Share A DIFFERENT COMPILATION - Buzzcocks (Cooking Vinyl/Shock)
In short, I tried it just once, found it all right for kicks but unfortunately this won't prove to be a habit that sticks. The artistic vision here is a simple one. Take your greatest hits and re-record them.
It's not a new idea. In the '60s and '70s many bands (or the one or two surviving members still flogging the dead horse in question) wandered into German or Dutch recording studios to pump out so-called greatest hits compilations for unheard of Continental labels. It was usually a way to get out from under the tyranny of disinterested former labels and score some drinking money on the side. I have a particularly vile alleged Yardbirds CD entitled "For Your Love" that sounds like Karaoke dregs night at your local RSL club. I have a version of someone claiming to be the Sweet performing "Ballroom Blitz" in the style of the guys who come to pick up your dustbin at 3am on a Tuesday morning. Given previous experiences, I expected the worst.
Don't get me wrong. There is nothing inherently wrong with this disc. In the attached Press Release, the band say they just want to demonstrate what three decades of touring can do in terms of honing a song. The content delivers on the packaging as read. There are some magnificent versions of Buzzcocks songs to be heard on this record. The trouble is that there is nothing here that makes you forget the original versions. Those wobbly vinyl slabs of yore tower above this disc; ghost peaks impossible to conquer. You will not throw out your original discs when you listen to this. You will not marvel at the radical reinterpretations because little has been done in terms of reinterpretation. This is not - say – John Cale reinventing "I'm Waiting for My Man" in yet another interesting way for the 17th time. This is meat and potatoes. Roll Tape. One. Two. Three. Four. And all power to them for that.
You will nod with interest and tap your toes. The musicianship is tighter. The recordings are cleaner but tilt away from pop towards rock. The drum accents pound each song's every nuance within an inch of its life. I think there are more crash cymbal hits on this disc than in any recording by any band in the course of human history. I'd have to check with the Guinness Book of Records but it'll be a close run thing. If you stick this on your iPod, you'll have a case of tinnitus just waiting to happen.
But this is not how I personally want to remember the Buzzcocks. I don't need this update to new software. I want to remember the thrashing guitars and discordant non-linear solos of the "Time's up/Spiral Scratch" sessions. I want to remember the frantic adolescent pop fury of "Ever fallen in love (with someone you shouldn't have fallen in Love with)" and that incredible run of UK chart singles. I want to remember puny foppish little men trying really hard to smash their guitars at the Lyceum in London (but failing due to lack of mannish bravado and the ability to lift said instruments over their heads). That was a sight that put a big old smile on my face.
In the end, after listening to this, you will wonder why you'd try to fix what wasn't actually broken. There are swings and roundabouts here. Pete Shelley's voice has held up well to the test of time. He has also learnt to sing a counter melody to avoid the notes he can't hit square on. Steve Diggle has fared less well, now sounding like a Mancunian Steptoe. The drums now sound like Led Zeppelin (sans off-beats) and the guitars chug professionally. Whilst a song like "Autonomy" gains a sweeping panorama from this treatment, "Boredom" becomes just another punk song desperately in need of editing and amphetamine. "Ever fallen in Love" gains the kind of poignancy that only comes with age and all its accompanied loss (though perhaps this is more through reality than design).
Unfortunately, tales of adolescent romantic angst do not all age so well. Thanks to the decline in Diggle's voice, "Why She's a Girl From The Chainstore" now sounds like a filthy middle aged ped chatting up a checkout chick who's younger than his daughter.
So, here's the score. You should feel free to buy this as a live souvenir to the last Buzzcocks gig you went to. You should listen to it once out of idle curiosity. It is not a major disappointment as a standalone object. Whilst fans of original vocalist Howard Devoto might well look down their noses in contempt, this is an interesting experiment and completists don't need me to tell them any differently. There is certainly little left of Devoto's insect like vision to be found in the Buzzcocks circa 2011. I myself will still go so far as to say that it rocks (but I kind of wish it rocked less and rolled more).
At the end of the day, you'll say to yourself "those guys have still got it". You will be absolutely right. You'll queue for tickets next time they hit your town. You'll pogo as much as the beer in your hand will allow. However, in the context of its history, you'd be far better off going to the nearest bargain bin and fishing out the 10 dollar cheapo singles collection entitled "Singles – going steady". It has just about the same song list only it sounds much better. When you're driving down to see the band, that's the disc you'll throw in the stereo – not this. - Bob Short
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