Sex Pistols

Sex Pistols [Box Set]

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The problem is the legacy. Boiled down to its essentials, it's not even one album -- it's a series of singles, buttressed by a handful of songs scattered among the lone album, singles and demos. It's enough to help support the legend, or at least keep the myth alive, but as music, it can sound bloated and tedious, hardly sounding like the epochal music it allegedly is. That's largely because the Sex Pistols were only partially about music. Sure, Johnny Rotten's snarl and the bludgeoning chords (despite their reputation, the Pistols never really played fast, it occasionally sounded that way) counted for something, but so did the attitude, the appearance, and the timing. Appearing at the silver jubilee of the Queen, the Sex Pistols pissed all over that celebration with their scabrous "God Save The Queen," causing something truly dangerous, if only for a minute. A moment later, Johnny Rotten left the band, manager Malcolm McLaren brought in former train robber Ronnie Biggs for a series of awful singles, Sid Vicious allegedly killed his girlfriend and then offed himself, and the Sex Pistols' story ended, only to be turned into farce and vaudeville through countless bios, bad stories, bad reissues, tacky T-shirts, and an ill-advised reunion or two, the second of which happened in 2002, on the Golden Jubilee. To celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Pistols and, of course, 50 years of the Queen, a new round of reissues was hauled out, with the three-disc The Box Set being the figurative crown jewel, and the single-disc Jubilee being the hits collection. Theoretically, both are good ideas -- a box containing everything, a disc containing the essentials -- yet they're both executed poorly. The box is problematic because it looks like what it purports to be: a complete collection of the studio recordings of the prime band, along with demos, including the Spunk demos, plus a full disc of live material, including "Live at Screen on the Green" in 1976 and the notorious "Belsen Was a Gas," from Dallas in 1978. All this, combined with a booklet with track-by-track annotation, discography, and gig history, makes this seem like it is an ideal box set, but look closer. You'll find that there's a great deal of material missing, including several Spunk demos, plus lots of other demos, outtakes, and early material that have appeared elsewhere, but not here. It's a selected history, not a set of complete recordings, and it's rather awkwardly sequenced, too, stumbling along instead flowing easily. It's not even a question of whether a band that only released one album could be subjected to a full box set treatment, because they could if it were presented with care and with a desire to fulfill the wishes of completists. This has the skeleton of that set, but not the heart, so it winds up feeling nearly as ill-considered as its companion cash-in, Jubilee, and, given that it is closer to what it promised, it's a bigger disappointment.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:22
2 3:03
3 2:51
4 2:41
5 3:20
6 4:11
7 2:02
8 3:31
9 4:12
10 3:18
11 3:06
12 3:13
13 3:06
14 2:47
15 3:10
16 6:56
17 4:01
18 3:41
19 2:44
20 6:53

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:53
2 4:08
3 4:05
4 3:10
5 3:15
6 3:00
7 1:44
8 4:10
9
1:57
10 1:42
11 3:32
12 3:03
13 5:00
14 3:33
15 4:23
16 3:08
17 3:38
18 3:59
19
3:13
20 2:05
21 2:49
22 8:11

Track Listing - Disc 3

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 4:55
2 3:10
3 2:19
4 3:07
5 3:45
6 5:49
7 2:13
8 3:51
9 3:29
10 3:05
11 3:07
12 3:08
13 5:05
14 3:48
15 4:55
16 4:13
17 2:31
18 1:47
19 6:12
blue highlight denotes track pick