Public Image Ltd – Rise

Anger is an energy

It’s a lyric which has always stuck in my mind. It’s not just the way Lydon lodges it in there by drawing the vowels of each word out, but perhaps, because more so than ever, as an idea, it goes against the thinking of anger as something destructive, something to avoid, an emotion we should try not to “give in to”.

But I think Lydon is right and anger can be a positive; that anger emanated outwards (or turned inwards on occasion) can be a harnessing and creative force. So I was glad when in the first episode of the new season of BBC 4’s Digital Human, ‘Anger’, this was brought up:

It is a part of our very chemistry that motivates us to attend to unfairness and it can quickly mobilise us to respond to injustices. In many ways we are actually moving before we have had a chance to even think about what we’re doing – Dr Jennifer S. Lerner, Harvard Decision Science Laboratory

Krotoski goes on to define anger as a “cognitive interrupt”: something we feel before thinking. And Lerner adds “People don’t think deeply when they are mad”.  It’s this element of anger that perhaps gives it its bad name. Our inability to control it.

I think Lydon, however, is in control on ‘Rise’, his anger feels thought through; no, perhaps not thought through, but you can hear the tension between the impulse of anger and the thinking. He works the tension out in the song, recognising what he has yet to admit because of the effect of anger on him:

I could be wrong, I could be right.

A great songwriter: Lydon’s anger is not that of the twitter storm, of road rage; his is the anger born of intelligence, his is the anger of creation and so, a song such as ‘Rise’ can exist, without destroying itself, the singer, or the listener.

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