BUZZCOCKS: ALL SET (1996)
1) Totally From The Heart; 2) Without You; 3) Give It To Me; 4) Your Love; 5) Point Of No Return; 6) Hold Me Close; 7) Kiss 'n' Tell; 8) What Am I Supposed To Do; 9) Some Kinda Wonderful; 10) What You Mean To Me; 11) Playing For Time; 12) Pariah; 13) Back With You.
They went to Green Day's producer for this one — not particularly auspicious, but, fortunately, this was more of a nice gesture than a humiliating desire to start learning from their own disciples. Essentially, All Set is just Trade Test Transmissions Vol. 2, but a wee bit better on most accounts: songwriting, production, diversity — as if The Buzzcocks 2.0 were slowly, but surely coming into their own and learning to adapt and to remember what it used to be like in this much more modern world of the mid-Nineties.
The main problem still remains: most of the songs have the same style and the same topic — with just a few exceptions, it's all rather sterotypical power pop about love, with a very very tiny punk angle blinking red from time to time. I mean, just look at the song titles — how much lower can you get than when you go from ʽSome Kinda Wonderfulʼ to ʽWhat You Mean To Meʼ? I want some anger, goddammit! Has it really been that long since they last thought of all the women on Earth as scurvy treacherous bitches? Have they mellowed out so much that even Big Brother and The System are no longer regarded as even a minor threat? For God's sake, the album ends with a pseudo-orchestrated love anthem that's... more Styx than the Buzzcocks (ʽBack With Youʼ)! This is 1996 — who needs all these good vibrations when Y2K is approaching?
Just kidding, of course, but again, the serious implication is that, while the album as such has a certain face, few of the individual songs have one. They do have hooks — ʽTotally From The Heartʼ opens the proceedings on a very positive note, funnier, sweeter, and less openly stupid than ʽDo Itʼ did last time around: nice conclusive resolution with the title and all, as the song's romantic chivalry is delivered at top speed over that good old chainsaw buzz. Problem is, way too many tunes that follow are based on the same chords, moods, and subjects. They deviate from the trodden path on ʽPoint Of No Returnʼ, with metaphysical lyrics that can have multiple interpretations and a less-than-usual journey from threatening verses to anthemic chorus; on the I-can't-find-my-way-home complaint of ʽWhat Am I Supposed To Doʼ; and on ʽPariahʼ, which is a musical return to one of their favorite musical patterns (the bolero, this time, however, somewhat mashed together with the Bo Diddley beat), although sounds kinda ugly to me.
And it is a big problem — you could throw the individual hooks of these songs' choruses in my face all day long and I'd never notice when something different hit me. The thing is, no, they don't really need to go for musical diversity, but at least a little more thematic diversity would be nice, since it might have automatically led them to musical diversity as well. At their best, the Buzzcocks could shoot off in all sorts of directions — good love, bad love, no love, sexual frustration, social disappointment, and sometimes even plain absurdity. Here, they just continue to push in one direction, flogging that horse until it's black and blue all over. It begins okay, but eventually becomes tedious — so, perhaps, it would just be best to take this stuff one song at a time, the «time» in question being the short gap that is sufficient to make you forget the previous song ever existed. (And that, of course, applies to so much more than late era Buzzcocks).