The Flowers of Romance is one of the strangest records ever made. There is barely a guitar or a bass or anything melodic in sight. It’s drums, percussion, strange sounds, and John Lydon’s wailing voice. People go nuts for Radiohead’s Kid A and Amnesiac, which are great albums, but this record is way more out there years before, more primitive. It is a really dark uncomfortable record, but something about the way it is recorded and the fearlessness of it makes it strangely beautiful too, in its own way. If you were to read how horrifying punk was, without ever hearing it, this is the kind of thing you would imagine.
The drum sounds are fantastic. They were heavily influenced by Peter Gabriel’s third album in the way they were treated and processed. Lydon was never one to be told what he could or couldn’t listen to. He had a curious mind and was willing to take in anything and turn it into something completely original and fascinating.
The record is a very visual sounding record. One can almost imagine Whitechapel in Victorian London, prison walls, dark alleys, ancient tribes. It is sheer sonic insanity. Lydon was going through a very troubling time as his fame lead too many strange people to his doorway. This record was years ahead of its time. A work of bizarre genius.
The track by track commentary at this album’s Wikipedia page is pretty interesting:
On this series:
For the first week of 2015 I am writing pieces about records that I can only describe as “batshit insane”. (I didn’t quite make the cutoff date!) These are brilliant albums that are so dark they cross the threshold into a knowing comedy. If you want to understand exactly what I mean in more detail read the first paragraph from the start of this series:
I love records that one can only describe as sounding “batshit insane”. Where the artist seems as if they are out-crazying the din and the whirlwind of the Great Void. Albums that trump death, even if the artists are alive and the albums don’t even have death as a central theme because, even if it is subconsciously, they know it is out there and they seem not to give a shit. I am reminded of the character at the end of Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle who dies, “lying on my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You Know Who.” I also think of George Carlin, putting on a show making the batshit insanity of this world hilarious, and then ending his set by standing on one leg with his arms outstretched, daring to be smited. These are albums where artistic fear is not only not present, it almost seems as if the artists are daring you not to like them. Albums like this make me laugh out loud and warm my heart to its very foundation. I could be having the worst day possible and when I put one of these records on I think, “Thank God they are out there.” I wanted to write about several of these records to start 2015 out on the right foot. My goal is to post at least one record a day for the next week. I’m just having fun, like a child skipping through a field.