In the age of the single download, Jeff Harford
rediscovers the album.
The Buzzcocks' 1979 compilation Singles Going Steady
was intended as an attention-grabber for the US market.
Assembled chronologically from A-sides and B-sides from the
band's 1977-79 UK singles, it stands as a sublime profile of
the finest British power-pop unit to have emerged from the
Previously fronted by Howard Devoto but led here by guitarist
and co-founder Pete Shelley, the four-piece has clipped the
ragged edges from its early sound and has begun to truly
inhabit its name.
''Buzzcocks'' makes sense when confronted with the band's
hard-hitting guitar-driven music, the word suggesting
elements of noise, sensation and attitude that are reflected
in bristling energy and forthright lyrics.
Shelley sets the band apart from its punk contemporaries with
higher register singing that occasionally switches to
falsetto. His lyrics hint at his bisexuality, something he
would not talk explicitly about until the release of solo
single Homosapien in 1981, but mostly they address the
everyday musings of the lovelorn, the frustrated and, in the
case of Orgasm Addict, the oversexed.
Six of the remaining A-sides that round out side one are
classic Shelley-fronted pop tunes, precision-driven by a
tight rock unit that understands the magic of melody and the
micro-pause as well as it does the adrenaline rush and the
pedal-to-the-metal power chord. What Do I Get?,
Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)
and Everybody's Happy Nowadays are each so heavily
infested with earworms that they compete busily for territory
long after listening.
Most British bands of the era would have killed to claim as
their own the B-sides that make up side two, but across the
Atlantic the album made little impression. With three studio
albums and this dud-free compilation under their belts, the
already faltering Buzzcocks soon called it quits.
Reunions and augmented line-ups have followed. This year,
Shelley and Diggle bring the Buzzcocks to play four dates in
New Zealand between April 27 and May 1.