Buzzcocks - Singles Going Steady
Record Label: EMI
Release Date: September 1979
Everyone tends to know the story of the beginnings of punk. Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious were part of a movement of pure aggression that polarized the U.K. and U.S. in the 1970s. Out of this movement also came one of the most interesting and ultimately influential bands in punk history that took the hard chords of punk and successfully merged it with the hooks of pop music. That band was the U.K.'s Buzzcocks.
The Buzzcocks formed out of the U.K.'s punk scene when vocalist/guitarist Pete Shelley and vocalist Howard Devoto went to a February 1976 Sex Pistols show that led to an opening for the band to open for the Sex Pistols in the Buzzcocks' home in Manchester. By the end of 1976, the band, including bass guitarist Steve Diggle and drummer John Maher, recorded a four-track EP. By 1977, the Buzzcocks (with Diggle switching to guitar and a new bassist in Steve Garvey) were signed to United Artists Records. By 1981 the original lineup had recorded three LPs and then split up, although, splitting up has proven to never be quite permanent, as the band has reunited several times.
The Buzzcocks' landmark album, Singles Going Steady, collects the bulk of the band's major songs from their first three full albums and in turn profiles why exactly the group was a well-tuned machine. Beginning with "Orgasm Addict" and its mocking of over-sexualized men and women, the album showcases the well-contained bite of Shelley's lyrics. Shelley brings life experience into his lyrics and is able to tie his songs to many places and times without becoming dated simply by staying as simplistic as possible with his songwriting without coming off as trite. All of the songs on Singles Going Steady are simple, catchy songs, but there's an obvious "adult experience" factor to the lyrics that makes the songs ring true.
Shelley's lyrics also ring true by never staying entirely serious and instead relying on sardonic wit like with "Everybody's Happy Nowadays" and its mocking of the facade of "true happiness," as well as the urge of society to have the same emotion of joy as the rest of the surrounding world. And much like the rest of the album, the riffs, chords, and hooks of "Everybody's Happy Nowadays" stick just as long as the lyrics. Singles Going Steady is almost entirely devoted to quick blasts of early pop-punk glee, bar "Why Can't I Touch It?" which draws out its sound to a six-and-a-half minute piece of similar brilliance.
The only weakness of Singles Going Steady is for the amazing classic numbers of "Ever Fallen in Love?" and "Whatever Happened To?," other tracks like "Promises" are solid but aren't nearly as classic in comparison, because they contain less of the poppy hooks mixed in with the lyrical bite. Still, Singles Going Steady is truly a classic album because of the true merge of the pop and punk genres, the type of perfect merger that many acts have tried and failed to recreate since 1979.