Singles Going Steady
(1979, 2001 edition), 10/10
It’s difficult to find a compilation that has a better critical reputation than the Buzzcocks’ Singles Going Steady. There are mixed opinions about the quality of the Buzzcock’s studio albums, but it is virtually unanimous that the collection of singles and b-sides that was originally assembled for their 1979 US tour is one of the most important albums to come out of the punk movement. I have the remastered edition, which bookends the material from the group’s 1980 singles. Although the Buzzcock’s playing is aggressive and energetic, placing them solidly within the English punk spectrum, their songs also have a poppy sheen and romantic themes that feel like throwbacks to the sixties. However, the Buzzcocks’ romantic themes are far from nauseating; surely no rock star has been jilted as constantly as Pete Shelley, as the irony laced ‘Everybody’s Happy Nowadays’ and ‘Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)?’ demonstrate. The Buzzcocks created a wonderful mixture of punk aggression, catchy melodies and appealingly underdog lyrics, and injected it into a fantastic series of singles.
The most controversial songs are arguably the most memorable; the hilarious ‘Orgasm Addict’ is actually surprisingly moralistic, but ‘Oh Shit!’ is possibly the definitive song for the curse word. The catchy b-side ‘Why Can’t I Touch It?’ rides an infectious groove, the only song on the compilation that noticeably extends past the three minute barrier. The Buzzcocks’ 1980 singles aren’t quite of the same calibre as their earlier work; they retain the energy, but expanding their sound palette from the simple guitar, bass, and drums formula doesn’t necessarily help this band. It’s difficult, however, to penalise Singles Going Steady when the 1980 material is listed as bonus tracks, while ‘Are Everything’ and the synth-laced ‘Running Free’ are appealing regardless. In any case, it’s difficult to view Singles Going Steady as anything other than a virtually indispensable blast of pure musical adrenaline.