Wednesday, August 12, 2009

August 12: The Buzzcocks, "Another Music In A Different Kitchen"

Artist: The Buzzcocks
Album: Another Music In A Different Kitchen
Year: 1978
Label: United Artists

As the stereotype goes, one cannot have a "true" punk rock band that both makes catchy songs, as well as plays with minimal distortion. Standing in strong defiance to this trend, U.K. icons, The Buzzcocks, created some of the most amazingly pop-oriented, angst-ridden music that the world has ever heard. Taking inspiration to start a band after seeing the Sex Pistols perform live, the group takes a far more structured, less angry approach to the style. Though their music is just as biting and confrontational, The Buzzcocks do this in a far more subtle manner. This ability to convey the same energy and emotion without the almost cliché antics is one of the many reasons why The Buzzcocks remain one of the most influential bands of the era, having been covered by everyone from The Offspring to The Fastbacks, and their music is just as fresh and enjoyable as it was upon its initial release. While the group had already unleashed a handful of singles, their debut LP, 1978's Another Music In A Different Kitchen brilliantly displays both their music and lyrical talents, and the album is a true gem of the punk explosion.

When it comes down to it, few groups in history have so perfectly blended the energy of the punk movement with the pop sensibility that is found on Another Music In A Different Kitchen. While the music itself is unquestionably aggressive, it is also far better produced than a majority of the punk bands at the time, as well as the songs themselves being amazingly catchy. This sound is largely due to the brilliant production work of Martin Rushent, who would later work with bands like Generation X and XTC. While The Buzzcocks had already gained some notoriety for a few of their singles, it is Another Music In A Different Kitchen that would solidify them as icons of the punk genre. As is the case with many of the late 1970's punk bands, when their albums were later released on CD, many tracks were added. In the case of Another Music In A Different Kitchen, upon it's re-release, four additional tracks were added, including the hit singles, "Orgasm Addict" and "What Do I Get?" which were previously only available as singles or on the Singles Going Steady compilation. Another Music In A Different Kitchen represents the second phase for The Buzzcocks, as former group leader and co-founder, Howard Devoto, left The Buzzcocks (and formed the group, Magazine) shortly before the album was recorded, and the groups' other founding member, Pete Shelley, stepped to the front and would lead what is largely considered to be the groups' "classic" lineup.

The fact that they hadn't been around all that long makes the fact that the music found on Another Music In A Different Kitchen is so polished and perfectly executed all the more stunning. Their songs are clearly influenced by what is lovingly referred to as "Krautrock," as the music concentrates heavily on rhythm and repetition. Though he initially started as the bands' bassist, with the exit of Devoto, Steve Diggle moved to become the bands' lead guitarist. The fact that this is not his first instrument is unfathomable, as the tone and mood that he creates are nothing short of fantastic. It is also in the guitar playing that the bands' odd sense of humor becomes clear, as a two-note guitar solo perfectly opens the album on the song, "Fast Cars." With Diggle moving to guitar, the band brought in bassist Steve Garvey (no relation to the U.S. baseball legend of the same name), and he is absolutely perfect on the album. Moving around the guitar and drums, the tone of his bass provides a fantastic backbone for each song. Drummer John Maher remains one of the most influential drummers of the punk era, and his controlled, yet lightning-fast style stood in in sharp juxtaposition to the trend of punk drummers of the time. His stunning abilities are showcased on the song, "I Need," where he is just as punk high-speed punk as he is reminiscent of a 1950's pop-style drummer. With each musician executing every note on Another Music In A Different Kitchen with perfect precision, it is little surprise that the album remains as important as it is to this day.

While the other three musicians are nothing to overlook, it is the work, playing, and singing of Pete Shelley that makes Another Music In A Different Kitchen so fantastic and influential. First off, Shelley's voice presents the perfect balance of the punk sneer along with true vocal talents. As opposed to an overwhelming majority of his peers, the fact of the matter is, Shelley can actually sing instead of just shouting or speaking his lyrics. Though he may not have the widest range ever, his singing is an ideal fit for both the lyrics as well as the music over which he sings. Shelley also has an amazing sense of rhythm and timing, and this is no doubt due to his near-worship of the song structures of the previously mentioned "Krautrock" bands. Perhaps the most wonderful aspect of the music of The Buzzcocks is the manner in which they subtly take shots at people and culture through their brilliant lyrics. Since Shelley is singing in such a straightforward manner, often times, the most clever and hilarious lyrics are missed by most listeners. There is at least one absolutely glorious line in every song, like when Shelley sings, "All this slurping and sucking, it's putting me off my food!" during his borderline ranting on the song, "You Tear Me Up." The group even name-checks Ralph Nader during their somewhat sarcastic "warning" song, "Fast Cars." The songs are as good a group of "teenage angst" lyrics as you'll find anywhere, and it is the humorous and more hidden lyrics that sets the music of The Buzzcocks far above that of their peers.

Though it is clear that The Buzzcocks take a huge amount of influence from both the Sex Pistols as well as the group Can, their music sounds like nobody else, and it is one of the many reasons why they remain such a huge influence within the world of music. Perfecting the fusion of the punk aesthetic with the timing and appeal of pop music, The Buzzcocks are one of the many reasons that the genre has persevered. With Howard Devoto leaving the band shortly before recording their first full length record, the group members moved into new roles, and yet the band sounds as if this was the way they had been playing for years. Bassist-turned-lead guitarist, Steve Diggle is truly stunning when one considers the shift he made, and his rhythm section is just as skilled, creating some of the greatest music to emerge from the era. Pete Shelley is absolutely phenomenal throughout the entire record, as his writing is flawless in every aspect, and the manner in which he almost underhandedly makes his social observations are second to none. The Buzzcocks had already made a name for themselves with a handful of singles, and later singles would bring them more commercial success. However, when the group finally got into the studio to record their debut full length album, the resulting record, 1978's Another Music In A Different Kitchen, is nothing short of a rock classic and remains one of the most extraordinary albums to emerge from the late 1970's punk explosion.

Standout tracks: "Fast Cars," "You Tear Me Up," and "I Don't Mind."

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