449. Public Image Ltd. - Metal Box (1979)
3. Swan Lake
6. No Birds
9. Bad Baby
12. Radio 4
So another PiL album on the list, and probably their most famous one, although it really did not make the same impression as their first album. This is probably also more famous for its crazy cover, made to look like a film canister which was good to protect the vinyls from scratches, but made it quite expensive to produce.
This is, however simply a development of the previous album, and therefore not as original as their self-titled début. It does have one advantage over that album, however, the fact that this isn't as relentlessly experimental also means that they have focused on their sound and the whole thing sounds tighter, but this is not really enough to make it a better album. And there is nothing as gratingly pubescent as Religion.
The sound of an apocalyptic disco club is what they go with here, thoroughly explored in their first album, particularly in Fodderstompf, so if you were into that album (and I was) this is a good place to go to. Although never as exciting and possibly overly long. But always, always, infinitely more interesting than the Sex Pistols.
The Metal Box packaging was innovative and surprisingly inexpensive, costing little more to the label than the cost of printed sleeves for equivalent 12" releases (although Virgin did ask for a refund of 1/3 of the band's advance due to the cost). After an initial release of 60,000 units, the album was re-released in 1980 as Second Edition, a double LP with a gatefold sleeve.
The original metal canister idea caught on a few years later during the compact disc era. By the late 1980s a number of CDs were packaged in metal canisters, including Prince's special edition of the Batman soundtrack. In 1990 the concept came full circle, with the compact disc release of Metal Box employing a smaller version of the original metal canister, containing a single disc and a small paper insert.
The Second Edition sleeve art consists of distorted photographs of the band members, achieving a funhouse mirror effect. (The front cover is a photo of Keith Levene.) The lyrics are provided on the rear cover; these were originally printed in a magazine advertisement and not included with Metal Box. The band initially wanted the album released with a lyric sheet but no track titles; the United Kingdom version of Second Edition appears as the band intended, with lyrics on the back cover, but no titles, and "PiL" logo labels on all four sides of the vinyl. The American edition of Second Edition has track titles both on the back cover and the labels.