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2 September 2010

Buzzcocks - 'Time's Up (Featuring Howard Devoto)' (Smilin' Ears)

I never thought about this until I pulled out Time's Up, but bootlegs are another casualty of our digital Internet age. I know there's still semi-legitimate reissues going around, but that's not the same as when these were mass-produced and a serious source of revenue-theft. You can distribute anything, anytime, anyhow. I remember Pearl Jam's stunt releasing all of those live concerts from that one tour, which was only what, like 12 years ago? It feels like a million. Time's Up isn't a live recording though, but all of the studio sessions with Howard Devoto on vocals. This is a somewhat nastier, attitude-heavy Buzzcocks than when Pete Shelley totally takes over, but the title works because there's something timeless about these tunes. This particular bootleg of Time's Up is a beauty - the black and white cover gives away it's shadyness, and the "All Rights Reserved/All Wrongs Reversed" line on the back was stolen by Matador years later. Hooray for Smilin' Ears records of Valencia, Venezuela. This pretty much opens and closes the door on Howard Devoto in the Buzzcocks, I think, and it's been available in a zillion different ways and levels of legitimacy. This one is dirty sounding, as if the stolen master tapes were quickly pressed to vinyl and then returned. There's a few times the audio drops out -- more than a few times, really -- but this accentuates the edgy snarl of Devoto's pissy delivery. The famous Spiral Scratch tunes are here - 'Boredom', 'Orgasm Addict', etc. -- but it's the Sex Pistols-like dirges such as 'Drop in the Ocean' and 'Love Battery' that stand out the most to me. There's points when I wonder how much more ass-kicking this would sound if it was a decent mastering job, but in a way I like the Devoto era this way -- save the big sound for the next few records. It's dust on the stylus, but that's the sound -- the Northern dream, melted, and recalibrated through the lens of the time. Does 'Love Everybody's opening lyric of "I love you, big dummy" directly reference Beefheart? The guitar solo is pretty soaked in Zoot Horn Rollo so maybe that's that. The Buzzcocks were never one to quibble their approach; the strength is in the songwriting , the iconic anthems, and the 'tude. I'm actually more of a Magazine fan myself but that doesn't mean this is without merit. The final cut is also labeled as 'Boredom', but it's done in a retro 60's pop-psych style with bleeped lyrics - it sounds like a different band so I'm a bit curious what the deal is with this. But Smilin' Ears ain't exactly reknowned for their liner notes. And it's only listed on the sleeve, not the label, so we'll have to keep wondering about it.

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