Graham Reid | | 2 min read
Although the Buzzcocks came through when punk kicked the doors down in the late Seventies, they were -- despite singer/writer Pete Shelley being inspired by seeing the Sex Pistols -- less of a punk band than a high-wired pop-rock band who carved out great slices of short, sharp songs with a real pop sensibility.
That's perhaps why, when they still hit the touring circuit these days, they don't seem as silly as their peers like Slaughter and the Dogs who are also out there trying to relive glory days.
The Buzzcocks delivered then (and can still do so now) land-speed record sub-three minute songs like Fast Cars, No Reply, Orgasm Addict, Ever Fallen in Love With Someone You Shouldn't've?, What Do I Get?, the stop-start Noise Annoys and other such durable songs.
The evidence of their energy is here on the live album Entertaining Friends (recorded in March '79, but not released until '92). It is the centrepiece of the five albums in this set which collects their first three albums from the Seventies (Another Music in a Different Kitchen, Love Bites and A Different Kind of Tension) and tacks on their first reunion album All Set ('96).
Although the Buzzcocks had a reputation for those furiously focused singles they also stretched out on post-punk pieces like Moving Away From the Pulsebeat (on Another Music) which went out to seven minutes over a relelentless rhythm (like Bo Diddley's patented sound as reimagined by a British guitar band). It reflected Shelley's interest in Krautrock but never took its eye off the tension they could conjure up.
It was a different kind of tension . . . and as guitarists in an era renown for being anti-guitar heroics, neither Shelley nor Steve Diggle shied away from soloing.
But pop was at their heart and in a funny review of Love Bites at the time, the astute British rock critic Simon Frith (noting the album was a contrary and admirable step backwards) likened them to the Hollies who he said also sounded sincere on the songs written for them by Graham Gouldman "because they were dumb enough to believe everything they read in front of them".
He argued that Shelley -- singing in that whiny 4th form punk voice -- was faking sincerity very cleverly and that they could get away with it because of "the sharp power of the Buzzcock's rhythm section".
Yes, the Buzzcocks were bratty but also snappy.
And despite their lengthy absence, that reunion album All Set from the Nineties showed they didn't intend to change from a successful formula, except craft it into some more akin to power pop.
The Buzzcocks were one of the more enjoyable, tight and important pop bands out of Britain in their period (and singing about love very often) and these albums are the evidence.
And at just $20 for this five CD collection at JB Hi-Fi stores here that makes this our recommended Bargain Buy for this week.
Play them loud.