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BUZZCOCKS

While the Sex Pistols and The Clash might have soaked up much of the punk spotlight in the ’70s, Buzzcocks brought something equally influential to the table. The Buzzcocks’ influence on indie rock, power-pop, punk rock and pop-punk is hard to overemphasize. When you think of the punk-pop tag, no band embodied it or perfected it quite like Buzzcocks.

Their songs were gritty, speedy and short like a lot of other punk music, but few punk bands remained committed to pure pop songwriting like Buzzcocks. Pete Shelley’s voice was snotty and full of attitude, their lyrics pushed social boundaries and the band’s guitars were pumping and lightning fast, but their infectious melodies might have fallen more in line with the pop or New Wave acts of the day than say, The Damned or The Stooges.
While albums like Another Music in a Different Kitchen or Love Bites are still worth digging into, the general consensus is that Buzzcocks’ most essential release is their 1979 singles compilation Singles Going Steady. It contained album cuts like “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve),” non-album singles like “Orgasm Addict” and “Everybody’s Happy Nowadays” as well as B-sides like “Autonomy” and “Noise Annoys.” The album’s eight singles and eight B-sides buff out the occasionally forgettable moments of their LPs and it’s the most accurate document of Buzzcocks as a band.

The songs that make up Singles Going Steady are largely about relationships and youthful frustration, and the album leads off with “Orgasm Addict,” an explicitly sexual song about everything from masturbation to full-on sex addiction. The song, which also features Shelley’s erotic moans, was unsurprisingly banned by the BBC upon release. Continuing with themes about the universal, inevitable shortcomings of youth, “I Don’t Mind” sums many of them up in a sharp, snappy rock ’n’ roll nut shell. Shelley paints a picture of the longing for another and the highlighting of your own insecurities when you do find that person. What begins with a song about loneliness and escape transforms into a song about fear of unreciprocated romantic feelings, which stems from a lack of self-confidence.

FORMAT INFORMATION

Coloured LP Info: Indies exclusive translucent violet coloured vinyl.

It's conceivable that internal friction helped inspire the title of the third Buzzcocks longplayer, 'A Different Kind Of Tension'; the group would splinter shortly after the album's 1979 release. But the U.K. pop punk band went out with a bang, marshaling one of their most diverse and exciting sets of songs under the guidance of producer Martin Rushent. The breakneck pace of their first recordings is well represented by such tracks as opener “Paradise,” though by the closing sound collage “Radio Nine,” chief songwriter Pete Shelley has managed to indulge his more experimental side as well – without ever abandoning the trademark Buzzcocks wit and emphasis on melody.

FORMAT INFORMATION

Coloured LP Info: Indies exclusive yellow vinyl.

Buzzcocks

Another Music In A Different Kitchen - Reissue

Like many first albums, Another Music In A Different Kitchen collected material written by the group - in particular Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle - that had been amassed during the previous years, going back to 1974 and 1975. According to Tony McGartland in his Buzzcocks: The Complete History, the songs were sequenced in the order that they were written. The play through seems to bear this out: the album begins in fast protest punk and ends in the seven minute, definitely non punk length Krautrock of ‘Moving Away From The Pulsebeat.’

Most of Shelley’s songs on the first side concern the vicissitudes of romance, but the opener Fast Cars name drops US campaigner Ralph Nader in an ecological diatribe: “They're so depressing going 'round and 'round/Ooh, they make me dizzy, oh fast cars they run me down.” ‘No Reply’, ‘You Tear Me Up’, ‘Get On Our Own’ and ‘Love Battery’ are sharp, short (all under two and a half minutes), speedy disquisitions on the tortures of interpersonal communication, love and lust played with a perfect balance between pace, abrasion and melody.

Side closer ‘Sixteen’ is something else. It’s longer and contains an avant-garde breakdown around two minutes in, recorded with each group member isolated and unable to hear each other. “It started off as a false ending,” Shelley told me in 1977: “All sloppy, and then it carries on longer so that people are thinking, “Oh I’ve just clapped but they’re not thinking — what’s up?” and then it comes back in again.” It was, as John Maher added, “A remnant of our chaos days.”

Would Shelley like to be sixteen again? “In some ways yes, in some ways no. The words go: “And I wish I was sixteen again/Then things would be such fun/All the things I'd do would be the same/But they're much more fun/ Than when you're twenty one.” Things like going for a drink — now the novelty’s worn off but the enjoyment’s still there. There’s no difference between doing something when you’re 16 and 22, except there is a difference if you’re doing it for the first time.”

