Jah Wobble & Keith Levene, Yin & Yang
The ghost of electricity howls in their fat and furious geezer grooves
During the couple dozen years since they played together as part of Public Image Ltd’s original, best lineup, bassist Jah Wobble (John Wardle) and guitarist Keith Levene have pursued somewhat different career paths. Where Wobble followed his bliss through adventurous electronic, folk and internationalist projects, Levene stumbled down the heroin highway, by Wobble’s account, until cleaning up and joining his former bad-boy bandmate for the early-2012 “Metal Boxin Dub” tour. (John Lydon, meanwhile, has been working the reality-show circuit and selling Country Life butter.) Now in their mid 50s, Wobble and Levene cast a collective gaze back upon the psychedelic and progressive music of their youth, albeit with a corrosive aggro slant.
With Wobble clearly in charge, Yin & Yang at its best packs a driving dub-rock wallop reminiscent of Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare’s best onstage moments with Black Uhuru. But the manic laugher heard early in the self-reflexive title track (“Fucking yin and fucking yang/ Soft little whisper, big fucking bang”) hints at the same prankish inclinations that inspired the duo’s 7/8 take on George Harrison’s “Within You Without You” (PiL covers the Beatles!) and that are as dubious as Lydon imitator Johnny Rotter’s appearance in “Understand.” Trumpeter Sean Corby adds punchy verve to “Fluid,” which, like “Strut” and “Back on the Block,” has an improvised immediacy perfect for Wobble’s overdriven, rattling bass and Levene’s glorious rusty-metal, nails-on-chalkboard sound. Only a fool would write these cats off today; the ghost of electricity howls in their fat and furious geezer grooves.