The Bloody Classics: The Buzzcocks
Buzzcocks, Another Music in a Different Kitchen, United Artists, 1978
You Tear Me Up
Get on Our Own
I Don’t Mind
Moving Away From the Pulse Beat
Formed by a group of students in the northern English town of Bolton in 1976, and making their live debut alongside the Sex Pistols in Manchester, Buzzcocks were of great importance to the Manchester music scene which would be become huge in the 1980s and 1990s. The band would tell you that origin of their name is actually much less offensive than it sounds, “buzz” meaning the excitement and fun of playing in a band and “cock” actually used in the context of the northern English slang word for friend, rather than, well, you know, but yeah, ok, it was also funny because it sounded a bit rude.
Although Another Music in a Different Kitchen was their first official album, they had actually released an EP that they funded and recorded themselves called Spiral Scratch which sold more than 16,000 copies and broke into the singles chart. By taking complete control of their output from its creation to how it was marketed and sold, Buzzcocks essentially invented indie music in the UK by accident, because they didn’t think London based record companies would be interested in a small northern band. They inspired scores of other groups by showing it was possible to achieve some success without a major record label. They were essentially the very opposite of Fleetwood Mac.
Continuing the punk theme of interesting album artwork, Buzzcocks used the product catalogue number as part of the album artwork on this album and their subsequent works. This idea was later used by the Factory record label who did it with all of their artists.
There had already been a few line-up changes by the time their first official album was released, so on this record we hear Pete Shelley on vocals and guitar, Steve Diggle on rhythm guitar, Steve Garvey on bass and John Maher on drums.
Fast Cars - fast intro which then suddenly drops off, it’s as shouty as you’d expect and has great guitars. No Reply has a question and answer type harmony which is fun and unexpected. Pete Shelley’s Bolton accent also comes out properly on the second track. You Tear Me Up is a quality punk anti-love song. Get on Our Own is well crafted and almost a bit poppy with all the “woah-oh-ohs”. Sixteen has a marching beat, great drums, a really urgent sound and a clear vocal. There’s also a very cool fade out in the middle which then rebuilds with the drums to end the track. It’s a bit unusual but it’s one of the highlights of the album for me. I Don’t Mind is definitely softer and seems like a Madchester pre-cursor, there are Shed Seven vibes here. It’s a great little track, and feels very northern. More nice clear vocals on Fiction Romance and the rhythm section is great again, which really keeps it moving. Autonomy is a bit haunting, it has another strong vocal and a great guitar riff. This song has been covered by The Offspring and you can hear why. The final track feels almost psychedelic, 7 minutes is a hell of a lot but it’s a great way to end, the guitar almost sounds sitar-esque in places and drums are endless, it’s another unexpectedly innovative track. This is a great album, the lyrics are clever and there really isn’t a bad track on it. The rhythm section is really tight throughout and there are lots of unusual elements that keep things interesting while still staying true to the typical punk sound.
Bands who cite Buzzcocks as an influence include; Elastica, Green Day and Pearl Jam but every single indie band out there owes them a debt of gratitude for showing them the way. With a re-issue of this album due out next week, if the only Buzzcocks song you know is classic single Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) now’s the perfect time to enjoy these clever northern punks who truly changed the game and opened the door to a whole new genre of music.