Buzzcocks - Spiral Scratch - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Buzzcocks - Spiral Scratch

by Kevin Orton Rating:10 Release Date:2017-02-10

It’s been 40 years since the Buzzcocks released the Spiral Scratch EP. Punk was still up for grabs and yet to be defined. The Sex Pistols were having their heyday and two art school students with a love of the Velvet Underground, changed their names and started a band. “Buzz” for "word on the street" and “cock” for “mate”. Like so many others, they picked up on the Sex Pistols do it yourself aesthetic, releasing one the first independent records of the burgeoning Punk movement. It was four tracks and recorded by Martin Hannett (who would later go on to produce Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures).

Did Spiral Scratch change the world? Safe to say, yes. While the Buzzcocks’ time was brief, their influence was undeniable. One can hear it on the likes of early Elvis Costello on down to the cartoonish likes of Green Day. And where would the hallowed Manchester Music scene be without them? Buzzcocks were the vanguard, laying down the groundwork for Joy Division and so many others.

For Buzzcocks, Punk meant rough, fast and energetic. Lust and boredom, the unifying themes. What Sprial Scratch lacked in political posturing, it made up for in anxiety, neurosis and piss and vinegar humor. While Punk was many things, Howard Devoto and Pete Shelly knew that skinned to its bones, Punk was just Rock and Roll. The same kind that Elvis swayed his hips to. The same kind that made the Beatles household sensations.

 ‘Breakdown’ takes no prisoners. It's jumpy and nervous. The musical equivalent of one’s first amphetamine. Listening to ‘Times Up’ it’s hard not to hear Buzzcocks' influence on the Fall. Lyrically, it’s pure rage against dying in a kitchen sink drama. A punch in the face to a thousand grey, rainy factory days. Its unapologetic, cynical and furiously nihilistic. And like every track on here, it has good beat and you can pogo your brains out to it.

‘Boredom’ sets the template for many a Punk song to follow. Going for the jugular and then coming to a full stop, reciting the title and then barreling on.  It's “solo”, two notes furiously repeated.

Before you know it, this adrenaline rush ends with “Some Friends of Mine”. Before you have time to shake hands, it’s all over. Leaving you no recourse but to hit the play button again.

Listening to Spiral Scratch 40 years later, it’s amazing how timeless and refreshing it still sounds. Much like putting on the early recordings of Elvis or the furious barnstorming antics of the Johnny Burnett Trio. For what was Punk, really? Pure, unadorned Rock & Roll. Snatching it from the hands of hippy drippy dinosaurs and defiantly throwing it in society’s face again. If anything, Spiral Scratch remains an all too vital testament to the endurance of Rock and Roll. Even if Punk soon fell by the wayside like a shed skin, this scrappy DIY release still holds its own. Soon after, Howard Devoto would depart leaving the band in Pete Shelly’s hands, but that’s another story. Critically speaking, Buzzcock's debut is considered seminal. But one listen and none of that matters. After all these these years, its still a knock out. 

Comments (4)

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Really well-written, intelligent, and evocative review! The paragraph featuring the "...thousand gray, rainy factory days" line is brilliant.

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Very good review (We'll forgive you Steve Shelley, cough!) of an E.P. that typified the true meaning of DIY Punk like no other band in 1976 and from a band from "Up North.
"Feed The Enemy."

Comment was last edited about 5 years ago by Gary Hough Gary Hough
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'Steve' now changed to Pete, thanks for spotting. Kevin getting mixed up with his Sonic Youth drummer.

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I love these guys. They do well in Australia because they remind us of our underground bands with big melodic hooks like Hoodoo Gurus and Died Pretty.

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