Wednesday, June 30, 2010

This Bleeding Heart

First Devo. Now PiL.

Yes, Old Home Week continues, but not as simple nostalgia. More aesthetic reinforcement. While I wouldn't rank Devo's latest effort with their early work, their new satirical assault pleases me no end. There's something awfully absurd about fiftysomething men wearing matching uniforms with masks, yet it speaks to me -- not only as a mask fetishist, but as an older artist back on stage.

Public Image Ltd's current tour offers similar tonic. As I've said too many times, John Lydon is an early and lasting inspiration. Now at 54, Lydon leads a tight version of PiL, albeit not the classic quartet (which would be an interesting reunion). Gone is the fuck you brashness of youth; Lydon has ripened into a mature performer while retaining some old moves as signatures. He seems to really enjoy himself, despite his admitted stage fright. Lydon flirts with self-parody, as do all aging musicians and singers in one form or another. Yet Lydon's confidence, openness, and playfulness keeps everything on his terms. Like Robert Crumb, you really can't parody the guy.

Here's a recent appearance on Fallon. I wonder how many of those bopping kids knew what PiL was before the taping. All that's missing are some go-go cages and mini-skirted dancers to complete the Hullaballoo vibe. Still, a great set, and one can only imagine the mix had Richard Branson successfully convinced Devo to make Lydon their lead singer in 1978. I don't see John wearing a mask, though.

I really identify with this segment, as I tend to behave the same way in NYC, the architectural critique most especially. When Lydon says he can't relate to modern shit, I think he's referring more to shit than to modernism. But maybe he hates the whole package. Given how our owners view us, that's probably the only loving option left.