As opposed to the axis of throbbing bass and guitar slashings of Metal Box, The Flowers of Romance is centralized on razor-sharp drums and typically haranguing vocals.
No dubwise grooves here -- bassist Jah Wobble was kicked out prior to the recording for ripping off PiL backing tracks for his solo material. And growing more disenchanted with the guitar, Keith Levene's infatuation with synthesizers was reaching a boiling point.
His scythe-like guitar is truly brought out for only one song. Stark and minimal are taken to daring lengths, so it's no surprise that Virgin initially balked at issuing the heavily percussive record. "Four Enclosed Walls" opens with something of a mechanical death rattle and John Lydon's quavering warble, framed by backwards piano and Martin Atkins' spartan, dry-as-a-bone drumming.
His rapier-like drums seem to serve a similar purpose to Levene's guitar on Metal Box. An unsteady drum pattern and fragile, wind chime-like guitar from Levene shape "Track 8," a bleak look at sexual relationships. Lydon adds color with pleasant imagery of Butterball turkeys and elephant graves. "Under the House" and "Francis Massacre" are the most violent tracks due to Atkins' machine gun firing and Levene's chilling atmosperics.
Lydon lashes out at zealous fans on the only bottom-heavy tune, "Banging the Door": "The walls are so thin/The neighbors listen in/Keep the noise down." Perhaps the band's most challenging work (in the avant garde sense), it's just as "love it or hate it" as Metal Box; it'll either go down a treat or like a five-pound block of liverwurst.
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman [-]
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