It’s not uncommon to see a punk band squeeze out several albums of sheer greatness and then break up while at the height of its energy, preferring to burn out in a blaze of glory rather than fade away into embarrassing obscurity. Manchester, England’s the Buzzcocks certainly embodied this musical model, disbanding over a label dispute in 1981. Yet, against all odds, since reforming in 1989, the legendary band has continued to grow, evolve and –more importantly — produce vital music.
On its latest, self-titled album, due this week from revered independent label Merge, the band maintains every bit of the freshness it exhibited a quarter-century ago. Co-founder and guitarist/songwriter Pete Shelley laughingly attributes the longevity of the Buzzcocks’ career to an astoundingly simple philosophy: “We only do what we enjoy doing, [and] we don’t write songs that we don’t enjoy playing.”
Just like the band’s earliest days, Shelley describes “Buzzcocks” (produced by current bassist Tony Barber) as filled with “lots of hooks to hang your thoughts and feelings on.” Immediately evident from the opening bombast of “Jerk” is the undeniable chemistry between this version of the band, which also includes longtime guitarist/songwriter Steve Diggle and drummer Philip Barker. Whether it’s the squealing guitar snaking out of “Keep On,” or the fuzzy distortion decorating the hook-laden “Sick City Sometimes,” the set is a cohesive, unrelenting assault on the ears. “It works as an album,” Shelley agrees.
The Buzzcocks will open the final segment of Pearl Jam’s upcoming North American tour, beginning June 21 in East Troy, Wis.