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the song is its rapid fire, venomous ending:
“And I hate modern music/Disco boogie and pop/They go on and on and on and on and on/HOW I WISH THEY WOULD STOP!” Never has a truer sentence been written about the true impetus behind Punk: not just boredom with progressive rock or dinosaur sixties acts but an intense disgust with mainstream pop music, which in 1976, the year of number one singles by Elton and Kiki, Abba, the Brotherhood of Man, Adge Cutler & the Wurzels, seemed not to have anything to do with teenage life and certainly nothing to do with excitement or the true teenage news.

The five songs on side two reflected the group moving away from simple love tropes into something more complex: as Shelley sang on ‘I Don’t Mind’, “Reality’s a dream.” Unlike the increasing militarism and violent posturing of the Clash, Buzzcocks aimed to explore male sensitivity and frailty (‘This pathetic clown’) - which in pop terms was still new, exactly what punk had set out to be. They began to use love songs as a conduit through which they could talk about other things: the nature of human relationships in a capitalistic society, the nature of reality itself.

Onstage Buzzcocks did not present as macho. Sometimes they’d try a group uniform, like the Mondrian shirts of early 1977, but mostly they just dressed as themselves: Diggle and Maher in various permutations of Mod wear, Paddy Garvey in leather jacket and skinny tie, and Shelley in a bewildering variety of styles. “It’s no good me wearing anything like that (bondage pants),” Shelley told me; “I’m just not the fashionable shape.” “You put those clothes on and you become a different character,” Diggle added: “I don’t feel myself, I feel like somebody else.”

‘Fiction Romance’ continues the themes of ‘I Don’t Mind’: male frailty, the commodification of emotions, the difference between reality and fantasy. Steve Diggle’s powerful ‘Autonomy’ spells out the true theme behind Punk: self determination. “It’s a discussion between two sides of your personality,” he told me; “It’s about discipline in yourself, like when you say you’d like to do something and you haven’t got control, you’re not autonomous. Like giving up smoking, which I’m trying to do now and it’s very difficult. I haven’t got control of myself.”

Shelley’s pell-mell ‘I Need’ tackles the capitalist perplex head on: “I used to only want but now I need/To get by with what I got but now I need.” After a fine bass led instrumental break, Shelley lays it out again: “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.” ‘Moving Away From The Pulsebeat’ continues the breakneck pace: lasting at least three times the standard punk rock single, it features some stinging psychedelic solos and some rapid fire classic break beats from John Maher.

There’s a pause, then the riff of ‘Boredom’ returns: back to the beginning. Another Music in a Different Kitchen is a perfect circle: thirty five and a half minutes of tuneful, exciting and thoughtful music that stretched the boundaries of guitar pop music at the same time as it delivered on the group’s promise. It was a critical and a commercial success, reaching the UK album top twenty in March 1978 and staying there for nearly three months. But Buzzcocks had no time to rest on their laurels.


FORMAT INFORMATION

LP includes MP3 Download Code.

Behind the chocolate box cover, Love Bites is an album of paradoxes if not clashing opposites: real/imaginary, past/future, love/lust, connection/alienation, commerciality/experimentation. It’s to the group’s credit that they walk the high wire with ease: the attack is less punk, more measured and on occasion psychedelic, as befits the perceptual and philosophical nature of Shelley’s lyrics. The glossy pop star photo on the sleeve is matched by stranger photo realist portraits on the inner, by Robin Utracik of the Worst: Shelley in particular looks dishevelled, having just vomited when the source photo was taken.

Love Bites hit its moment. The reviews were good, and so were sales: it reached number 13 in the album charts, Buzzcocks’ best showing. They immediately went out on their fourth tour, Beating Hearts - supported by Subway Sect - which was marked in this year of Sham 69 by skinhead violence and stage invasions, definitely not what Buzzcocks were about. The fifth single of that year had already been recorded: ‘Promises’ and ‘Lipstick’, the latter of which used the same riff as Magazine’s debut ‘Shot by Both Sides’. Buzzcocks had reached their commercial peak, but Pete Shelley was deeply troubled.

Late 1978 was a harsh place, with competing styles and fads and the relentless pressure of rapid fire novelty that punk had set up. The pace was killing and on top of that the impetus of 1976 punk had faded. Shelley also felt that the original sense of community had gone: “Once we were in the music industry, people had become more diversified, there was nothing really to pull people together again.” More importantly, the constant touring was driving him mad: “It was a bit unnerving. When we did the Love Bites tour I was convinced by Richard not to leave the band. It was all getting too much for me.”



FORMAT INFORMATION

LP includes MP3 Download Code.

Featuring the original line-up of Howard Devoto (vocals & songwriter), Pete Shelley (guitar & songwriter), Steve Diggle (bass guitar) and John Maher (drums), ‘Time’s Up’ was recorded at Revolution Studios, Bramhall Lane Stockport on the 18th of October 1976. The session, recording Buzzcocks’ live set at the time and was engineered by Andy MacPherson.


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