Another shedload of post-classic Buzzcocks live material from the archive. As usual, Cherry Red do the honours.
Release Date: 22nd January 2021
Label: Cherry Red Records
Format: 6CD Box Set
We may have invented a new genre there. Someone must have used ‘Post-classic’ before to refer to the period which a band goes through after their most revered era. For Buzzcocks that was, should you be unaware, in the punk period of the late Seventies when Another Music From A Different Kitchen, Love Bites and A Different Kind Of Tension saw Pete Shelley’s songwriting nouse come to the fore amidst the filth and the fury.
This new set of live recordings comes very much tied to the Sell You Everything set that tells the story from the tudio (our review). It covers a fair old stretch too. Twenty-seven years worth although you could knock off a decade with the handful of only seven tracks from 2015/6 sessions. So to the logistics. The post-reformation delivers five live shows and thirty-two BBC session tracks. A total of 137 tracks, 83 classed in the ‘previously unreleased’ bracket including the 1996 Finsbury Park set where the Buzzcocks were on the bill for the Pistols’ return. Steve Diggle has a hand in the compilation including the short booklet with brief band and fan recollections.
Inevitably, in comparison with the studio polish on Sell You Everything, Late For The Train is prone to some variation in the recording quality and it has to be said, the performances too, but we can roll out the excuse that it’s all punk innit?
Of course, Shelley and Diggle still in there as we first travel back to Birmingham in 1989 where everyone in the crowd is probably just glad to be there listening to the lads doing a set built around their seventies heyday. No complaints to be fair and as a historical document rather than a definitive statement, it stands up. At one time you might hear a lo-fi cassette copy blaring out at a record fair stall somewhere. Heritage or nostalgia? Who knew at the time although, with Trade Test Transmissions set to appear in 1993, there was some life in the old dog. The crowd is in decent voice and this one probably sounds like what you’d hear if you were there. Plus the brief halt in Orgasm Addict due to the kind person who’s “gobbed in my eye!”
Songs from the comeback album, Trade Test Transmissions, appear in a 23 song set from Worcester in 1993. One that gives some hope that picking up where they left off-ish is a genuine possibility. A buzz and commitment to the new material and a slightly beefier recording with very upfront vocals that reveal a few not-quite-spot-on harmonies.
Paris 1995 where the recording is of much higher quality and a better balance – making the most of a time when the band were still firing and a souvenir would have been the cherry on the cake. Another I Don’t Mind opens the set, which I can live with. To be fair, they sound pretty impressive (pretty powerful too) and with new songs and old songs vying for attention, you can barely spot the joins. The brief set from the Pistols Finsbury Park support gig in 1996 mixes the old and the new, reminding the crowd who they were and what they’re doing now. All Set providing the update although the quality is distinctly for the hardcore….
The show from The Forum, London in 2006 has been previously released as 30 by Cooking Vinyl so not a necessity although bridges the gap as we move into the 21st century. A couple more studio sets under the belt though and a chance to appreciate how they transfer to the live setting. Having said that only one song from Flatpack Philosophy makes the cut on a set that veers towards the retrospective, career-spanning philosophy. As the foursome crack into You Tear Me Up the thrash drums could easily pass for Motorhead – just replace the Shelly whine with the Lemmy growl. It’s typical of a fast and furious set. Not surprising then that they get through a Springsteen-esque 28 songs.
A shame there’s no souvenir of their Cropredy appearance in 2009….. Buzzcocks warm up the Friday night folk audience for Steve Winwood…
The 1993-2016 period is also covered in BBC sessions for Mark Riley, Mark Radcliffe and Jakki Brambles. So for Buzzcocks At The BBC, try not to automatically head for the hits that were bound to put in an appearance. With that in mind, the live in the studio nature of the disc might be the draw for the more casual fans for whom the scratchy and patchy nature of the live recordings might be of lesser appeal and a more challenging listen.
Interesting it is too, to observe the consistency from 1993 and 1994 and then a decade on to 2006, 2015 and the 6Music Festival of 2016 where you’ll get – Boredom and Ever Fallen In Love. Yet to be fair, the latter sessions delve into deeper cuts and alongside Shelley and Diggle, Chris Remington and Danny Farant, the new-ish boys in the rhythm section add their own vim and vigour to proceedings.
Have Buzzcocks joined the ranks of the heritage acts or should we be grateful that those who carry the name are still interested in making music? There may be some differences of opinion amidst the fanbase, suffice to say that Buzzcocks have earned their place amongst the Manchester legends.
Boredom live from Blackpool Winter Gardens in 1996: