Sex Pistols – Nevermind the Bollocks

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1. These notes are going to be really obvious ones because this record is made up of really obvious songs.

2. No other album in the world gets the (dis)pleasure of being so overrated by critics and underrated by critics’ critics at the same time.

3. This is an okay record. That’s the ugly truth about it, and one that no one ever talks about, because ironically, whenever someone talks about the album, they always end up talking around the album.

4. To the people who bicker about what or what doesn’t qualify as punk: stop it. You’re embarrassing yourselves.

5. The people who got all upset at “God Save the Queen” inadvertently fed right into the Sex Pistols mythos. The song isn’t even about the queen, for fuck’s sake. The lines “There is no future / And England’s dreaming” and “No future for you / No future for me” are the most significant lines of the track.

6. And exactly what is the Sex Pistols mythos? Well, it’s all about image. They chose a band name that would appeal to teenagers (at least, that’s the main reason I first listened to them—as a horny teenager, any band with the name “Sex” in it was appealing), though make no mistake, this band has as much to do with sex as rape does. They chose an album name that would appeal to the same crowd, because “Bollocks” is a funny word, innit? Johnny Rotten chose to pronounce “VA-CANT” as “VA-CUNT!” because he knew it would appeal to the same crowd, for people whose vocabulary is so limited that they think a mockery of female genitalia is at all clever as an insult. It’s not–and if “cunt” (and “twat”) didn’t have the concussive force of the hard sounds that bookend its monosyllabic quality, it would be nowhere. Do you know what’s a great insult? Great supine protoplasmic invertebrate jellies.

7. Similar to “God Save the Queen,” “Bodies” gets talked about a lot because it’s about abortion. You get the feeling that Johnny Rotten sang about abortion because he needed something controversial to sing about, not because he stands behind it. The lyrics on this album don’t mean a damn thing, and the only times that I actually believe what Johnny Rotten is yelling is when he calls himself a “lazy sod” on “Seventeen” or the surprisingly clever “Anarchist / Anti-Christ” rhyme in “Anarchy in the U.K.” Do you know what’s a lot more interesting than a couplet like “Fuck this and fuck that / Fuck it all and fuck the fucking brat?” Well, just about anything, really. The way Rotten runs through the chorus in “Bodies” the third time around is pretty nifty. But again, everyone is too busy talking about abortion to talk about the music.

8. And that’s just it really. Once you get past the fact that this is bottled anger in commercialized form, there’s really nothing left to talk about in regards to Never Mind the Bollocks. I mean, that descending chord riff that opens “Anarchy in the U.K.” is the stuff that makes anthems anthemic, and the choruses (and later, the backing vocals) of “E.M.I.” are surprisingly catchy, but neither of them are at all innovative ideas. As far as I can tell, the one, undeniable thing about Never Mind the Bollocks is the riff of “Pretty Vacant.” That one’s fucking awesome. But otherwise, what you have are a batch of mid-tempo songs with someone yelling over them. And because of his thick accent, most of Johnny Rotten’s vocals turn into “I AM YELLING!” Do you find that interesting? I don’t.

9. This album would be a lot better if it were faster. Especially “Problems,” because that one had no business going to 4 minutes in length. Not because the mid-temponess of all these songs expose the fact that there’s very little going on in most of these songs, but rather because twelve mid-tempo songs with very little variation makes for an album that’s practically impossible to listen to in one sitting. I mean, for an album belonging to the genre that was made in response to progressive rock, it sure seems to jog along with the speed of a progressive, double, concept album, just without any of the things that would make a progressive, double, concept album great.

10. This album has been reissued so many times that it would probably cause carpal tunnel syndrome just for you to scroll down to the tracklisting. If there was ever an album that didn’t need to be reissued more than twice, it’s this one.

11. I’m a firm believer of music as the message. Music for the sake of music. The pure artistic expression as the sole motive for music. Not that music can’t have a message—the message is an important part. But it should be music first, message second. I’d maybe go as far as a 50/50 split. But the message should never outweigh the music.

The Sex Pistols were never about music—they were about the message. It was the message that got them attention, it was the message that made them famous and it was the message that inevitably brought them down. The message: “We’re young, we’re angry (but we don’t know why) and we hate you (because our mothers didn’t hug us enough).” Never Mind the Bollocks was just a byproduct of that message.

Take a quick look at the band’s history. There were only two “real musicians” in the group. Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious were brought in for their look. Strike one. The band then goes on to draw more attention for saying naughty words on live television than for the music they play. Strike two. And while the Sex Pistols may have galvanized the punk movement, paving the way for much more talented bands, they themselves had little in the way of talent. Strike three.”
Mendelsohn, Popmatters

B+

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2 responses to “Sex Pistols – Nevermind the Bollocks

  1. Generally I agree that this is just not very inspired on a musical level; few riffs and choruses are truly memorable. The Ramones were miles ahead when it comes to hooks and so were The Clash when it comes to musical ambition. But one aspect that people take for granted and some even dismiss (like the reviewer you quoted) is just how great of a singer Rotten is. It’s a case of attitude over actual technical ability, but WHAT attitude – nobody sounded so angry, defying, spitting those words like that on a rock ‘n’ roll record before imo.

    • Agree completely with everything you said; Rotten was indeed the definitive punk singer. But it’s not enough and I’d take any of the other British punk bands or American punk bands that came after over the Sex Pistols, who somehow have remained culturally relevant despite never making another record…

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