Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton
April 13th, 2013
The legendary punk rock gods Buzzcocks have still got it, leaving LTW’s macthehack grinning like a self described teenage idiot!
After their controversial Manchester show ended in some fans wondering online if it was time for Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle to part ways, it’s good to be able to report that the odd couple are back.
They say opposites attract and watching Shelley and Diggle always did feel like the band Alan Bennett and José Mourinho would have formed, if they’d been impressionable young men at Manchester Free Trade Hall in 1976.
These days Shelley appears to be shrinking. Turning into a gnomic existential punk rock Ian Hislop, while Diggle remains the mod hooligan, cheerleading the crowd and playing to the gallery at every opportunity.
Crucially, the chemistry is still there. Shelley’s bookish literary wit and the stylish grandstanding of Diggle the walking, talking rock ‘n’ rollers remain, as of course does their ridiculously good back catalogue, which Buzzcocks choose to draw on heavily tonight. They played just one post-millennium song, ‘Sick City Sometimes’ from 2003’s eponymous album.
Only ‘When Love Turns Around’, from 1993’s ‘Trade Test Transmission’, which fares particularly well on the night, comes close, being the only other post-reformation song to get an airing.
But so what? From opening number ‘Boredom’ through to set closer ‘What Do I Get?’ and on into a four song encore, every song could have been a single (and a lot of them were). When even old ‘b’ sides stand up this well, you realise just what an astonishing band Buzzcocks were – straddling the punk/pop divide like no one else.
They never descended into the skinny tie power pop that came after punk, born out of record companies’ desperation to find a marketable form of punk that they could control. Instead they gave us songs like ‘Autonomy’ before most of us buying the single even knew what the word meant.
Despite their innate pop sensibility, Buzzcocks, like perhaps only The Ramones, harnessed the energy of punk and gave us idiotically catchy three minute pop classics. And they still do, causing men of questionable age and waistline to grin like teenage idiots. I know, I’m one of them.
Of course the Buzzers themselves are not sixteen or even sixteen again and the set was noticeably constructed so that after half a dozen songs at the mic, Shelley withdraws into rhythm guitar mode for a rest, while the garrulous Diggle winds up. Well I’m not sure if it’s himself or the crowd, so let’s settle for both.
‘Moving Away from The Pulsebeat’ is stretched out of course and punctuated by more outrageous guitar poses from Diggle. ‘Nothing Left’ gets a similar protracted treatment, but then segues straight into ‘Breakdown’. Great for us, but so much for the band pacing themselves.
Actually, most of the set is rather one paced – breakneck. Fuelled by the youthful rhythm section of Chris Remmington on bass and Danny Farrant on drums who both played with energy and economy, fitting Buzzcocks perfectly as they romped through the set with commendable energy.
On this showing all appears to be well again in the Buzzcocks camp, and I for one hope rumours of a new album in the pipeline are true. In fact Buzzcocks are due a good album this year – 1993’s ‘Trade Test Transmission’ was their first really convincing album after getting back together and 2003’s ‘Buzzcocks’ stands comparison with their very best work. So, no pressure, boys…
As if to sum up their enthusiasm at the end of the gig Diggle (inevitably!) leads the youngsters in the band into the crowd for a frenzy of hugging, handshaking and kissing leaving poor old Pete Shelley to bow hesitantly from the stage. They may be the odd couple, but they’ve certainly found what to do with their lives.
There are rules in life and one of them should be that everyone must see Buzzcocks at least once.
I Don’t Mind
Get On Our Own
Whatever Happened To…
When Love Turns Around
(Why She’s) The Girl From The Chainstore
Moving Away from The Pulsebeat
I Don’t Know What To Do With My Life
You Say You Don’t Love Me
Love You More
What Do I Get?
Harmony In My Head
Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t Have)
Words and pic by macthehack. More writing by Mr. hack on Louder Than War can be found here.