Monday, February 25, 2013

Classic Album Review: Buzzcocks – Singles Going Steady (1981/2001)

I was listening to this album today trying to convince myself that forking out a small fortune to see the Buzzcocks in Wellington was a worthwhile exercise. Here’s a review I wrote for another site a few years back:


Probably one of the best Punk-pop compilations you’re ever likely to find, the original 1981 edition of Singles Going Steady, initially released as a taster for the yet-to-be-converted American market, comprised of 16 tracks, and it represented a comprehensive overview of the Buzzcocks’ brilliant singles career to that point – the band’s eight A-sides and the eight accompanying B-sides. However the 2001 digitally remastered edition surpasses even that, with the inclusion of a further eight tracks, including three subsequent A-sides.

It is often stated that the Buzzcocks’ debut release – the Spiral Scratch EP – was the first genuine so-called “punk” release (in the UK, at least), beating the likes of the The Clash and the Sex Pistols to the punch, and if I can fault Singles Going Steady in any way then it is only because this album fails to include any of the four tracks included on Spiral Scratch (my choice would be the raw and mildly witty ‘Boredom’). It therefore largely overlooks the early influence within the band of Howard Devoto – who left to form Magazine just as the band started to make it “big”.
Singles does however open with the Devoto/Pete Shelley-penned classic, ‘Orgasm Addict’, the band’s first “official” 45 (not one for mainstream radio), and something of a DIY bedroom anthem for many a pre-pubescent boy in 1977 (if you’ll excuse the imagery/pun). We then get a run of a further seven utterly fantastic tracks which will already be familiar to most: ‘What Do I Get?’, ‘I Don’t Mind’, ‘Love You More’, ‘Ever Fallen In Love’, ‘Promises’, ‘Everybody’s Happy Nowadays’, and ‘Harmony In My Head’ …

The best of the rest include the B-sides ‘Oh Shit!’, ‘Autonomy’, and ‘Something’s Gone Wrong Again’.

While the Buzzcocks were considered very much a “punk” band at the time, quite probably Manchester’s finest example of such, and very influential in the development of the post-punk scene, without the attendant punk movement in London and the emergence of a host of other bands with a similar sound and ethos around the same time, they’d just as likely have been regarded as a power-pop four-piece throwback to the Sixties garage scene. Although Shelley’s vocal contained the requisite amounts of anti-establishment sneer and the band’s style could be classed as moody and aggressive, their fast and furious style wasn’t radically different or overly experimental in the purest sense of punk.

And while there was plenty of wit and large doses of cynicism within their lyrics (mostly Shelley compositions), they weren’t especially political, and their focus was geared more towards problems associated with teenage issues such as growing up and dealing with the opposite sex rather than anything too subversive.

In fairness they weren’t just a singles band either, but there probably isn’t any need for newcomers to explore any of their other albums in any great depth, since all of the best stuff (and more) can be found on here. Enjoy!

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