More than just a buzz band

Legendary British band The Buzzcocks returns with a new album and tour

by Keri Carlson

Punk rock never has sounded more radiant or catchy than when in the hands of The Buzzcocks.

The band – which formed in 1975 in Manchester, England – was one of the most influential outfits in punk’s beginnings. Whereas a group such as the Sex Pistols played shrieking, intense and politically charged music, The Buzzcocks crafted a timeless sound that came from pop and teen angst. Although the band always has a certain sweet and bubblegum quality to it, there’s never any doubt The Buzzcocks are punk.

“Our songs are like bang bang bang! Like a machine gun,” said guitarist Steve Diggle, describing the band’s sound. “We don’t mess around.”

The classic “Ever Fallen in Love?” begins with a fury of messy guitars until the song suddenly sparkles with a sing-along pop chorus in the vein of the Beatles or The Who. Singer Pete Shelley balances the anguish in his voice with melody as he cries of unrequited love.

“We play fast, furious and catchy songs,” Diggle said.

The band broke up in 1981 but regrouped in 1989, and they have continued to put out new records since the mid-’90s. The Buzzcocks’ latest album, “Flat-Pack Philosophy,” released in March of this year, is one of their best since the 1970s.

“With the new records we’ve found a new lease on life. Just when you think you’ve done everything and seen everything, something new comes along that’s exciting,” Diggle said. “Flat-Pack” contains the same gleeful pop-punk of early Buzzcocks, yet it also sounds new and modern.

“Young and energetic is the nature of this music. That’s still the same,” he said. “The music spans generations because good songs always stay around.” Diggle also added that the band didn’t have trouble keeping up with the younger generation of punks at this summer’s Warped Tour. Even though the band was treated like godfathers of the genre (as they should be), they partied every night on their tour bus. “Almost everyone on that tour ended up on our bus eventually,” Diggle said with a laugh.

But for those who couldn’t persuade themselves to bear the heat and dust of the Metrodome parking lot for the Warped Tour, or simply felt too old, The Buzzcocks are returning to Minneapolis. And this time they play at a more traditional punk setting, the Triple Rock.

Although the band only recently played the Twin Cities, Diggle said he’s excited to return. “We always try and get to Minneapolis on our tours,” he said, adding that he always thinks of Minneapolis as the place he found one of his most beloved guitars, a 1971 Les Paul.

“It’s the guitar I use for recording,” Diggle said, “so there’s a bit of Minneapolis on the record always.”