And You Thought That We Were Faking: Never Mind The Bollocks Revisited

never mind the bollocks

For the last couple of years, John Lydon has been undermining the constructs of Western civilisation by fronting a number of TV commercials…

for butter.

This may appear a curious deviation from the conventional nihilist game-plan – I don’t recall Jello Biafra hawking dairy products via the medium of cathode ray oblivion portal, for instance. But it all falls into place when you remember that Lydon is (and always has been) a very British facet – part cartoon character, part washed-up vaudeville lickspittle, flapping around in that pool of celebrities desperate for any prestigious I Declare This Supermarket Open! gig.

That the Sex Pistols had any kind of agenda beyond shifting product; that they represented the vanguard of some counter-cultural cavalry; these are both myths endlessly peddled by the nostalgia industry. Popular culture may consider punk in general and this record in particular as some kind of quantum leap – the day music, fashion, attitude.. in fact the entire moral foundation upon which society operates, ripped up, rebooted with a safety pin through its nose and a sneer plastered all over its chops.

That’s the problem with pop culture revisionism; disparate strands of musical dynamic understood only in terms of neat compartmentalisation. You could make an equally convincing argument that Miles Davis was the first punk rocker. The 13th Floor Elevators. Iggy & The Stooges. What makes Never Mind The Bollocks an interesting construct is how it packaged the tropes of disenfranchisement, delivering a hackneyed message to mass market sensibilities, but doing so in a manner that resonated strongly with a Britain collectively mainlining self-doubt. In other words, the whole aesthetic that this album fronted was a triumph of marketing. A hazy middle ground that the McLaren / Westwood axis occupied, somewhere between art and stunt.

So does Never Mind The Bollocks carry any relevance this far in the future? It’s not a disc I’ve spun for many a year – call this a case of low expectations; low expectations that are pretty much met. The first thing that strikes me is how flat, one-dimensional and unexciting this record sounds. Complaining that the Pistols lacked nuance obviously misses the point – the energy is broad and strident, and the detail of Steve Jones’ fretwork is surprisingly textured – but the primary colours on display are so garish and relentless that as an album it’s severely lacking in nutritional value. Insert your own butter-related pun here.

The Sex Pistols / E.M.I.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,937 other followers

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,937 other followers

%d bloggers like this: