PiL's fourth album took three years to reach fruition for a number of reasons. The initial recordings included the nucleus of John Lydon and Keith Levene; Martin Atkins was asked to stay, bringing bassist Pete Jones to help out. After those sessions and a few shows, both Levene and Jones exited. Lydon recruited a lounge act spotted at a New Jersey hotel and took them on tour. Upon re-entering the studio, Lydon and Atkins wiped the departed members off the tapes from the prior recordings, employing faceless session hacks to fill in.
This resulted in one of Lydon's worst outings, the most tentative and least powerful of PiL's recordings. A thin, shrill, wheezing horn section replaces much of Levene's guitar, and the basslines sound dreadful. "This Is Not a Love Song," though accessible enough for the charts, is best left in the year of its origin. Surprisingly for Lydon, the colorful tune has a simple beat and is easy to dance to, but lacks guts. "The Pardon," like a couple other songs on the record, sounds like a bad Flowers of Romance outtake with "modern" production. With Atkins' relentless clippity-cloppity drums and Lydon's bite-free stream-of-consciousness rambling, it eventually fades into the background as a nagging drone. Closer "The Order of Death" saves the record from being a total wreck, a moody instrumental with a repetitive vocal hook and a creepy synth line. Levene, who at that point owned half of the Public Image Limited name, released the version of This Is What You Want... with him and Jones present as the pseudo-bootleg Commercial Zone, on the short-lived PiL Records. It actually preceded the official version's release by months, and a second issue followed later in the year with a slightly different track listing.