I still listen to this record with disbelief.
While the Buzzcocks have released several new studio albums since their reformation in 1989, none of them managed to stand up to the sheer brilliance of the material collected on `79s "Singles Going Steady." By all conventional logic, the Buzzcocks were supposed to live out their years as a live act that plays old favourites to nostalgic, if not increasingly disinterested crowds. They weren't supposed unassumingly enter the studio and produce anything as exciting as their early singles.
They sure as hell were not supposed to actually grow and progress on it.
"Buzzcocks" is an incredibly solid record. I'll agree with other reviews I've read and say this album is self-titled to signify a band reborn. It's absolutely unprecedented for any group to release something 27 years after their debut that actually displays a progression in song writing and style. Once again it seems that Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle are on fire.
This year's model Buzzcocks lacks some of the jangle and spastic nervousness of the band that wrote "Orgasm Addict," but filling that void is a charging, full sound and a very fitting density. The lead single "Jerk" brings back Shelley's laments on damaged relationships, recast in more adult terms that carry surprising weight. One of the charms of "Buzzcocks" is that it brings back that sorely missed British punk snarl, especially on tracks like "Lester Sands" or "Useless." To it's infinite benefit this sound is made all more believable by very mature lyricism and musicianship that never once shows the band trying to relieve their youth. Age is a funny thing with this record, as an act whose main songwriters must be pushing 50 rocks harder than bands half their age.
Of particular note is the collaboration with founding band member Howard Devoto, who shares a co-writing credit with Shelley on "Stars" and "Lester Sands." The former being one of the albums most vicious tracks that matches up a huge guitar sound with incredibly clever lyricism. Diggle's melodic "Sick City Sometimes" is a (relatively) more sombre track that provides a perfect counterpoint to the album's more scathing attacks. "Keep On" has one of the most catchy and well-executed chorus' in recent memory. "Friends" does the same with verses that will be stuck in your head for weeks.
Quite simply, this is one of the best records of 2003. Any flaws seem transparent to me, especially when compared to the brilliance that shines through on so many of the songs. "Buzzcocks" is easily the most accomplished recording the band has made since "Singles Going Steady" more than 20 years ago.