How many of you guys had that super-cool history teacher who was way into Husker Du, Sonic Youth and the Ramones when you were in high school? You’d hang around after class and talk about Television and it would totally own. Now imagine said cool history teacher had a band. Would you be excited to see them play? Of course, you would. He’s a cool guy and you’d bet they’d toss out a Buzzcocks cover or something like that during their set. So you make your way to the tiny hole-in-the-wall on Avenue C and watch them plug in. They’re all balding and wearing crispy-looking stripy buttoned-down shirts and they launch into your basic by-the-numbers power punk-pop that doesn’t blow your mind, but you’re glad you went. They close the set with “Ever Fallen in Love?” — the highlight of the night. Afterwards, you might even buy their self-released demo. But when you get home, do you actually ever put it on?
Exactly. And that right there is the problem with the new Buzzcocks album.
The Buzzcocks, put out on Merge, is the epitome of solid. The record isn’t as good as Modern, which they put out on Go Kart in ’99 and is their best since they kicked things back up again in ’89. But it’s as quality as the stuff they put out during their ’77-’80 heyday, when they fused styles and invented punk-pop. But it’s hard for a band to continue to break new ground, especially in the pop arena, and though The Buzzcocks has no lowlights, there aren’t any highlights either. Every song is well-crafted and obviously done by guys who still care about making good pop music. That’s really admirable, but I just wonder what the point is, y’know? I’m not saying the Buzzcocks shouldn’t be allowed to make records. With the contribution they’ve made to modern music, they should be able to torch entire cities. But there’s nothing left for them to do.
It’s not hard to go back and throw on an old Buzzcocks record. They’re a seminal band that has remained vital and are enjoyable even today, and their music has aged well. “What Do I Get?” had a pretty prominent role in Ghost World and I didn’t bat an eyelash. And it doesn’t matter that the actual band members haven’t aged quite as well as their work has — one could say that the Buzzcocks themselves are the only thing about the Buzzcocks that have changed with the times.
So imagine you go see the same band in the same hole-in-the-wall on Avenue C we were taking about earlier, but this time imagine you’ve heard the band but didn’t know the guys in it. What would you honestly think? “Get off the stage you geezers” or “Damn, there was a time and a place for this and it’s not here and it’s not now” come to mind. So what’s that intangible that makes this album okay? It’s called respect, kids. Just like you respected your history teacher, I respect the Buzzcocks, and whatever they want to do is totally fine with me.