Buzzcocks | Flat-Pack Philosophy (Cooking Vinyl)

Songwriters Shelley and Diggle have perfected their craft; these songs are lean mean pop-punk.  Every lyric is instantly catchy, every vocal melody flawless, every guitar lick perfectly placed.  

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Reunions have been spreading through the music world like wildfire of late, with long-defunct bands reuniting for comeback tours and comeback albums at an almost disturbing rate. The Pixies, Gang of Four, Mission of Burma, Big Star, Slint, Descendents, and Dinosaur Jr. are just some of the bands to burst back to life in the last few years, while the likes of the Sex Pistols, Kiss, and the Who periodically congeal for the occasional tour. Often times, the motivation for these reunions is solely to re-stuff the retirement coffers after too many years of the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle, which is why it’s so refreshing when a band reunites not to relive past glories but to reinvent and refine the music that made them worth listening to in the first place.

It’s easy to forget Manchester, England’s Buzzcocks in the sea of band reunions, likely because unlike the vast majority of these one-off affairs, the resurrection of the progenitors of pop-punk has been churning along with the same four members—singer/guitarists and founding members Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle and “new” members bassist Tony Barber and drummer Philip Barker—since 1989—over three times as long as the band’s first incarnation existed.

After an ill-conceived attempt to update their sound with 1999’s Modern, 2003’s self-titled LP found the band returning to their punk rock roots. Their fourth album since reforming, Flat-Pack Philosophy continues this trend and one-ups their past efforts, creating a consistently entertaining album from start to finish.

Thirty years after first forming the Buzzcocks, songwriters Shelley and Diggle have perfected their craft; these songs are lean, mean pop-punk. Every lyric is instantly catchy, every vocal melody flawless, every guitar lick perfectly placed. Rather than settling into a rut, Shelley and Diggle have refined their approach, improving on their past successes instead of repeating them. Barber’s production here is equally flawless and mostly hands-off, with the rather odd, extremely British disembodied voice of an automated grocery store checkout in “Credit” the only touch that’s outside of the band’s usual purvey.

Shelley is still the lovelorn fool of “Ever Fallen in Love?” but he approaches songs like “Wish I Never Loved You” with a more mature take than on classic songs like the band’s debut single, “Orgasm Addict.” There’s also plenty of social commentary present, especially on Diggle’s finer contributions (the anti-consumerism rant “Sell You Everything,” the pounding “Sound of a Gun”), but without the ham-fisted polemics that scare some people away from Bad Religion.

The Buzzcocks are no longer the fiery upstarts who created pop-punk three decades ago, but the quartet’s tightly constructed, flawless new album is proof positive that experience and craft can combine to create a perfect listening experience. Like a classic car with a finely tuned engine, the Buzzcocks may not have the bells and whistles of those who followed them, but they’ll take you where you want to go in style.

 

 

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