Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Buzzcocks - "A Different Compilation"

A Different Compilation
(Cooking Vinyl, 2011)


Pete Shelley: “The original records now sound like demos. These new versions, honed by years on the road, showcase the songs as we know they should be, the way we know audiences love to hear them.”

Steve Diggle: “What were songs of sophisticated innocence are now songs of experience. ‘Harmony In My Head’ and ‘Why She’s A Girl From The Chainstore’ now have a full panoramic view!”


Founding Buzzcocks Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle have taken their most popular songs over the last 30+ years and not just remastered or updated or played them live; rather, they've gone back to the studio to rerecord their back catalogue to showcase what the songs sound like now as played by the contempo 'cocks: Shelley, Diggle, bassist (and Steve Winwood lookalike) Chris Remmington and drummer Danny Farrant.

That said, I always thought Buzzcocks got it right the first time round - the songs represented here are as good as it gets in terms of punk-pop music and lyrically the sonnets of Manchester's Shelley are always reliably clever when they're not being downright brilliant (typical verbal gem from "Whatever Happened To?": "Your emotions are a compact case you carry") - leading to the inevitable question: Why buy these songs again?

The answer is twofold. The main reason to buy A Different Compilation (the first new Buzzcocks release since 2006's Flat-Pack Philosophy) is to experience what a Buzzcocks concert 30+ years later sounds like - which is still GREAT! All the excitement of a live show recorded with today's technology. Pete's voice is basically the same and Diggle's guitarmanship has only gotten better, and both guitars are beefed up with that Green Day Dookie-wall-of-sound metallic k.o. that kids today totally dig. The second reason is, well, this really is a different kind of compilation, one in which the "older, wiser" 'cocks can offer variations on their time-tested themes. An added riff here (like the wacka-wacka backbeat strumming on "Why Can't I Touch It?"), an extended solo there (e.g., "I Believe"). Even Buzzcocks tire of playing their greatest hits the same way every night and variety, that spice of life, keeps it interesting for them as well.

Steve Diggle gets to showcase seven of his songs, as well as two collaborations with Shelley ("Promises," "Fast Cars"), including adding a little Stuart Adamson-flavored electric guitar riff to the mostly acoustic closer "Love Is Lies," which makes it sound now like a Big Country song. The new recording of "Why She's a Girl From the Chainstore" is particularly inspired, while the beefed up guitars in "Autonomy" and "Harmony In My Head" lend these hard-rocking Diggle ditties a Wagnerian sturm und drang epic-ness. And the rerecording of "Alive Tonight" (the song celebrating "armchair groovers"!) marks at least the third time Diggle's recorded this one (it was originally released on 1991's Alive Tonight EP as a Stone Roses-influenced slice of neo-psychedelia, followed by the grunged-up 1993 Trade Test Transmissions album version).

And then there's Shelley's masterpiece "I Believe." The last "great" single from the (1978-1980) golden era Buzzcocks is here turned into a virtual set-closing jam session, with Diggle and Shelley's guitars duking it out for an extended three minute solo, with Chris Remmington and Danny Farrant both getting solos as well. That's new and certainly worth hearing - I would have made it the last song on the CD, but Diggle's acoustic "Love Is Lies" works well as a catch-you-breath cooldown after I Believe"'s guitar workout, kind of like The Beatles's "Her Majesty" on Abbey Road.

My only quibble with the compilation is the absence of a decent recording of my fave Buzzcocks song "Times Up," which was one of the four original recordings released on their 1977 Spiral Scratch EP. But two other spiral scratches, "Breakdown" and "Boredom," are showcased here and have never sounded better.

Finally, no dis to Danny Farrant, but listening to this set also reminded me that there's no substitute for original drummer John Mayer. Danny Farrant is an excellent drummer, but John Mayer is arguably one of the top 5 rock drummers of all-time, one who seemed to have an extra gear when it came to lightning-fast rolls. I think he may even have had an extra limb or two that gave him the ability to beat out that extra measure in Buzzcocks songs. Still, he's gone and Farrant is probably as good a sub as possible.

The songs:
1. Boredom
2. Fast Cars
3. I Don't Mind
4. Autonomy
5. Get On Our Own
6. What Ever Happened To?
7. When Love Turns Around You
8. Why She's A Girl From The Chainstore
9. Why Can't I Touch It?
10. Alive Tonight
11. I Don't Know What To Do With My Life
12. You Say You Don't Love Me
13. Turn Of The Screw
14. Noise Annoys
15. Breakdown
16. Promises
17. Love You More
18. What Do I Get?
19. Harmony In My Head
20. Oh Shit!
21. Ever Fallen In Love (with Someone You Shouldn't've)?
22. Orgasm Addict
23. I Believe
24. Love Is Lies

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comments on the "new" material. Listening to DCOT is like being hooked to a live wire. Especially liked your comment about the original drummer...the guy is just unreal on that album.

11:56 PM  
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2:43 PM  

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