Buzzcocks should require no introduction. Forever embedded in pop culture of the late ’70s and to the punk and post-punk DIY movements, the group, led by frontman Pete Shelley and co-frontman Steve Diggle, brought an essential pop sensibility and sartorial style to the late last epic youth movement but are also tied to the last big youth explosion that was Grunge and Nirvana in particular.
Having disbanded in 1981, the band re-grouped in 1989 and continue to write, record and perform to this day, despite the saddening and untimely loss of Pete Shelley in 2018. This box set captures the eight albums and numerous singles the band produced with Shelley during a thirty-three year period, alongside previously unheard rarities, demos, outtakes & veritable treasures that lie under the lid. Dismiss at your peril ‘Sell You Everything’ is an essential purchase as you should make all year.
We’ll start at the beginning of these eight discs and number one sees the band present their 1991 demos of the album some of which made it onto ‘Trade Test Transmission a couple of years later. Thirteen demos of exceptional quality expanded to make a twenty-one song disc. Sure there is a small amount of repetition with songs like ‘Alive Tonight’ and ‘Succesful Street’ cropping up a couple of times but very different versions to be fair and different enough to deserve duplicating. Of course, this demo album isn’t up there with the first four albums lets not pretend anything other than what it is but to fans (of which I would consider myself one) it’s fantastic to have all these songs in this format together on the one disc. right, One down seven to go! Oh before we move on the demo version of ‘Succesful Street’ is far superior to the one on the EP!
Disc two is ‘Trade Test Transmission’ plus a few of Diggle’s home demos songs like ‘Energy’ which gives you a good idea of how the song came together even if this is much more like home recording territory god bless those Tascam4 tracks eh?
Disc Three is ‘All Set’ which was more in keeping with Buzzcocks from the sprightly opener ‘Totally From The Heart’ and I always loved ‘Without You’ it was the return of classic Shelley. As always when Diggle got behind the mic he always dished up a classic or two and his contribution here is the wonderful ‘What Am I Supposed To Do’. I always had a soft spot when Diggle got out the old acoustic as well and his contribution here was the albums closing number ‘Back With You’ but again its the demos at the end that hold the intrigue and a whole bunch of energy especially ‘Your Love’. Laying fresh ears on this album has been a joy and a bit of guilt for not picking it up sooner over the last decade or so I feel shame for the neglect and won’t let it be another decade before it gets played.
Disc Four sees the band hit the tail end of the ’90s and having been back at it for almost a decade by this point and ‘Modern’ hit the shelves. I loved how about this point the band were being referred to indie rockers and not punk pioneers or post-punk power-pop legends but they still had plenty of fizz on songs like ‘Rendezvous’. They did test my patience as well I won’t lie. ‘Don’t Let The Car Crash’ was a weird one as was ‘Doesn’t mean Anything’ and ‘Phone’ as well whilst we’re at it. I always thought it was better suited to the solo material with all the samples but now looking back maybe I appreciate the band experimenting more. I always loved the more straight aproach of ‘turn Of The Screw’ and ‘Sneaky’. Probably the lowest point of the band catalogue to be fair although adding the Townsend strum of ‘Autumn Stone’ Steves Buzz is very interesting as Diggle manages to sound hauntingly like Steve Marriott here.
The self-titled album of 2003 was a right return to form with fast songs that cut the crap from opener ‘Jerk’ and the thunderous ‘Keep On’ someone or something really lit a fire under the band who also were turning in some fantastic live shows around this time as well. ‘Sick City Sometimes’ is a blinding track courtesy of Mr. Diggle. ‘Buzzcocks’ was a stripped back bullshit-free bolt of thunder and lightning from the slashing hack of those guitars to the super-tight rhythm section a real beast of an album. With only three bonus tracks here one being the demo of ‘Never Believe It’ and the final two cuts being a live rendition of ‘Paradise’ and a haunting bootleg out of the desk take of ‘Oh Shit’ that’ll strip paint if you play it loud enough.
‘Flat Pack Philosophy’ I remember having mixed press around the time and having pledged on a copy I remember it ticking a lot of boxes around the time of its release and listening back here it still stands up with songs like the title track and ‘wish I Never Loved You’ being a pair of belters to open any album never mind the bazillionth album of an illustrious career. ‘Sell You Everything’ is another slice of Diggle gold but once again fans will be intrigued with the bonus cuts on offer sees ‘See Through You’ and ‘Darker By The Hour’ and its pop beauty before a filthy, raucous ‘Love Battery’ and ‘Sixteen’ – Job done another epic Buxxcocks album made even better by an abundance of additional material.
Now disc seven. Probably the disc I’ve played over and over again since getting my mitts on this treasure trove of Buzzcocks goodies twenty-Four reworks of classic songs from right across the existence of one of the most exciting innovative and downright brilliant bands ever. I absolutely love it some songs have matured and improved with age and some of the later ones like ‘Turn Of The Screw’ fit in like peas in a pod – bloody brilliant. HAving Shelley bark out the words and melodies on ‘Boredom’ is exciting and don’t get me started on the bass line of ‘Fast Cars’ or the mesmeric qualities of ‘Why Can’t I Touch It’. Anyone who witnessed the band performing over the last decade would have pretty much witnessed these songs played by this line up in this way and I can’t imagine one single person not bowing down to the majesty power, beauty and downright quality of what was on offer and hearing them rerecorded here gives nothing away as to the age of the songs in large nor is any quarter given by the band.
‘You Say You Don’t Love Me’ nestled next to ‘Turn Of The Screw’ or the bluster of ‘Breakdown’ preceding ‘Promises’ brings a tear to my eye. ‘Love You More’? I don’t think I could right now and the sadness that washed over me hearing an enthusiastic ‘What do I Get’ knowing I’ll never get that live again but I do have this blistering set to fall back on. ‘I Believe’ and then finally ‘Love Is Lies’ wraps up the disc that makes all this worth it. If you had any doubt about picking this up then take a butchers at this running order and tell me its not worth it? Absolutely bittersweet but sheer brilliance. and there’s still one more to go.
The box set of the year is wrapped up nicely with ‘The Way’ plus seven bonus cuts and the best box set to get released is done. A real joy to behold from the audio to the packaging its a winner and a must-have not just for the die-hard fans but for anyone whos has ever sung along to a Buzzcocks track at a disco, pub, wedding whatever this is a must-have lovingly compiled and expanded and everything you want from a box set that sells you everything and not just goes through the motions. 160 tracks – 29 previously unreleased, what’s not to want? Essential, simple as
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Author: Dom Daley