Sooner or later
You’re gonna listen to Ralph Nader
With those lines in the first song on their debut LP I swooned and fell in love with the Buzzcocks for ever more. I already liked them a lot, there are tribes as-yet-undiscovered in the Burmese interior who can hum at least one of the many cover versions of ‘Ever Fallen In Love’ and what mucky minded (overgrown) teenager doesn’t love to jump about to ‘Orgasm Addict’ in his bed room? This was my first dabble with one of their albums and I picked out Another Music In A Different Kitchen out of a stack of LP’s that my dad was storing for a friend, intrigued by the neat, clean design and colour scheme. Put it on and … this was punk Jim, but not as I knew it up to that point.
Punk was often touted as the end of rock and roll and a Pol Pot style return to year zero, it wasn’t of course. The best and most popular punkers, Sex Pistols, Clash and Ramones to name but three, at their very best just burned away all the impurities in the crucible of their raw punkiosityness and served us up a pure hit of the rock and roll the world was craving. Wonderful stuff and some of my favourite music ever but not new. This was the first punk from ’78 that could fit that bill, another music.
There was no discernible swearing, no reheated and sped up Small Faces riffs, no jokey cover versions, no ham-fisted politics and/or shouting about the cops/anarchy/refusing to tidy up your bedroom. This was spiky, angular, funny, intelligent, very arty and rather arch, owing far more to Television than the Ramones – I wanted in. I know you all have me down as a bit of a Conan figure, but I just adore the way that Pete Shelley keeps all traces of anything macho out of his voice, making sure it all ends up a bit more fey and interesting than anything else around in the scene at the time. Now, add all those qualities to some proper pop smarts and you have the whole package.
‘Fast Cars’ kicks of by quoting their own track, ‘Boredom’ from the Buzzcocks own, legendary, Spiral Scratch EP from the Howard Devoto era of the band*, it’s clever, it signals that Buzzcocks have moved on already and they aren’t going to even let die-hard fans get nostalgic about the last single – onwards! ‘Fast Cars’ comes crashing out of the gates like a, umm, fast car? John Maher’s drumming is absolutely brilliant, propelling the track spasmodically forwards at a rate of knots**, the rest of the band lurching forwards in an effort to catch up, buzzing guitars to the fore. Great song, what better way to show that this really was Another Music In A Different Kitchen, a break with the past, than to yawn at that great rock staple/fantasy, a fast car? 2:16 later and we’re straight into ‘No Reply’, again another brilliant rhythmic workout, two songs into their debut and the band have walloped down their template and reinforced it. I love to pogo to this one, it got played on a punk night I was at once and the whole place just went mad – Steve Diggle (I think) even sneaks in a tiny guitar solo in; take that punk orthodoxy!
You want odd chords, a bored dismissive attitude to doing sex things and an almost claustrophobic wall of sound? well then, ‘You Tear Me Up’ is all yours. Look, I won’t go through every track because it will just get very repetitive reading me going, ace/brilliant/fab/buzzing/fucking great over and over again – both you and the Buzzcocks deserve much better than that. Suffice to say I love their jagged tracks like ‘Sixteen’, their witty punky blasts (‘I Need’) and their poppier more conventional ones like ‘I Don’t Mind’ equally, devotedly. Every single track here just fizzes and, umm, buzzes.
The real jewel in the crown of Another Music In A Different Kitchen, for me at least, is the LP closer ‘Moving Away From The Pulsebeat’, a seven-minute blast of punky exposition fuelled by the band’s love of Can and Krautrock in general^. Again, it all hinges on a brilliant drum rhythm captured perfectly by the producer Martin Rushent, the guitars snap and whine as the track pulses on. It was circulated as a DJ 12″ at the time, it would have taken a pretty assured DJ and a knowledgeable crowd to have gone for that on a night out – by the way, anonymous millionaire benefactors, if you’re listening I’d love one of those for the 1537 archives. ‘… Pulsebeat’ is a mighty, mighty achievement for a bunch of arty oiks from Manchester, tied to a movement where it was considered cooler not to be able to play too well – it just transcends anything else coming out of the UK punk scene at the time. Bonus 1537 points are awarded for the ‘Boredom (Slight Return)’ section at the end of the track and the beeps on the run-out groove of the LP.
Another Music In A Different Kitchen is up there with Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables as the punk LP with the truest and best title. All manner of other interesting music would sprout from and build upon the achievements of the Buzzcocks debut LP. You know what? six months later they’d released an even better album, with an even better Krautrock influenced closing track. Wow.
*the fact they also play a further snippet towards the end of closing track, is the sort of thing that moves the Fanorama-Lama-Ding -Dong dial mounted prominently on my forehead from ‘Admire’ to ‘Worship’. True story.
**great drummer, you never see John Maher get any/enough credit at all. He could smash a tune forwards, as well as hit some really interesting, technical patterns.
^I’m pretty sure Pete Shelley did the liner notes for a Can compilation album later on.