Public Image Ltd. – Behemoth / The Rite of Spring 12” EP
Bastardo (unknown edition, clearly limited), 1980
I am quite certain that Behemoth is the most unfathomable piece ever produced by Lydon & co. (in this case, Levene, an un-credited Martin Atkins on drums, and perhaps others). Thundering bass drums accompany a cacophonous stream of what sounds like Tibetan ritual horns issuing sustained blasts which weave in and out of an exotic tapestry of exasperated anguish. Lydon’s shrill vocals howl with reckless abandon over the top of it all. The lyrics, consisting of a sort of prose poem in the style of Rimbaud at his most contentious, are at times submerged completely beneath the blasphemous tide (for there is nothing holy in this, at least not in the conventional sense), only to reemerge as if soaring with vengeance toward an invisible sun of penetrating diamond. There is much mystery and beauty in this, agonizing through it may be. At precisely the 2:22 mark, it all comes to a dead stop, followed by exactly one minute of silence. The piece is then wrapped up with a tremulous whimper from Lydon, fading into the all-consuming nothingness of eternal night.
The Rite of Spring is perhaps more along the lines of what might be expected to follow the art-damaged dirges of Metal Box. A rolling and meandering bass line carries twisted melodies wrenched indifferently from Levine’s guitar accompanied by a smattering of drums. The lyrics document an erotic encounter of a quite unusual kind, lacking neither affection nor disdain, perhaps inspired by Cavani’s ‘The Night Porter’ (Lydon mentioned the film as an inspiration in an interview for French TV sometime in late 1979). The ‘Rite’ in question bears no relation to Stravinksy’s Rite as far as I can tell, though it does seem to involve the letting of blood (or is that a strained metaphor?) Overall, a nice addition to the PIL oeuvre, but is it indeed a love song?
I have yet to track down a single item released on the mysterious Bastardo imprint other than this long lost Gnostic gem. The internet remains mostly mums about the whole affair, discounting the occasional oblique mention deep within the bowels of Usenet (from what I can gather, the entire operation was run out of a basement somewhere in Belgium). I scored my copy from a loquatious and rather opinionated war veteran (or so he claimed) who worked a record booth in a flea market in SeaTac, WA. Shockingly, he had not a single good thing to say about the gentleman who’d brought the item in the day before, nor did he approve of my choice of footwear.