Pop: This Week's Album Releases - Public Image Ltd Plastic Box (Virgin)

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The Independent Culture
DESPITE THE neat packaging, which unites the twin peaks of PiL's career - the seminal new-wave industrial-dub epic Metal Box and the solid, generic Album - there's something about the band that remains fundamentally ill- suited to the retrospective box format. It's the antithesis of the rebellious spirit they once personified. In the way it smoothes the group's spiky iconoclasm with historical pomposity, it's like a turkey voting for Christmas.

This four-CD set does, however, illustrate the classic trajectory of all rock groups, the way that inspired enthusiasm erodes over time into formulaic obligation - a process John Lydon satirised by recording 1984's dismal This Is What You Want... This Is What You Get album with session hacks.

Notwithstanding the later lapses into drab proto-grunge riffing, the demeanour is, for the most part, pleasingly prickly and abrasive - mostly courtesy of Lydon's voice, which remains impressively idiosyncratic. It's hard to think of another artist in any field (apart from maybe Francis Bacon) who has operated at such a pitch of aestheticised disgust for so long.