Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols – Album Review

by Emilio Pérez Miguel on August 7, 2009

A Classic Cover For A Classic Record

A Classic Cover For A Classic Record

I mentioned in the general introduction that I published yesterday that no band encapsulated the punk movement like The Sex Pistols. As an obvious result, no album stands as a better snapshot of the era than their one and only “true” release, “Never Mind The Bollocks – Here’s The Sex Pistols”. It was released at the height of the movement, in 1977. The singles up to that point were included along with songs like “No Feelings” that had acted as b-sides.

The album has a depth that is quite surprising. If you think they were just a pack of imbeciles that were good for nothing but raising havoc, you have obviously not listened to it. The album is the crowning point of irreverence in the history of music for me: they trash music companies one by one on “EMI”, the New York music scene on “New York” (which was particularly aimed at The New York Dolls, a band some accused them of having ripped off) and they ridicule their own manager on “Submission”. McLaren had requested they wrote a song about submission, and they came up with a song dealing with… a submarine mission. “Kiss this” indeed!

They also cover the whirlwinding lunacy of the local scene on songs like “Problems” and “Bodies”. The former was inspired by the endless bans and even aggressions they suffered on the streets by royalists that greeted them as enthusiastically as the four horsemen on speed. The situation became so terse that they had to perform secret tours in order to play in England, and even take a trip abroad so that everything could cool a little. That trip was documented in the song “Holidays In The Sun”, which opens the album in full throttle, and which was issued as a single some weeks ahead of the record’s release.

“Bodies” is the one and only song that features a bass part by Sid Vicious, but Jones overdubbed other bass on top of it. As I also mentioned in the introduction, who played what is intensely debated, and some claim that the Pistols were actually not very involved on the recording of their own album. I will not join that discussion for the mere reason that it is impossible to get to the bottom of it, or even scratch its surface. The fact is: the songs were theirs, and they still transmit the urgency and unsettling atmosphere of the music scene (and the social scene by extension) of those days. In this particular song, the story of a fan named Pauline is detailed. It is a gross composition, dealing with her stay at a mental asylum, and how she was raped there and subjected to an abortion. It is all the more startling because every word of it is true. If anything, it showcased the abandonment associated with punk music, and how people who had nothing to lose latched onto bands like the Pistols not because they gave them solace but because they were glad to realize more deranged people existed.

For its part, “Liar” is one of the lesser songs, and it always worked better on stage, where Johnny routinely screamed his head out.

I intentionally left the other singles for last .You know them: “Anarchy In The UK”, “God Save The Queen” and “Pretty Vacant”. Nothing can or could be said about the first two: they are not songs, they are incantations of hatred begotten by a society punks loathed and which loathed them in return. “Pretty Vacant”, on the other hand, was one of their most accessible songs, and the one that received the most unanimously positive reviews – for the first time, the musicianship was discussed instead of the shock value.

This album receives a 9 out of 10 from me. This album will receive no less than that from any person who experiences music intensely, as in little less than an hour every single incident and motivation within the punk scene is exposed and articulated through screams of defiant agony. And the silence when the record stops spinning is not silence, in the same way that the knowledge one acquires from it is more than knowledge. It is something more sinister and truer than anything. Just like the original punk movement.

Rating: 9/10

{ 4 trackbacks }

MusicKO.com - Worldwide Music Reviews & Coverage
August 11, 2009 at 5:55 am
The Great Rock & Roll Swindle (The Sex Pistols) – Album Review | MusicKO
August 15, 2009 at 5:05 am
Kiss This (The Sex Pistols) – Compilation Album | MusicKO
August 28, 2009 at 11:00 am
She Ain’t No Human Being (The Sex Pistols) – Bootleg | MusicKO
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