Forever cocky

UK punk pioneers still kicking ass

The Buzzcocks with the Chickens at Lee’s Palace (529 Bloor West), Monday (December 1). $20 advance. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN

to trace the sonic origins of sum 41, Blink-182 and the Offspring, there’s no need to look any further than the Buzzcocks’ exhilarating pop-punk thrash. The Mancunian marvels were part of the first wave of snarling Brit-punk innovation led by the Sex Pistols and the Clash during the late-70s onslaught. Although they never enjoyed the notoriety and widespread acclaim of their contemporaries, the Buzzcocks’ sharply drawn studies of teen trauma like Ever Fallen In Love With Someone?, Orgasm Addict and Why Can’t I Touch It? connected with their audience on a much more personal level.

As a result, many of the tunes they cut 25 years ago sound remarkably fresh and relevant today when covered by the likes of Anti-Flag, Ash and Elf Power.

For further proof of the Buzzcocks’ lasting potency, check out the totally wired self-titled disc recently released by Merge on which they slip in a few Howard Devoto-era jams that fit seamlessly alongside their newest rippers.

“When the Offspring covered Autonomy,” says Buzzcocks frontman Pete Shelley from his London home, “it sounded more like a Buzzcocks tribute band than the Offspring.

“Hearing them and all these other guitar bands, we’d think, ‘Oh well, we could do that. Eventually we decided it was time we made another guitar album just to show people we still could… and we did.”

While Shelley and company are clearly chuffed by the resurgence of interest in the Buzzcocks that followed their tour opening for Pearl Jam, it hasn’t been easy for the former enfants terribles to get used to being known as punk’s elder statesmen.

“Yes, this whole ‘godfathers of punk’ thing is a bit strange, but I suppose that’s better than grandfathers of punk. If I had my choice, I think I’d rather the Buzzcocks be known as the eccentric uncles of punk.”

So what do the Buzzcocks do for an encore? According to Shelley, the strategy for the follow-up album, which they plan to start recording in February, is to go one louder.

“We want to make the new album even more of a guitar record than the last one. We’re making our songs even shorter, keeping everything really concise and not padding them out with extra choruses. I find that if a song goes on and on, it detracts from the musical impact. If you have one good idea for a song, why ruin the thing by trying to turn it into a magnum opus?

“Our working title is How Much Are The Houses Here?, which is something we’re constantly asking on the road. We’re always talking about moving, particularly now, since it gets quite bleak in Britain during the winter months.

“But I’m afraid,” he chuckles, “until our albums change from the ‘critically acclaimed’ designation to being platinum sellers, it’s all just wishful thinking.”

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