Keith Levene

  • Keith Levene
  • 2011 — Back Too Black EP (Iridescence) 1987 
  • Keith Levene's Violent Opposition EP (Taang!) 1987 
  • Keith Levene's Violent Opposition (Taang!) 1989  (Rykodisc) 1989 
  • Killer in the Crowd EP (Murder Global) 2004 

Best known for his five-year stint in Public Image Ltd. (which ended acrimoniously in 1983, when he was wiped off the finished mix of This Is What You Want, resulting in his dubiously legal release of an alternate edition, Commercial Zone), guitarist Levene was also an original member of the Clash, but left after only a handful of gigs. He also played with Ken Lockie in Cowboys International. That said, he is an influential and pivotal figure in the development of punk beyond its initial loud- fast instincts.

Although far from prolific as a solo artist, Levene has managed an involved little discography anyway. The first EP consists of simple instrumentals — played on guitar, bass, Fairlight and rhythm machines — in reggae, funk and industrial veins. The four-song second EP, with members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fishbone and Thelonious Monster supporting, contains another dub instrumental (with sax) as well as a pointless copycat version of Hendrix’s “If 6 Was 9” (which Rykodisc issued on a 3-inch CD, along with “Back Too Black” and “Fast Brass Slam”).

The confusingly titled 1989 album (released simultaneously on tape and vinyl by Taang! and on CD by Ryko) combines the two EPs, adding a trivial ska cover and a razor-edge version of John Lennon’s “Cold Turkey.”

Flash forward 15 years for the unveiling of Murder Global, the one-man enterprise (save for bass on two cuts) behind the snazzily packaged five-track Killer in the Crowd EP. The carefully measured, guitar-based instrumentals are fine but uneventful; Levene’s one vocal, on the title tune, is mixed too low to matter.

[Ira Robbins]