April 28, 2015 Buzzcocks – The Way (Album Review)
Founded in Bolton, England, in 1976 by Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto, Buzzcocks have become known as one of Punk Rock history’s most adored acts. Through some break-ups and reunions the band has released nine full-length studio albums, beginning with 1978’s Another Music in a Different Kitchen. The band’s oldest and most recognizable songs include “Orgasm Addict,” “I Don’t Mind,” and “Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve).” The current Buzzcock lineup consists of longtime members Shelley (guitar/vocals) and Steve Diggle (guitar/vocals), along with Chris Remmington (bass) and Danny Farrant (drums).
One of the pioneers of Punk music, they have now released their newest album entitled The Way, eight years after its predecessor, 2006’s Flat-Pack Philosophy. Despite being comprised of new materials, the band’s latest offering has the power to take its listeners back to their authentic Punk sound. The band seems to have accomplished this by naturally maintaining the distinct sonic characteristics of their music—enough dirtiness and sharpness of the rhythm guitars, simple yet infectious guitar adlibs, steady basslines, straightforward but not too aggressive drumbeats, and the combination of Shelley’s mid-pitched and melody-oriented lead vocals and Diggle’s ’60s Pop influenced backing vocals. This has become the band’s trademark vocal styling since co-founding member and original vocalist Howard Devoto left the group in 1977, very early in the group’s history.
Released in November 2014 via 1-2-3-4 Records, The Way opens with the catchy “Keep on Believing,” whose title alone is a perfect call for the band’s longtime fans. The melody of “People Are Strange Machines” is reminiscent of The Ramones, whereas “The Way” is a blend of Sex Pistols-like vocals and The Clash-esque grooves. “In the Back” has a memorable opening guitar hook, and the timbre of the vocals will remind fans of the New Wave sound of The Psychedelic Furs. “Virtually Real” has a sinister-sounding introductory interlude whose dark and sinister mood that is maintained throughout the song. “Chasing Rainbows/Modern Times” will not be out of place on a playlist that includes The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop” and “Chinese Rock” and Public Image Ltd.’s “Open and Revolving.” The second-to-the-last song, “It’s Not You,” will interest fans of ’90s Alternative Rock who are familiar with the band Senseless Things. Finally, the tenth and last track, “Saving Yourself,” is a fitting album closer—introspective lyrics, relatively slower tempo, and relaxed drum and rhythm section.
The Way is a solid and thick-sounding collection of typically short songs—a fullness afforded by the current technology and techniques in recording. This is perhaps the only primary thing that sets it apart from the band’s early albums, whose contents were unsurprisingly tinny-sounding. After all, the tinny sound is a marked quality of many Punk albums released in the 1970s through the early ’80s. But it should not be regarded as an essential component of Punk (or any genre of music, for that matter), unless the band is specifically aiming for a low-fidelity sound production—fine examples would be some of the works of Young Marble Giants, Pavement, and Guided by Voices. Many Punk Rock purists might see the full and tight sound of the new Buzzcocks album as a sellout; however, to listeners who could hear the beauty of music way beyond such trivial and shallow complaints, The Way is an archetypal Punk album. It proudly carries not only the Pop sensibilities and indomitable spirit of old Buzzcocks but also the essence of a classic Punk Rock gambit. The Way is a worthy addition to the band’s discography and to the archives of the entire Punk genre. CrypticRock gives this album 4 out of 5 stars.