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Buzzcocks

Liquid Room, Edinburgh
3 stars
Without Buzzcocks, independent music as we know it would never have happened. Having self-released their Spiral Scratch EP in 1977 and inspired Manchester’s entire music scene by putting The Sex Pistols on, once original vocalist Howard Devoto left, Pete Shelley and co subverted the charts with a rush of fractured two minute romances, then promptly split up. Since reforming in 1989, five albums of equally brisk material have seen Buzzcocks outlast Baggy, Grunge and Brit-pop. Now with every skinny-jeaned desperado suddenly fighting their own make-believe punk wars, this 30th anniversary tour is a teenage middle-aged dream come true.

Shelly and fellow original member Steve Diggle, now accompanied by bassist Tony Barber and drummer Danny Farrant, don’t, however, immediately head for the hits. Instead, they dot back and forth through more recent material, suggesting this is more than mere nostalgia. Nevertheless, Shelley’s two-tone green shirt based on the sleeve of their 1978 paean to unrequited lust, What Do I Get?, lets on why we’re here.

Shelley and Diggle are an odd partnership, Shelley’s understated deadpan camp offset by Diggle’s cheeky-chappie playing to the gallery and determination to whoop over his back catalogue. Such differences are reflected in their respective song-writing and vocal styles. Where Shelley is brisk and barbed on Love You More, Diggle’s demeanour is an eager-to-please pub mod plod.

There was never anything subtle about Buzzcocks, and the roots of the entire C86 movement can be heard in You Say You Don’t Love Me. While Shelley accidentally invests the chorus of Time’s Up with the melody of Nelly Furtado’s Maneater, most of the set points to pre-punk power-pop. Utterly underwhelmingly now in other words, in an old-fashioned workmanlike turn sprinkled with pop glory.

The Herald, November 26th 2007

ends

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