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ShelleyDevoto Buzzkunst Review

Album. Released 2002.  

BBC Review's a piece of work that fits perfectly into the canon of both musicians and...

Chris Jones 2002

There's no denying the certain frisson that occurs when you see the two names on this album joined again. To put it all in historical context, Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto haven't worked together since 1976's Spiral Scratch EP by the Buzzcocks - oft regarded as punk's first single. Both men went on to carve significant careers in the post-punk landscape - Devoto with the inscrutable and groundbreaking Magazine, and Shelley with the Buzzcocks and as an advocate of pop electronica. Here at last is the consummation of Manchester's finest sons' early promise.

It's the work Shelley did on underrated classics such as Homo Sapiens which informs this timely release with its fantastic early eighties synth vibe. Drum machines clatter, bass moog lines burble and Devoto does his half-intone/half-sing thing with aplomb. The lyrics are suitably obtuse and playful, with just the right amount of post-industrial alienation to re-awaken that eastern block new wave spirit. Titles such as " Self-Destruction" and "Strain Of Bacteria" reflect the deliberately chilly outlook which made Magazine such a worthwhile antidote to the vagaries of the worst decade ever. The throbbing instrumental pieces ("God's Particle" is a stunner) recall the best work of what used to be termed "Art Music". Kunst indeed.

It really is as though time has stood still for these two ambassadors of glacial doom, and that's essentially a good thing. Many of their contemporaries would have approached this project as some sort of cringeingly inappropriate excuse to either appear relevant or rewrite history to their own advantage (an easy listening remake of "Boredom", with Robbie Williams on guest vocals anyone?). As such it's very good indeed to see these two men coming to terms with their age by not trying to match modern trends but by giving an exemplary demonstration of what they were, are and always will be good at.

All in all it's a piece of work that fits perfectly into the canon of both musicians and bursts with an enthusiasm born of simply wanting to make some kind of statement, not trade in on past glories. Stand-out tracks such as the punningly-titled "Stupid Kunst", and "So There I was", with its brooding tempo and intriguing voice-overs, prove that such seminal figures can still make vital living statements about the condition of living. We can only hope that this isn't a one-off. This is Kunst with a capital K.

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