Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Public Image Limited - The Flowers Of Romance

Public Image Limited
The Flowers Of Romance


Released 1981 on Warner Brothers (WEA)
Reviewed by Lawrence, 21/01/2004ce


Well, did anyone read the recent PIL piece in MOJO? You've probably noticed that Flowers Of Romance wasn't discussed much -- in fact dismissed as not one of Rotten's greatest. Shame...

Surely the first two albums were classics and much talked about. But Flowers was the last great PIL album in my opinion. It might lack Jah Wobble, of course, but this is darker and way more disturbing than even Death Disco or like-minded Metal Box tracks.

So it starts with a backwards tape-reel and one drumbeat, Rotten wailing the lyrics as the drum is only hit every sixty seconds or so. The track is "Four Enclosed Walls" and is apparently about religious fundamentalism. After 9-11 (11-9?) this seems quite haunting in retrospect. Of course Martin Atkins drumwork eventually kicks up here.

Next track is the inconguently titled "Track 8", one of two tracks where (I think) Keith Levene tries his hand at bass and the strings tend to buzz a little. It's pretty lakadasial with seemingly off-beat drums. The lyrics seem to be about some kind of sexual humiliation or disfunction, as far as I can tell...

Phenagen has seemingly shamantic percussion that is quite powerful, with what sounds like a dulcimer in the background and tape effects. "Empty promises helped you to forget." -- is this about lapsed responsibility?

The title track is next with another simplistic drum-pattern and some violin. Another one of Rotten's bitingly sarcastic lyrics. "I could be happy or in distress, depending on the company."

Now the next track is where things get a bit creepy! "Under The House" has more thunderous drumming by Atkins, and you have to wonder what Rotten is talking about... I've heard stories that the studio used for this album was haunted. The lyrics seem to allude to something dark happening: "It came out of the wall. A single cadaver. It went under the house."

Hymie's hymn is an OK instumental, but afterwards it's more of Rotten's misanthopic cynicism on "Banging The Door": "Hallo. What do you want. You're irritating please go away it's not my fault. That you're lonely. Just look around. I think you'll find that everyone has the same problem." Levene tries his hand at bass again, and there's the same synth that appeared on "Careering".

"Go Back" mocks out the National Front, but is otherwise not interesting except for Levene's brain-damaged guitar and flanged synth.

The final track -- "Francis Massacre" -- sounds as though it might be about the same ghost or spirit mentioned in "Under The House". The lyrics seem to be about a victim of unjust persecution: "Go down for life Francis Moran. Mountjoy is fun." I can't imagine how Atkins had possibly played such fast and busy percussion unless he had four hands and feet! Also some anarchic piano and other mayhem, to end with some synth-noise that could've came from a Whitehouse album.

I should mention also the flipside to the "Flowers Of Romance" single, which would be a worthy add-on to a tape or CDr. "Home Is Where The Heart Is" is most-likely a Metal Box out-take since Wobble plays on it, but it's overall darkness has more in common with Flowers. Slowed-down dub reggae with Rotten's assault on the living-dead herd and their empty-hearted 'normalcy'.


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