I am not a fan of the Buzzcocks. They are way too far on the pop side of the pop punk spectrum for me. (Yes, going by that, it’s safe to assume I don’t like pop punk.) I acknowledge their importance in the evolution of punk and particularly in pop punk, but I would just rather listen to every other first wave UK punk band instead.
But that being said, this record really surprised me. It feels like it is leaps and bounds more sophisticated than their debut at every level.
The songs are more diverse than on the debut, which is pretty typical of a second punk album around this time but here I really notice it. On a number of songs, it’s just a little less clear that these guys are the first pop punk band – or second, depending upon how you feel about the Ramones – and rather they sound like they are caught somewhere between punk and British new wave. I like new wave more than pop punk, so…
I think Shelley’s lyrics have improved too, but I’m not sure whether or not that’s true because I didn’t play much attention to his lyrics on the debut. He’s not the greatest writer but he’s certainly much better than the average punk lyricist. One example of where he could do better is “Nostalgia,” a song where he explicitly tells us something that David Bowie has sung about many times without explicitly telling us. Show don’t tell.
The arrangements also feel more diverse and more sophisticated than they did on the debut. This is particularly surprising given how quick this album came out after the debut. What I suppose happened is that the debut came out late – something like a year plus after their debut EP – and they were already working on these songs when it came out. But who knows? Either way, I think they just sound better.
This is probably going to end up being my favourite Buzzcocks album whether or not I listen to any more. For me, it’s clearly the best of the first three, even if it’s not as important as the debut. I still don’t love the band, but if I had to listen to an album, it would be this one.