* * * * "HAPPY?" Public Image Ltd. Virgin. If you've followed any part of John Lydon's career from the Sex Pistols on, you know the answer to this album's title question.
"Get out of my world," Lydon squalls in the opening song, "Seattle." In "Angry," he later avers, "No excuse, you are no use." At every turn it's as if he's threatening to chuck it all and go into total isolation because the world just isn't good enough for him. Well, it's a good thing he hasn't done it yet, for the truth is, his greatest talent is as a collaborator.
Here he teams with a stellar band featuring guitarist John McGeoch (ex-Magazine and Siouxsie & the Banshees) and co-producer Gary Langan (ex-Art of Noise) to make music of incredible depth and richness. On paper, the matching of the iconoclastic Lydon with Langan's big touch seems questionable. But on record, the cascades of guitars, drums and even such dinosaurian elements as synthesizers and female background singers prove a great foil for Lydon's famous wail.
In purely textural terms, "Happy?" moves a step beyond last year's avant-metal "Album"--itself a rich partnership of Lydon and producer Bill Laswell--while building on the starker work of Lydon and guitarist Keith Levene in the original PiL, notably in a steady undercurrent of Middle Eastern modes and structures. On top of this, Lydon's hermetic broadsides are just as compelling as when he was just a rotten kid screamin' "no future" a decade ago.