalong with Johnny time!" He's up for it, too: whatever his vocal shortcomings, Lydon has an instinctive gift for rock pantomime, satirising himself just as wickedly as he does his audience. Here, he concludes "No Feelings" with a brag of "fat, 40 and back!", receiving for his trouble the chanted response "You fat bastard! You fat bastard!", as if he were Roy "Chubby" Brown, which he very nearly is. "Don't be naughty," chides the quick-witted, albeit portly, fortysomething, "I've done you no wrong!" - swiftly transforming the indignity into an introduction to the next song, "Did You No Wrong".

Produced and mixed by the infallible Chris Thomas, Filthy Lucre Live springs from the speakers with more spunk and drive than we have any right to expect, sounding just as angry as a two-decade grudge should. Sometimes, though, it's difficult to recall the issues: "EMI" now sounds like a war poem every bit as distant and mysterious as anything by Sassoon or Owen. What was the battle about? Filthy lucre, of course.

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