Public Image Limited 9
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9 features essentially the same group of characters found on Happy?, with only Lu Edmonds having left the fold (though he did contribute to the writing on each song). Seven studio albums, seven lineups -- Lydon failed yet again to keep the same people together for more than one record. But is this notion really of major consequence? Not really, and Lydon probably prides himself in it. Thankfully, 9 retained the Happy? core of Bruce Smith, John McGeoch, and Allan Dias. If Happy? and various points prior were flirtations with accessible dance-pop, 9 was a bear hug embrace of it. 9 is split between a modern rock record and a dance producer-derived one, but credit both producers and band for making it a successful combination; on paper, the game plan looks like an accident waiting to happen. Stephen Hague was responsible for just over half of the album's production, with E.T. Thorngren working on the remainder and Nellee Hooper mixing one of Thorngren's productions. 9 is easily PiL's slickest yet, but there's substance to balance it out. The catchy "Disappointed" provided the band's greatest success in the States, with plenty of airplay on modern rock radio stations and light rotation on MTV. Other highlights: the dubby, almost Police-like near-instrumental "U.S.L.S. 1" and the surprising use of acoustic guitar on "Worry." Lowlights: the slightly goofy "Sand Castles in the Snow," the oddball fusion of Asiatic keyboards and late-'80s R&B on "Like That," the character play of Lydon in "Warrior."