Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols (Warner Bros. '77) Rating: A
Historically speaking, the importance of this album simply cannot be overrated, since it broke down existing conventions and heralded the punk rock revolution, short-lived though it was. Tired of "dinosaur rockers" and bloated showmanship, the Sex Pistols decided to get rock music back to its vile basics by showing that "anyone can do it." It was a convincing call to arms that many bands would follow, and what has been said about The Velvet Underground (“everyone who saw them started a band”) is also largely true of the Sex Pistols. They certainly changed the rock landscape for the better, and for that I've always been grateful, as many cool acts followed their lead in the wake of the band’s rapid demise. That said, for years I'm afraid I underrated this album, as perhaps subconsciously the band represented to me the old guard "punk is good, metal/prog/pretension-ambition is bad" critical mindset that I find so close-minded and annoying. Plus, lead singer Johnny Rotten really rubbed me the wrong way, though I've recently changed my tune on that front (especially after he essentially gave Jann Wenner and the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame the finger). Though he technically does have a piss poor voice and can sound somewhat cartoonish, there's no denying that he "means it, man" (to quote one of the album's famous lyrics) and that his voice has a unique character to it. The guy spits out his nihilistic lyrics with an intensity that's very real, and Paul Cook's battering ram drumming style and Steve Jones' slashing guitars are impressively loud and riotous. The big knock on the Pistols was that "they couldn't play their instruments," but if that's true than props are due to producer Chris Thomas, as the sound on this album (which is as much hard rock/metal as it is punk rock, further showing how these lines are often blurred and how silly any punk vs. metal debate therefore is) has a real snap, crackle, and pop to it. Really, it was only bass player Sid Vicious who couldn't play (though he was a professional idiot), which was proven during the band’s subsequent disastrous U.S. tour, but the bass parts on this album were played by either first bassist Glen Matlock or Jones. As for the songs, I'd divide the album into all-time classics ("Holidays In The Sun," "God Save The Queen," “Anarchy In The U.K.,”), a slightly less fantastic song ("Bodies," featuring Johnny at his rotten best), three quite catchy and lyrically cool numbers ("No Feelings," "Pretty Vacant," and "EMI") that are excellent examples of the band's "f-you" attitude and catchy shouted choruses, a few songs that are so-so songwriting-wise that they perform the hell out of ("Liar," "Problems," "Seventeen"), and perhaps a couple of lesser entries towards the end ("Submission," "New York"). So, apologies to the Pistols are in order, this is a pretty great record after all that warrants an essential album rating for its exciting music even without considering its massive influence on other bands and the industry itself.