BUZZCOCKS: MODERN (1999)
1) Soul On A Rock; 2) Rendezvous; 3) Speed Of Life; 4) Thunder Of Hearts; 5) Why Compromise; 6) Don't Let The Car Crash; 7) Runaround; 8) Doesn't Mean Anything; 9) Phone; 10) Under The Sun; 11) Turn Of The Screw; 12) Sneaky; 13) Stranger In Your Town; 14) Choices.
No, it isn't very modern, to tell the truth. Yes, it begins with an electronic loop, which makes it, I guess, about as modern as 1978 or 1979, when those things came into popular prominence — so now what, the Buzzcocks are trying to catch up with twenty-year old New Wave fashions? Is this irony or stupidity, or one trying to masquerade as the other? I am not saying that the addition of synthesizers specifically makes this music worse than it would be otherwise; actually, it just... makes no difference whatsoever.
Third time in a row, the new-look Buzzcocks come out with a perfectly listenable, reasonable record that is thoroughly and utterly lacking in excitement — even if they seem to be doing everything in their power to rectify the situation. The songs get more diverse, the melodies are being carefully and meticulously designed with attention to hooks, the choruses are supposed to be catchy, but the album as a whole is a yawnfest. I wish I could single out even one song and surround it with a paragraph of humble praise, but this stuff is so slick, every single tune just slides out of my graps like a piece of wet soap.
I'll take a negative example instead: ʽWhy Compromise?ʼ, a song that is supposed to pack some anger and frustration, but its stiff production — the mechanic, compressed guitar sound, the stupid electronic percussion, the nasty robotic vocals — deprives it of any signs of life, leaving a worthless corpse of a song. With the happy tunes here, the situation is not much different either: they all sound dead on arrival. As if this weren't a true Buzzcocks album, but rather an album programmed by automatons who have been machine-taught to formally imitate the Buzzcocks. Even the fast tempos no longer help. Nothing helps. Nothing!
Okay, so maybe the actual problem is with the vocal hooks. They just do not have the appeal of old. When Shelley howls "My soul on a rock, I know what I feel, my soul on a rock, it hurts cause it's real", he is simply being inadequate — there is no actual hurt felt in that chorus, and I am totally not sure that he really knows what he feels. At least, he has no way of letting me know what he feels. Just remember something like "what do I get? oh-whoah, what do I get?", now that was a chorus that had real emotion, and you could feel a jolt of hurt and disappointment from that simple, well-executed line. These lines have no emotional content; nor do the riffs. It's amazing, really, how fleeting this old thing called «inspiration» can be.
Afraid am I that, where its two predecessors at least had a few hints at former greatness, Modern is the firzt Buzzcocks album that simply deserves a plain old thumbs down. They tried throwing in additional sonic textures, some genre diversity, and they just ended up with no memorable or meaningful songs whatsoever.