It’s been eight years since the Buzzcocks’ last studio album (Flat-Pack Philosophy), and The Way shows them to be in fine form, with their own special brand of poppy punk/punky pop as honed as ever. Founding member and guitarist Pete Shelley remains on hand to hold down the fort, along with Steve Diggle, who only misses out on being a founding member by a few months (Diggle joined the band on bass, but has since switched to guitar). The album marks the debut of Chris Remmington on bass; drummer Danny Farrant has been with the Buzzcocks since 2006.
The Buzzcocks don’t belong to the 21st century, and they would probably be the first to tell you that. These boys belong to an era of fast cars and loud guitars, of radio singles and B-sides played at 45 revolutions per minute. Never has this been more apparent than on The Way, the Buzzcocks’ ninth studio album and sixth since they reformed in 1989.
For their ninth studio record, revered English punk outfit Buzzcocks turned to their fans to fund the project through a PledgeMusic campaign. The label-free move is an interesting one, considering their importance in the emergence of pop-punk and independent labels over a nearly 30-year career. Label or no, The Way is very much a record for the dedicated Buzzcocks fan, as opposed to someone approaching it with fleeting interest.Musically, most tracks on the disc have enough drive to make listeners briefly forget how old the aging punks actually are.
Keith Richards once opined that the worst part about being in the greatest rock & roll band in the world was you had to go on being the greatest rock & roll band in the world, and as the leaders of one of the best and most enduring acts in British punk, Steve Shelley and Steve Diggle probably have some sense of what Keef was talking about. Fully 36 years on from their debut album, the Buzzcocks clearly have no inclination to stop, but their 2014 studio effort, The Way, suggests this band is slowly but surely running out of gas, at least as far as writing and recording new material are concerned. Shelley and Diggle and their current rhythm section, bassist Chris Remington and drummer Danny Farrant, sound thoroughly professional and commendably tight on these ten songs, and on the peppier numbers, like "Keep on Believing" and "Chasing Rainbows/Modern Times," one can hear glimmers of the band they were in their glory days.
It’s a sad state of affairs that the word “Buzzcocks” is probably now more associated with the long-running TV pop quiz show Never Mind The Buzzcocks than the Manchester pop-punk band after which it is partly named. Formed in 1976, the band was known for its sharp, catchy singles like Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) and Promises, which combined punk’s edgy attitude with strong melodies. After releasing three albums they broke up, only to re-form in the late ’80s, since when they have continued to tour and make records, albeit with a changing line-up and at irregular intervals.
"Are you smiling? Are you frowning?", sings Pete Shelley on "Keep on Believing", one of the best tracks on Buzzcocks’ otherwise tepid ninth album The Way. It’s a set of questions the band has been asking their listeners—and themselves—for 38 years. Following the departure of lead singer Howard Devoto soon after the release of their 1977 debut EP, Spiral Scratch, guitarists Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle took over as co-frontmen; from there, Buzzcocks perfected pop-punk before it even existed as such, infusing blurred, breakneck punk anthems with doomed romanticism, anti-macho tenderness, and a flair for nerdy screeds about technology and morality.
Nearly four decades on, can a punk band offer inspiration to not only those who were raised with them, but those who never caught them at their peak? The Buzzcocks soldier on, and like many of their peers who decide to do so, they mingle their old tunes on stage with new ones. Every few years, the band tours and shares with its loyal audience both, and here are ten fresh tracks in the form of The Way. The Way opens with a catchy roar.
Did anyone expect a new Buzzcocks album to be this good in 2014? Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle, who burst out of the Manchester, England, punk scene way back in 1976, have added a proud release (their first in eight years) to their legacy. Produced by Dave M. Allen (The Cure, Depeche Mode), “The Way” is also the first to feature the new rhythm section of Chris Remmington and Danny Farrant.