Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Public Image Limited—
Death Disco EP


Released 1979 on Virgin
The Seth Man, June 2001ce
This perfectly-entitled remixed 12” single paired P.I.L.’s terrifying “Swanlake” from their second album with “Fodderstompf” from their first. And the “Death Disco” EP was a sonic re-/de-construction of both tracks to such an extent that they could almost be considered completely new songs altogether.

In fact, P.I.L.’s 12” singles from this period were all fantastically hi-jacked version partners of their LP counterparts, characterised by high (dub) production levels that were spiky with a burning purpose. So much so that even to this day, they STILL shine harder than the run-of-the-mill remix 12 inchers from this period. The major difference was in the production: there were no outside producers or engineers and P.I.L. not only composed but did the remix themselves and produced a stunning, booming slab of dub metal laced with either glittering electronics or nothing at all. In fact, the treatments they performed upon “Swanlake” and “Fodderstompf” were nothing short of detonating them both with dub TNT, leveling them flat then adding a sprinkling of twinkling synthesizer burblings, with only the sparse and strong rhythm tracks and the vocals on side left intact. The remaining original components were altered as well: The bass booms out in capital letters, and everything else is staggeringly clear, ultra-defined and plain LOUD and assertive. Even at the lowest of levels it kicks up a disturbance as the bass playing of Jah Wobble operates as a sinewy Grand Canyon of the lowest end over Lydon’s vocalising on side one and the glittering synthesizer clusters of side two.

Under the sinister sarcasm of the moniker “Death Disco” lurks “Part 1--1/2 Mix” and “Part 2--Megga Mix.” For “1/2 Mix” read as a remixed “Swanlake” (confusing re-titled as “Death Disco” on the selfsame 7”.) Here the closing synthesizer drone curtain is dispensed with altogether and the track just continues on and on, propelled by John Lydon’s additional and highly reverbed vocalizing which is fleeing from his mother’s hospital death bed through a shock corridor of burning tears far longer than it ever was on “Metal Box.” Keith Levene’s scattershot, cluster-fucked guitar strangulations and staccato pluckings and overall grind outs continue to burrow through to the end of the fade (Which in itself is a complete contrast to the locked-groove treatment given it on “Metal Box” or the abrupt pulling of the plug mid-groove on “Second Edition.”) “Megga Mix” sees “Fodderstompf”, their electronically crackling dub-out from “First Issue” stripped of the vocal track altogether and laced with those aforementioned twinkling electronics that are sparse yet gleaming as they lift the piece into a deep, space-fucked instrumental. The electronic overlay of blips and watery convolutions never steal away attention from the rhythm section or vice versa. Oddly, Wobble’s bass is half strength and dwarfed by the insistent hi-hatting, resigning his bass to an echoed response from another room until BLIP! -- it ends.

Oh, the sheer sonic warmth, boom, warp and woof of this single will send you howling into the distance. Or your neighbours if played at the proper (LOUD) level.


Note:
This Public image Limited 12” single is a different pairing and altogether different sonic overhauling from the 7” version. And like the stark caricature illustration on the sleeve reversed out from its sister single, it is a different as day and night. Fortunately, the 12” version of “Death Disco” appears on “Plastic Box,” albeit without the ultimate bass booms and hypersensitive mastering. The first 2 CDs of this set are perfect: mixing most of their first three studio albums, a couple of great 1979 BBC recordings and most of their singles. However, CDs 3 and 4 have a purpose as well: they make a very stylish pair of post-punk coasters.