BUZZCOCKS: BUZZCOCKS (2003)
1) Jerk; 2) Keep On; 3) Wake Up Call; 4) Friends; 5) Driving You Insane; 6) Morning After; 7) Sick City Sometimes; 8) Stars; 9) Certain Move; 10) Lester Sands; 11) Up For The Crack; 12) Useless; 13) Don't Come Back; 14) Not Gonna Take It.
At this point, very few people should actually care already, but for formality's sake, let us admit that this is somewhat different. Entering the 21st century with a self-titled record (usually a symbol of «artistic rebooting»), Buzzcocks seem clearly influenced by the «neo-garage» Strokes-led explosion, and this prompts a serious change of style — harsher, louder, dirtier, angrier, and without a single trace of whatever made Modern so irritating for hardcore veterans (like the cautious and largely useless toying around with electronic instruments). There's a higher level of social awareness here, too, and far fewer happy pop choruses than there used to be.
If that alone doesn't sound like good news already... nothing else will, I'm afraid. These new songs really aren't much better written than whatever there was on the past three albums. If anything, the good news are also the bad news: there are some powerful, impressive bits of riffage here, but it's mostly second- and third-hand riffage borrowed from hard rock, metal, and punk legacy of the previous two decades. And I don't just mean routine stuff like the ʽBlitzkrieg Bopʼ chord sequence: ʽDriving You Insaneʼ, for instance, rips off Deep Purple's ʽHighway Starʼ rather blatantly, while a few other songs sneak inside Lemmy's backyard.
That said, original (and good) melodies on 21st century rock albums are scarcer than hen's teeth anyway, so the question about whether Buzzcocks is of any value should be rephrased thus — are they capable of breathing any sort of new / exciting / modern life into these old melodies? Of this, I am not sure. As an example, take ʽMorning Afterʼ. Its chorus is catchy, especially if you hear it one too many times (not a difficult task: "wake up, and face the morning after" is hammered in your brain at a very steady rate). But its emotional impact is less clear — is it anger? Is it an exhortation? Is it humor? So it's a song about... a hangover. How exactly does a furious punk-rock tempo and an anthemic refrain connect to the idea of a hangover? Normally, when somebody shouts at you to "wake up!" in a loud rock song, it's about changing the world, feeding starving African children, booting Republicans out of the office, or at least buying the collected works of William Blake and a pair of leather pants. What sort of a jerk would do that to you if you were the victim of a "switch to double brandies"? Something does not add up here.
And that's just one of the many examples — these songs, by all means, should get me all riled up, but they do not, because it is hard to believe that the guys really believe in this stuff themselves. The album gets caught in a deadly gap between seriousness and parody, and there's nothing I can do about that: the songs are perfectly listenable, but boring. Maybe they're angrier, but they don't seem to have any genuine reasons for being angry. Which is why I'd rather dump this and recommend you some Art Brut instead — at least those guys never pretended not to be tongue-in-cheek post-modernists. Or, if you want a really old punk band that still has it (or had it), take the Adolescents — their anger had never abated, and resulted in a series of late period albums that weren't too great, but far more empathetic than this stuff. Bottomline: if you want to toughen it up, that's fine by me, but first you gotta find out why exactly you're toughening it up. I mean, find a goddamn reason, like the Iraq War or Britney Spears or something. Complaining about hangovers? Gee, you guys must really be getting old.