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2 September 2010

Buzzcocks - 'Singles Going Steady' (I.R.S.)

What a great document of the maturation of Mr. Pete Shelley as a songwriter! But it's a parallel development of A-sides and B-sides, for Singles Going Steady is consistently steady, set up along two rails. One would think the A-sides would be more enjoyable but with such fucking great B-sides, this is a winner all around. Pop music reflects the concerns of its time and in early 1978 these Mancunians were whining about dissatisfaction and self-identification. But a slew of love songs makes this more bubblegum than the dark-tinged artwork would suggest at first glance. When Steve Diggle sings (on the wonderful 'Harmony in My Head' and 'Autonomy') it's a nice bit of gruff to contrast Shelley's croon. And at the very end we hear the progress towards monotonous 80s new wave in 'Why Can't I Touch It?' and 'Something's Gone Wrong Again', with their midtempo beats and chorus pedal flourishes. But it's mostly fast and energetic, which is why kids still dance their tits off to 'What Do I Get?' today. And acts like Jay Reatard (until recently) thrived with the same basic sound, only dumbed-down. Shelley is smart, both lyrically and in songcraft. The aforementioned 'What Do I Get?' (one of four interrogative song titles here) has this little upturn harmonising the last time round the verse and chorus. It's the perfect harmony to the main melody but Shelley is singing it alone, so you have to imagine. 'Ever Fallen in Love', 'Noise Annoys' and 'Promises' are three more gems that I just want to single out for being excellent songs. This is like the best one-artist mixtape imaginable, and that's why it's a shame I often forget to listen to these Buzzcocks records. I was in a record store a few years ago and I heard a current Buzzcocks album, and I can't say it sounded bad either - consistency is a virtue that these guys have been practicing for almost 35 years now. I've never checked out Pete Shelley's minimal synth solo albums but maybe it's about time.

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