BUZZCOCKS: THE GOOD STUFF
Just received in the mail from Domino Records the new reissues of Buzzcocks first two LP’s, Another Music In A Different Kitchen and Love Bites. These were planned for release before bandleader Pete Shelley sadly passed away in December. The LP’s have the original Malcolm Garrett artwork, an eight-page booklet compiled by Jon Savage (the British music writer famous for England’s Dreaming, an authoritative book about The Sex Pistols), and look and sound terrific. Mine are on black vinyl but there are limited copies available on colored vinyl. Of course, I had to get the CD’s as well. The remaster is from the original ¼-inch tapes and sounds amazing.
From the first strains of 1978’s Another Music From A Different Kitchen’s ‘Fast Cars’ I remember how much this music means to me. The speedy tempos, the catchy hooks, the underrated rhythm section of Steve Garvey (bass) and John Maher (drums). It’s the perfect pop-punk blueprint. “No Reply’ whips along and has an honest-to-goodness guitar solo. It’s a typical Shelley rant, pleading and pissed off that he’s getting no communication. ‘You Tear Me Up’ is a bitter, whiplash kiss-off to a lover, and the act of love-making:
Something about the way you drool and kiss
Makes love, seem nothing like this
‘Get On Our Own’ runs through the same themes as Brian Wilson’s’;‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice,’ with some oohs and aahs in the background. Maher’s drumming is everywhere, and there is a concise guitar solo with the ‘Boredom’ motif in the middle. ‘Love Battery’ has one of those classic chord progressions. It’s a song my bands have covered many times, mining the lyrical themes of ‘Orgasm Addict.’ “Sixteen’ is the first song so far that breaks three minutes. Steve Diggle (guitar) and Shelley (guitar, vocal) plow through a two chord riff like their lives depended on it. Again there are a couple of tightly wound solos on the track before it breaks down into some backwards effects (thanks to producer Martin Rushent). Then it blasts back off into the riff and Shelly declaring:
And I hate modern music
Disco, boogie, and pop
They go on and on and on and on and on and on and on
How I wish they would stop
‘I Don’t Mind’ is one of the classic Buzzcocks singles. Catchy as hell, backing “football terrace chant” vocals, upbeat, fast, punchy, catchy. Beatles on 45 rpm. “Fiction Romance’ is a quintessential Pete Shelley song, setting romance truly as fiction:
A fiction romance
The love of the ages
That never seems to matter in my life
A fiction romance
On magazine pages
That never seems to feature in my life
It’s a timeless and wonderful song, plus well over 4 minutes long! ‘Autonomy’ features Diggle getting some of the singing in, a song with a descending circular riff. A bit slower than the other songs but strangely satisfying. ‘I Need’ is another Shelly-makes-a-list song (of the things he needs):
(I need) Sex / (I need) Love / (I need) Drink / (I need) Drugs / ( I Need )Food /
(I Need) Cash / (I Need)
You to love me back
Ii’s fast and vaguely Ramones-like, and rips along with a chorsed bass solo(!) by Garvey. Album closer ‘Moving Away From The Pulsebeat’ is an art-school special, clocking in at OVER seven minutes, featuring double-tracked drumkits (thanks again, Martin Rushent) in a mutated version of the Bo Diddley beat, with plenty of single note soloing from Shelley, fading out and then a snippet of ‘Boredom’ is played, followed by the ‘Pulsebeat’ sound. It’s an LP ending that would make George Martin proud.
Buzzcocks’ second LP, Love Bites was recorded and released six months later in 1978, again produced by Martin Rushent and recorded at Olympic Studios in London. From the beginning scrapes of ‘Real World’ to the infectious bass and drum riff, you know you’re in for a treat. Shelley and company are back with a purpose, and begins the best six songs in a row I’ve heard on an LP. Second up is the epochal ‘Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)’, THE classic Buzzcocks single. The riff, the hook, the lyrics, the clever breakdown, the backing vocals, it’s all there. Pop perfection in two minutes and forty-two seconds. Third’ is ‘Operator’s Manual’, with it’s buzzsaw guitar attack:
Operators manual / Tells me what to do
When emotions blow a fuse /Indicating blue
Operators manual / Tells me what to find
And how to make adjustments / When you tamper with my mind
Oh, operators manual /I'd just fall apart without you
If only I had a mechanic / Then somehow I know I'd pull through
Fourth is ‘Nostalgia (For An Age Yet To Come)’ which is one of Shelley’s cleverest lyrics:
About the future I only can reminisce
For what I've had is what I'll never get
And although this may sound strange
My future and my past are presently disarranged
And I'm surfing on a wave of nostalgia for an age yet to come
Of course this is all wrapped up in a super catchy pop confection. Fifth is ‘Just Lust’ a dark and meditative paen to … well, you know. Has a great negative sounding riff break that fits the lyrics perfectly. Also has a spot on guitar solo, you could tell Kurt Cobain listened to this … a LOT. ‘Sixteen Again’ carries the theme from ‘Sixteen’ on Another Music In A Different Kitchen. Almost a surf-type riff opens it up, full of their patented super-pop, it’s a wonderful tune.
Next up is ‘Walking Distance,’ a powerful, drum filled instrumental. Again the rhythm section shines. The Buzzcocks had an amazing rhythm ‘engine room’ with Garvey and Maher. ‘Love Is Lies’ gives Steve Diggle a song to sing, and features acoustic(!) guitar. His deeper voice is a good counterbalance to Shelley’s Mancunian whine, and it’s a solid song. ‘Nothing Left’ is a bit of an epic (4:28):
Did you love me? / I'd like to think so
But I was blameless / So why did you go?
'Cause I've nothing left at all / At all, at all, at all, at all, at all, at all, at all
I've nothing left at all
I've lost a lover /And I am certain
I'll get another /So why'm I hurtin'?
This one lumbers along, with an ‘outside’ guitar solo, breaks down (a little bit quieter now) then builds back up (a little bit louder now) to a crescendo. ‘E.S.P.’ runs it’s little three-note riff into the ground, as Shelley and company pick up on some Can influences, chords moving behind the riff. It’s really a bit hypnotic and almost hits the five minute mark, mostly because they wanted to set a record for the slowest fade-out on record. Having done that, it then becomes the slowest fake-out, as the song comes blasting back up after the fade. Clever Trevors. LP closer ‘Late for The Train’ is another extended art-school special (notice a pattern here), with the double-tracked drums giving a rapid double kick sound, lots of backing vocals, backwards effects, and studio mastery courtesy Mr. Rushent. It’s like if ‘Taxman’ went punk, with no vocals. This track would make a great movie soundtrack.
Well, there they are. Two reissues of records that mean the world for me. I’ve never outgrown them. I took my punk songwriting style from them. I believe Pete Shelley to be one of the more gifted and lyrically amazing songwriters ever. I believe the rhythm section is what rock is about. I believe Steve Diggle to be a great rhythm guitarist and strong songwriter on his own. I believe Martin Rushent was one of the truly great record producers. I believe so much would not have happened, from Naked Raygun to Soup Dragons to Nirvana and especially Green Day, without the Buzzcocks. I believe in Buzzcocks.