Songs to the Siren

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Flowers of Romance

Public Image Ltd

27th March 1981 (single), 10th April 1981 (LP)🇬🇧

Just three years after John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) walked out on the Sex Pistols, he was releasing his third PiL album. Moving on from the dub/disco/krautrock influences of Metal Box, The Flowers of Romance was even more experimental. Largely led by huge drum sounds and percussion loops, the sound influenced artists well beyond the punk and post-punk scenes.

Flowers of Romance (the single doesn’t have the definite article that is found in the album title) preceded the LP. The single was quite a different mix to that on the album, but both versions have loops of percussion, violin, and other instruments, while Lydon wails over it with lyrics about a failed romance.

The drum sound (I think a combination of multi-tracking, heavy compression, gated reverb, and other effects) was reportedly influenced by Peter Gabriel’s work - while Phil Collins hired the Flowers Of Romance engineer Nick Launay after hearing this record.

Also worth noting is that Jah Wobble, so vital to the sound of Metal Box, left the band before this follow-up. And the result is an album largely without bass guitar. The bottom-end is filled in with percussion and loops of cello etc.

This is also getting into the era where loops don’t have to be literal loops of tape spliced end-back-to-beginning, but digital delays and samplers could do the job. The AMS digital delay, so crucial to Joy Division’s sound, took a different but equally effective rôle here.