COOKING VINYL (Mail order and download only) 26.11.07
The Buzzcocks had a thirtieth anniversary last year and here’s the document of the tour, from the Forum date in London. Thirty years since Spiral Scratch, the EP wth a picture sleeve showing the bill for recording and pressing the disc. A clear message that it’s not complicated – get out and do it. Shortly after, part-time genius Howard Devoto left to form the marvellous Magazine, leaving Shelley and Diggle to pursue punk-pop dreams. Along with The Undertones, The Buzzcocks were 1978 / 79 / 80’s number one pop purveyors. No shouting about anarchy – these were love songs mostly and carried huge hooks tied to really simple playing and the energy of punks who’d torn down the edifice of prog and opened up the means of production to the masses. Shelley’s guitar was, famously, bought in Woolworths.
So, this document. What is it? It’s Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle plus drums and bass – not the same band as 1977 but, in the same way that Townsend and Daltrey are The Who, these two are The Buzzcocks. Twenty-eight songs drawn from all eras. After the late seventies / early eighties buzz, the band had gone into hibernation before resurrection a few years later to work on new material. I’m pleased to say that of the songs here, nearly half are from after the period of peak fame. And they stand up fine. Not the sugar rush of the stuff off Singles Going Steady (go and buy it if you don’t have it) but good stuff. It’s all delivered at breakneck speed and nearly thirty songs fit into eighty minutes. That’s nearly the speed of The Ramones on seminal album, It’s Alive. The wonder is the energy delivered by Shelley at 52 years old and Diggle at a similar age. A couple of years ago I heard The Buzzcocks live and Steve Diggle was posing and grinning like a schoolboy on his first gig – chuffed as hell to be there. The moshpit saw older gents pogoing a few minutes then needing a rest but the frontmen of the band never relented in bluster. Last time I’d seen the band they had Joy Division on support and the crowd was a wee bit younger but the band was no more energetic then than now. There is a live recording from 1979 on EMI, called Entertaining Friends, and you’ll hear a younger version of the band with a dozen less songs. This is an addition, an upgrade, a souvenir. Who ever imagined this band would still be around three decades later without becoming a parody of themselves. Maybe it’s the lack of pretension that allows an honesty to remain.
Obviously, you really should buy at the very least Singles Going Steady and maybe the contemporary studio albums but for a whole-career retrospective this will serve just fine and the hour-plus set will leave you exhilarated and exhausted.