6. Buzzcocks, 'Singles Going Steady' (1979)
Buzzcocks formed the same year Paul McCartney sang "Silly Love Songs" and broke up two years before Johnny Rotten declared, "Love is two minutes, 52 seconds of squishing noises." In that time, they explored the common ground between poppy romance and punky aggression with a series of short, lustful bursts of melodic tension (and, incidentally, one of their greatest-ever songs, "What Do I Get?" lasts 2:52, for maximum squishiness). Although the Mancunian crew – which formed after seeing a Sex Pistols gig – released a number of brilliant long-players, none of their albums topped the compilation Singles Going Steady, which traces the origins of pop-punk one 45 at a time and has influenced artists as diverse as the Offspring and Fine Young Cannibals. Beginning with 1977's confessional, hilarious "Orgasm Addict" ("Butchers' assistants and bellhops/You've had them all here and there"), they'd mastered pinning quirky hooks to electrifying guitar. After original frontman Howard DeVoto split to form Magazine, guitarist Pete Shelley took over and wrote one catchy, devastating, sexually ambiguous confused-love song after another: "Ever Fallen in Love ... (With Someone You Shouldn't've)," "What Do I Get?" "Promises." Lyrically, the songs bemoaned how happiness is always just out of reach (literally, in the case of the downright funky "Why Can't I Touch It?"). Musically, they were a marriage of the Kinks' and David Bowie's melodiousness with the bludgeon of Ramones. "To me it was just like the stuff I'd grown up with in the Sixties, like With the Beatles," Shelley said in 2015 of his early songs. "We wanted to be intelligent, but not intellectual. We wanted to be entertaining, but not entertainers." K.G.