Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Buzzcocks – The Forum, 20.11.09

There’s just something about Buzzcocks. While there aren’t too many ‘classic’ punk bands that I have a lot of time for (X-Ray Spex is probably the only other real contender), their songs of angsty, failed youthful romance are deeply sublime in capturing perfectly a particular moment, a particular desire, and in themselves lyrically (in both senses) foreshadowing the nostalgia with which one will look back at these times. Orgasm Addict remains one of the most archetypal manifestations of ecstatic (not to mention sexually ambiguous) polymorphous perversity in music (along, I’d add, with Richard Hell’s Love Comes In Spurts) - for a completely different version which captures the same spirit of (tender) perversion, try Momus' cover.

While in the 70s they may have been twenty-one wishing to be sixteen, from the vantage point of their early 50s, how does their music now come across to the listener? Well, for a start, only two original members remain – Pete Shelley (resplendent in a Mondrian-esque shirt), and Steve Diggle. But this tour, playing their first two LPs in their entirety (Another Music In A Different Kitchen and Love Bites) along with selections from the Singles Going Steady compilation, was not to be missed. At first, I found the performance to be a little straightforward, so to speak –the mood that many reunion tours have, a feeling that the band are fulfilling their roles by appearing on stage playing their songs, but no more. But as the night progressed, the atmosphere seemed to come together, and despite the contrast between the teenage sentiment of the songs and the appearance of those performing them (and despite awful sound quality), the performance as a performance came together with coherent enthusiasm. Highlights were the aforementioned Orgasm Addict, masterpiece and perennial crowdpleaser Ever Fall In Love, and my other personal favourite, Promises.

Ultimately, the sheer craft of the songs, how well they’ve stood the test of time, the beauty of the harmonies compared with the aggressive guitars, at times choppy and insistent, at others epic, along with the sheer pleasure of having access to this music which remains so vital, made this a night marked by the contradictory pleasure taken in energetic release, and in nostalgia.

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