An album of 16 perfect singles, this 1979 Buzzcock's release has been going steady as a favorite of every kid weaned on punk and indie for generations. Though Buzzcocks, the godfathers of pop punk, produced a number of excellent albums since Singles Going Steady, none has compared to the selection of delicacies we find here. Releasing SGS at the pinnacle of the Britpunk explosion, Buzzcocks traveled the same tour circuits as the Sex Pistols and the Clash, but never shared the explicitly political inclinations of their contemporaries. Rather, SGS features love songs with a bite. Penned mostly by lead singer and guitarist Pete Shelley, with two songs by guitarist Steve Diggle, the album is all personal, but grooves more than it thrashes. "Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)," Buzzcocks' most widely covered song, is an irresistible power popper, and "Love You More" speeds passionately forward until its cut off with the razor edge of punk efficiency. The songs are only subtly political. There is a notable absence of gendered pronouns in the lyrics, a subtle statement that is ultimately made more explicit on Shelley's solo hit "Homosapien." His love, on SGS and since, is the inclusive kind. Buzzcocks stood out from their contemporaries, not just because of the band's comparative popiness, but also by virtue of its musicianship. None of the young musicians was technically accomplished, but the guitar chemistry between Shelly and Diggle on "Why Can't I Touch It?" is undeniable. Pete Shelley's layers of melody make him the Brian Wilson of punk. The superb rhythm section consists of John Maher on drums and Steve Garvey on bass, working in super-tight conjunction. Maher is a percussive innovator with his constant, rapid drum fills and frenetic pace, driving each song relentlessly forward. Garvey's bass is the grooving counter-melody that sucks you deeper into the song, providing an unforgettable line in "Love You More." The songs are fast, but they're melodic. Despite all the pretty and catchy tunes, it would be hard to forget that this album is a product of the screaming birth of punk rock. The first song, and Buzzcocks' very first single, is the meant-to-shock "Orgasm Addict," an anthem of teenage horniness that declares, "it's a labor of love fucking yourself to death." A similarly polemic track "Oh Shit," speeds through 1 minute and 37 seconds of teenage breakup, and "Noise Annoys" is a gleeful proclamation of punk's obnoxiousness. Though the music was fast for its time, the ranks of Good Charlotte and Simple Plan have probably surpassed Buzzcocks in terms of pure rapidity. Today, such pale radio-friendly products may owe Buzzcocks their existence, but don't be dissuaded from listening to SGS because of the sillier crap it has inspired. The Buzzcocks represent superb songwriting propelled by the punk aesthetic trinity of short, fast, and loud. And today, they sound even fresher than the pop punkers smack in the middle of their 15 minutes of fame.
Columbia Spectator Staff