Everything about Buzzcocks’ 1978 debut is right.
David Quantick 2010-07-20
Often dismissed at the time as a uniform, dull and oiky movement, punk rock threw up, sometimes almost literally, an immense variety of bands, from the 60s psychedelica of The Stranglers and the RnB of The Jam, to the icy noir of Siouxsie and the Banshees and the luminous plastic satire of X-Ray Spex. But most inventive of all were Buzzcocks, who began with the cheapo Steve Harley-esque sneer of Howard Devoto but, when he left, turned into the greatest world-weary but somehow innocent punk pop group.
The term “perfect pop” is misused to hell, because it’s mostly applied to bands that never went near the charts; but Buzzcocks were pop, in that they consistently had top 20 singles. In Pete Shelley – angelic, sexually ambiguous, eyebrow-raised – they had one of the best songwriters of the time, and in Steve Diggle – loud, mod, a bit barky – they had his perfect foil, and a man also capable of great songwriting.
Another Music in a Different Kitchen was their debut album. Everything about it – from its silver, orange-lettered sleeve to Martin Rushent’s aluminium-sheen production – is right. The songs are all brilliant pop tunes in the classic style, but with lyrics whose doomed romanticism would put John Lennon to shame, and the kind of riffs that only a Stooges and T.Rex fan could write. From I Don’t Mind’s woozy declaration that “reality’s a dream” to Sixteen’s stentorian “And I hate modern music! Disco! Boogie! Pop!”, Another Music… was as melodic as pop has ever been and as honest and real as any plaid-faced grunge act.
Best of all, it wasn’t just a set of songs: it was an album. Upgrading and referencing the Spiral Scratch EP’s Boredom as bookends to the whole thing, Another Music… mixed Shelley’s remakes of Devoto lyrics (Fast Cars being a standout) with new brilliance like I Don’t Mind. Diggle added one of Buzzcocks’ greatest songs, the motorik genius of Autonomy. And the whole thing finales with punk’s greatest end-of-side-two track, the epic Moving Away From the Pulsebeat, which still sounds like nothing else ever recorded. It’s my favourite album ever; buy it and find out why.