...provides a crucial link between the real roots of English punk and what was to follow.
Chris Jones 2007-04-18
While many people have erroneously claimed to have attended the Sex Pistols’ infamous lesser Free Trade hall gig in Manchester in 1976 one thing’s definitely for sure – Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto were both there. We know because they invited them there after seeing them in London, and while they didn’t get their band, the Buzzcocks, together until the Pistols’ second gig in Manchester, they were maybe the first act to have their horizons and possibilities opened up by punk’s first stuttering steps. In their wake they not only released an EP, Spiral Scratch, but they did it on their own label; New Hormones. It was possibly the first true independent label of the era. Within this initial rush of creativity the band recorded a whole album’s worth of demos. This included all four songs later to make up the Spiral Scratch EP as well as much of the material that would comprise the band’s first album proper – Another Music In A Different Kitchen.
By the time the album was released the singer, Devoto, had long fled, first to return to education and thence to form post-punk wunderkinds; Magazine. So how did Shelley and Devoto take their first steps as chroniclers of modern romance and post-industrial angst? Time’s Up is that rare artefact; a piece of work that was never meant for human consumption and yet it provides a crucial link between the real roots of English punk and what was to follow. On one hand we have Shelley’s penchant for seemingly simple love songs that come with barbed sarcasm (“Friends Of Mine” and ” Love battery”) and on the other Devoto’s odes to ennui as a truly modern condition (“Boredom”, “Time’s Up”, “Breakdown”. ) We also get early versions of the wry look at onanism that is “Orgasm Addict’ and Devoto’s first attempt at re-tooling Captain Beefheart’s “I Love You, You Big Dummy”.
Whereas Shelley was prone to cite krautrock as an influence, Devoto would name check Dostoesvsky. It was a doomed partnership from the start, but this document captures a brief period where snarling Gibsons and brutally basic drums were the perfect soundtrack to a generation that had fallen out of love with itself. Great things were to follow: Shelley to become a pop craftsman and Devoto an alchemist of brooding middle European existentialism and prog. But everything starts here…