If you're thinking you just saw a bunch of Buzzcocks reissues, you're right. These three, of the band's first three albums under their original lineup, were released in 2008 in the UK. Now they've gotten a US release via Mute and they are identical—and that is to say, they are humongous and contain just about every known Buzzcocks recording from the period known to man.
Another Music in a Different Kitchen was their first LP, out after debut single "Orgasm Addict." The album introduced everyone outside of Manchester to the sound of cranked electric guitars plying a precise, almost mechanical sound that was like a mix of Krautrock and punk rock. The band formed after seeing the Sex Pistols play their hometown—by the next Pistols gig, Buzzcocks were on the bill as local support. "Fast Cars" opens the LP, then flips by "Sixteen," "I Don't Mind," "Autonomy" (my fave here) and ends with the epic "Moving Away from the Pulsebeat," which revisits the opening cut (sort of). The singles are also included on disc 1, along with their first Peel Session. Disc 2 adds 14 demo recordings, and a recording of one of their first shows, at the Electric Circus from October '77. Liner notes are provided by journalist and one of their biggest fans, Jon Savage.
Next album was Love Bites, which continued in the same vein (not surprising, since it wasn't even a year later). Alongside the album's great cuts, like "Ever Fallen in Love" (later remade by Fine Young Cannibals) and "Nothing Left," two more singles are included ("Love You More" and "Promises"), plus tracks from three more Peel Sessions, 13 demos, and a recording of a show at the Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall.
By the time their third and greatest album, A Different Kind of Tension, came out in 1979, the band had loosened up some, but their basic sound was still that of a spring about to be sprung. It was also their last, in the band's first life, and one where their songs started to deal with subjects other than love and lies. Opening with "Paradise" but then moving through "Sitting Round at Home," "I Don't Know What to Do with My Life" and "Hollow Inside," you get the feeling that Pete Shelley, Steve Diggle and company are starting to question things about their sudden fame and the shapes their lives have taken. "I Believe" is the closer (not counting a short snippet called "Radio Nine"), and it's the perfect song to cap things off. Shelley runs through a litany of things that he believes in, and as he progresses he begins to rattle off the opposites of what he believes in. Pretty soon these things and their opposites collide into each other and the reality of the modern world knocks you on your ass. Beautiful. (The package features more singles, including the final Parts 1-3 45s, more demos, and a couple more Peel Sessions.)
If ever there was a major punk band who didn't get the kudos they deserve, it's Buzzcocks. While they weren't as good at rallying and razzing the press as the Pistols, Clash or Damned, they had a sound all their own and like another more famous band from the North, they were prolific as hell. Amazing reissues, these are, making the Product box set surplus as well as your Singles Going Steady album or CD (although you'll have to switch CDs many times to get the songs in the right order). Still, there are a few complaints. This is Marsh Gooch reviewing here, after all. First, the booklets are really thin, with great notes by Savage but hardly any of the trailblazing graphics that Malcolm Garrett did for all of the band's releases. Second, the band's debut release, Spiral Scratch, is missing in action. Very minor complaints! These US reissues are incredibly affordable, too, so why not treat yourself to a trio of tantalizing takes on modern rock by Manchester's fab four?
4/5 (Kitchen), 3/5 (Bites), 5/5 (Tension) (Mute US, EMI UK)