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Digitally remastered three CD edition of their 1979 sophomore album (also known as Second Edition) packaged in a metal tin case to pay homage to the original release. Rising from the ashes of the Sex Pistols in 1978, Public Image Limited were by definition one of the pioneers of Post-Punk groups. With John Lydon's vocals complemented by ex-Clash guitarist Keith Levene, drummer Jim Walker and the now legendary Jah Wobble on bass, the group created a more Dub orientated style. Released in December 1979, PiL's Metal Box was originally pressed on three twelve inch vinyl 45 RPM discs (to cope with Jah's intense bass!) . Features 'Albatross', 'Swan Lake' and more. EMI. 2009.
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Let me just say that - on first listen - it is not quite what I expected. This album is reknowned, of course, for Jah Wobble's prominently mixed, dub level bass-playing, and - given SACD's raised sonic specs - this is what I most expected this disc to deliver. While the bass sound is certainly there, sounding better sculpted and with greater dynamic range than on previous releases, it does not overwhelm the other instrumentation, nor assert itself quite as it should. It is more prominent on some tracks than others - indeed, it is most prominent on "Bad Baby," the last of the tracks to be recorded and so perhaps a beneficiary of what the group had learned about capturing their sound on tape, or perhaps simply benefiting from a song that has more space in its instrumentation. Even so, on any of the tracks, it's not a scratch on the liquid, sensual bass sound that leaps off the original 12" vinyl.
Instead, where this release surprises is in what it captures and reveals of this album's higher end. The frenetic, disco-like cymbal work - contributed by several drummers, including Martin Atkins, David Humphrey and Richard Dudanski - is icy and malicious throughout. But I could swear that I'm hearing content in the mix I've never heard before - subtle but distinct synthesizer washes from Levene and ghostly under-vocals by Lydon - that I was excited to discover in the mix. The original schizophrenic mix of "Memories," which toggled back-and-forth between a thin mix and a thicker one, is less distinctly schizophrenic here; the thin mix seems to flatten rather than to thin out, the bass and other instrumentation being dialled down, or dialled dull, rather than dropped out altogether.
What is strangest about this release is that the producers have opted to string the tracks together with almost no pause between one track and the next. Though pauses were imposed on the listener by the programming and packaging of the original 12" release, I am not sure this non-stop approach to the album is a bad thing; the tracks now unfold almost like an unseen hand is changing the radio dial from one station to another, which gives the closing track, "Radio 4," some added meaning.
Unless I revisit this review, after further listening, and revise it... assume that I still stand by my original verdict, which is that this SACD is something of a revelation - but mostly in regard to its high end. I'm glad I have this, but chances are, when I want to experience METAL BOX, I'll be hauling out my original vinyl most of the time.
The track/song listing is different No Birds and Socialist are reversed.
Overall, the UK Metal Box is punchier, and feels more musical. If you are a Second Edition fan I think you will enjoy Metal Boxes nuances.