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The Buzzcocks Buzz Back

Punk legends to release new album in March

Punk-pop pioneers the Buzzcocks will release their next studio
record on March 18th on Merge Records. “The Buzzcocks” will be the
only text printed on the front cover, but that shouldn’t be
confused with the album’s title. “It isn’t self-titled,” says
guitarist/vocalist Pete Shelley. “People think that because it
doesn’t have a title, the title must be ‘Buzzcocks.’ But it’s not.
It doesn’t have a title — it’s not eponymous.”

It’s not the first time the Manchester foursome has tinkered
with static components of record-making. Just before the band broke
up in 1981 (they reformed in 1989), it tried to issue three
singles, Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 with
symbols in lieu of A’s and B’s to buck the A-side/B-side trend. The
label compromised offering “P” and “Q” sides.

“You gotta keep people on their toes,” Shelley says. “This one
is not untitled, because untitled is when you decide you’re not
going to call it anything. It’s generic. Though I do like the sound
of ‘Untitled Number One.’ I’m interested in what people will call
it. I think because of the artwork they’ll probably call it ‘The
Black Album,’ or ‘The Black and White Album.'”

Whatever you call it, the Tony Barber-produced album is the
band’s first studio recording since 1999’s Modern, and it
might have been released last year, but after promotional duty for
Modern wrapped, guitarist/singer Steve Diggle wiped out on
a motor scooter in Greece and broke his wrist.

In addition to the title, fans might initially be befuddled by a
pair of songwriting credits (“Stars” and “Lester Sands”) which are
Shelley co-writes with Howard Devoto, his Buzzcocks co-founder in
1975. Devoto left the band two years after it formed to start
Magazine, but twenty-five years later the duo re-teamed for
Buzzkunst, an album released last year under the name
ShelleyDevoto. The recording was prompted by Shelley’s desire to
mark the band’s anniversary, a plan complicated by Diggle’s injured
wrist.

Despite the two co-writes, Devoto has not, it turns out, been
pulled back into the fold. “Lester Sands” goes back to the band’s
early years and was included on Time’s Up, a 1977 release
that was issued after its songs had been regularly bootlegged. A
band favorite at sound checks, the song finally received a more
thorough treatment than its original four-track release. And
“Stars” was written for and included on the Buzzkunst
record as the wordier “‘Til the Stars in His Eyes Are Dead.”

“I sent him a CD of some ideas I’d been working on,” Shelley
says. “And he said, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve got something for that one.’
It’s the most Buzzcocks thing that came out of those sessions, and
the lyric was the first lyric that Howard ever wrote. He wrote it
when he was fourteen.”

Among Shelley’s other favorites is “Jerk,” the album’s opener,
which the band demoed five years ago, yet never quite managed to
record just right. Drummer Phil Barker insisted the group continue
working the track, and after speeding up the tempo, it made the
cut.

“Morning After” doesn’t require much explanation, as the song
was hatched amid a hangover’s haze. “We had two days in the studio
and Phil came in and he brought some cans of lager,” Shelley says,
laughing. “The inspiration got further and further away as the
alcohol consumption increased, so I ended up not doing anything
that day. Early the next morning, I had to go to a hairdress
appointment to bleach my hair, and I was sitting in the salon
waiting for the bleach to take effect with the worst
hangover I’ve had in a long time. And as soon as I was finished I
had to go straight to the studio, because it was the final day. So
I thought, ‘What can I write?’ Oooh, my head. And I
thought, ‘There it is.'”

The Buzzcocks have a six-date tour of Australia (launching
January 31st) lined up, and further touring duty of Europe and the
U.S. is expected to follow. Shelley is itching to head out and
seems a bit flustered by the industry’s current pace, which
sometimes puts a year between an album’s completion and its
release. “We’re champing at the bit, really,” he says. “Albums and
tours, everything was really compressed into a small space of time
[in the Seventies]. Now things are a bit more spread out, it always
seems to take far too long. You think, ‘Wow, this is great, isn’t
it? Everybody should hear it.’ And you realize that it’s gonna be a
year before anybody does get to hear it. But in
some ways you anticipate it, it’s almost like wanting people to
open the Christmas presents you bought them. Wanting to see the
smiles on their faces.”

The track listing for the next Buzzcocks record:

Jerk
Keep On
Wake-up Call
Friends
Driving You Insane
Morning After
Sick City Sometimes
Stars
Certain Move
Lester Sands
Up for the Crack
Useless

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