Tuesday, March 9, 2010

SPAZ reviews the BUZZCOCKS Special Edition reissues



In Stores NOW!

While Sex Pistols got the guts and The Clash got the glory, there were many bands from across the pond that deserved much more attention in the U.S. than they received during the glory days of Punk in the late '70s.  Some names that come to mind are The Jam, The Undertones and, of course, Buzzcocks

While the band has  legions of fans all around the world some 30+ years later, they only caused a minor stir here in the states first time around.  The first American release was the excellent Singles Going Steady collection, which compiled their first eight singles (A-sides on Side One and b-sides on Side Two of the album). In fact, their first two studio albums were never issued in the U.S. until over a decade later when they appeared in the three CD Product box set!

The band consisted of Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle, who both handled guitar and vocals. The rhythm section of John Maher (drums) and Steve Garvey (bass) made up the rest of the quartet.  In this original incarnation, Buzzcocks released an amazing string of singles plus a trio of studio albums. Those three studio albums have been given the Special 2CD Edition treatment and are now more worthy of your attention than ever before.  While they have been called one of the best singles bands during the Punk era, Buzzcocks were certainly no slouches in the album department. And with all the bells and whistles added to these reissues, now's the best time to snap them up!

While the band are known for their catchy Pop/Punk singles, their albums were a mixture of hook-laden gems and more experimental and edgy material. Those looking for instant gratification should stick with the singles.  But those looking for something a bit different should dive in head first.  Another Music In A Different Kitchen was their debut album, released at the beginning of 1977. While their first few singles were not included on the album ("Orgasm Addict" and "What Do I Get?"), the album still has some glorious melodic gems including "I Don't Mind", "No Reply", "I Need" and "Get On Our Own". Elsewhere on the album, there are some top notch tunes that could have only been born during the Punk era ("Fast Cars", "Fiction Romance") and songs that tended to incorporate bits and pieces of edgy Rock and experimentalism ("Moving Away From The Pulsebeat", "Autonomy", "Love Battery"). While the band would continue to improve, this is certainly not a bad place to start to get the full effect of the electricity and excitement of the Punk era.
The addition of their two previous singles (A and B-sides), Peel Sessions, 14 demos and nine live cuts makes this damn near essential.  

Released at the tail end of 1978 (yes, less than a year after their debut), Love Bites found the quartet more focused then their debut, but still with plenty of edge.  The percentage of melodic hooks on the album is way up while the more experimental percentage is nearly cut in half. This balance of Pop power doesn't dull the band's Punk edge at all.  In fact, while most of their contemporaries were putting out weak sophomore efforts, Buzzcocks went from strength to strength. "Ever Fallen In Love" remains the track they are best known for, but there are other absolute standouts on the album including 'Nostalgia', 'Sixteen Again", the fantastic instrumental "Walking Distance" (written by bassist Steve Garvey) and Diggle's acoustic-led "Love Is Lies". A real highlight of the album is the hypnotic "E.S.P" with it's catchy guitar riff that runs through the song and takes the listener through one of the longest fade-outs in Punk history!  While there are some tracks that could only have been born during Punk's heyday ("Just Lust", "Nothing Left"), Love Bites was an enormous leap forward. 
This Special Edition icludes two non album singles (A and B-sides), 7 BBC radio sessions, 13 demos and 10 live tracks.  Yes, this is an essential Pop/Punk gem for sure!  But it doesn't stop there!  The band still had one more great album in them... 

While many of the original Punk bands never got past their second album, Buzzcocks' third was their musical masterpiece. Stepping even further away from the confines of Punk, the band embraced Psychedelia, Garage Rock and anything else they fancied, mixing it all together with their trademark sound (never equaled or bettered by any other band, by the way!). Yes, this was still a Punk album, but one that helped usher in the New Wave and Post-Punk eras as well.  From it's fantastically eye-catching cover (one of my top fave album covers of all time) to it's emotionally frayed lyrics, A Different Kind Of Tension lives up to it's title. And then some.  The first half of the album was a collection of powerful tunes including the single "You Say You Don't Love Me", "Paradise" and and a trio of Diggle rockers ("Sitting Round At Home", "You Know You Can't Help It" and "Mad Mad Judy"). Once "I Don't Know What To Do With My Life" starts the second half of the album (called Side Two in my day), the album twists and turns in so many directions, it's hard to keep up.  Some of their finest tracks can be found here including "Hollow Inside", "I Believe" and the title track.  The album takes the listener on a journey of emotional burn out and uncertainty, yet remains an uplifting experience due to the melodies and energy.  
This Special 2CD Edition adds 11 demos, four BBC sessions and five non album singles (A and B-sides) including their final three singles before the band split.  If you own one Buzzcocks album, this should be it.  Although most folks would stand by Singles Going Steady as the ultimate Buzzcocks release, this solid effort edges it out just a bit for me.  But that's just because I'm not fond of a few of their earlier b-sides like "Oh Shit".  Did I just say that out loud?

You're welcome,
Stephen SPAZ Schnee

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