The catchphrase 'Give us a buzz, cock’ may have been cast into the most inaccessible tea-chest of the attic of memory, along with the less-than- immortal Rock Follies, the series that gave it birth, but Buzzcocks themselves are rather more enduring.
Fourteen years after A Different Kind Of Tension, they have just released their fourth album. Trade Test Transmissions (Essential Records) comes garbed in Malcolm Garrett art that brings to mind classic ’Cocks sleeves of yore, and packs a full cartridge of those Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle numbers that bring a familiar tingle to the lower spine. They haven’t updated their sound to suit the times. As the bard of the bar-chord, Pete Shelley, says, ‘Once we start playing, that’s just what we come out sounding like. We would have to make a conscious effort to change it.’
It’s been a full three-and-a-half years since the band reformed. ‘We started writing again about three years ago and making demos not long after,’ says Shelley. ‘initially. we just assumed that there would be record company interest.’ interest, but not ﬁrm commitment, and setbacks have delayed the ﬁrst post-refonnation album until now - by which time, of course, a lot of the early tracks have been ditched.
John Maher and Steve Garvey toddled off to pastures new in the process, their places taken by new members Phil Barker and Tony Barber. Buzzcocks
live sets now consist of new material, With a handful of old chestnuts tossed
in; ‘From albums mainly,’ warns Shelley, ‘We don’t just run through Singles Going Steady.’
But though Buzzcocks themselves may be essentially the same, some things have changed. ‘Around three quarters of our audience have never seen us play live before. The old ones tend to stand at the back and complain that they’re all jumping about too much.‘ (Alastair Mabbott)
Buzzcocks play The Venue, Edinburgh on Wed 9 and The Cathouse, Glasgow on Fri 1].
Bop and beyond
The series of visiting artists at The Tron Jazz Gellar has provided an opportunity to hear some fine musicians who don’t normally find themselves leading a band on Scottish stages. I’m thinking not so much of established solo artists like Peter King or lain Dallamy; the players I have in mind are guys like saxophonist John Barnes, a familiar figure from years of playing with Humphrey lyttelton, but rarely heard in a small group setting here, or the recent pairing of trombonists Pete Strange (another llumph regular) and ltay Wordsworth.
The Tron is providing a valuable function in that respect, and the latest musician to benefit is another unsung hero of the British jazz scene, trumpeter Dick Pearce. In many ways, Pearce is a typical product of the 70s london jazz scene, a strong, resourceful player on both trumpet and flugelhom, who is able to turn his hand with equal aplomb to mainstream and bop, or to something rather more experimental and avant-garde.
Pearce cites the likes of Art Farmer and Woody Shaw as being among his favourites, and has been a key part of the Bonnie Scott Group slnce1981, where his predeliction for hop is given full rein. At the same time, he also cites Kenny Wheeler and Don Cherry, and his playing can go down that road with equal facility, including an early
Dick Pearce: Gortege sessions, 1982
association with Graham Collier, and collaborations with Keith Tippett, Gil Evans, Dudu Pukwana, and Mike Westbrook.
flow recovered from an accident which kept him from playing for a while last year, Pearce will team up with the Jack Finlay Trio, which suggests he may lean to his more malnstrearn mode on this occasion. Coincidentally, however, the excellent enia record label have re-released Mike Westbrook’s 1982 recording of The Gortege on DD for the first time, restoring a valuable slice of the composer’s music to the catalogue. Check it out, and keep an ear open for a certain Dick Pearce, particularly his flugelhorn solos on ‘Enfance’ and ‘A Hearth Dums’. (Kenny Mathieson) Dick Pearce plays at The Tron in Edinburgh on Wed 9.
Perhaps Mega Glty Four really have come of age. The new album, ‘Maglc Bullets’, continues their progression from early Tiansit days into something harder, deeper and altogether more credible. Yet a conflict persists between the fierceness of their sound and the vulnerability of their lyrics. Guitarist Danny Drown rejects any lingering ‘crusty’ notions.
‘Lyrically, it’s akin to the llsker D thing, where the band was really hard and brash but their lyrics were different. That makes it not punk rock. As a British guitar band, you get a harder time than American bands on that - you get taken for being a boring old punk band. If you’re American, it’s
lie also takes offence at the tired old ioumo ‘three-chord trick’ standard analysis.
‘I’d like to see some of these people sit down and try to work out the songs on a guitar. None of the songs we do are three-chord songs. Y’kncw, they’ve all got five in at least!’
The band certainly believe in their continued growth. At one point, they ignored their debut album ’l’ranzophobia’ altogether. Danny explains why.
‘Me and Gerry (bass) used to go and see AG/Dc when we were kids. I used to love them - they were a really really great rock’n’roll band. But now they’re still doing the same set from 1980. They’re still basically doing their classic songs. You become a sort of timepiece, over-loyal to the people who come to see you. Instead of dictating what the audience listens to, you become dictated to by them. You start making records with them in mind instead of yourself in mind.’
So are M04 about to become self- important, arrogant, posturing megastars? What would Danny do if he had resources comparable to, say, 02’s?
‘llh . . . get a lighting technician . . .’
I think they’re safe for the time being. (Gavin Inglis)
Mega Glty Four play King Tut’s. Glasgow on Sat 5 and Sun 6.
They have them all over ireland. but we have one in Scotland’s largest city. Unfortunately the simple
values and commercial
aesthetic of the organisers, London’s Mean Fiddler,
. are again in evidence this
‘ year on Glasgow Green.
It’s a commercial
, operation, so don’t
necessarily expect ﬁne, contemporary expression of lrish music at the Fleadh; remember that the organisers have to employ
‘ performers to pull a crowd.
To top off the Strathclyde
lrish Festival, a local celebration ofthe : enduring cultural links
between Glasgow and
i Ireland. especially : Donegal, the organisers i have brought over the
group which has emerged over the last five years to carry the torch, in the
A wake of Planxty and the
Bothy Band. for the great tradition of acoustic
i instrumental music and gsong.
. Named after an archaic lrish Gaelic word
referring to a slope into water. and all native or ' learned lrish speakers.
Altan are no strangers to Scotland. Last over here at the recent Edinburgh
5 Folk Festival, where they ‘ stormed the final night
with their twin fiddle and ﬂute attack, they have
' deservedly won a loyal
audience for their limpid
! l l i
lrish vocals and honest, driving reels, jigs, and those Scots-inﬂuenced strathspey-style reels peculiar to Donegal, called highlands.
And if you want to see the spectacularly colourful. straight-backed, stiff-armed and rubber~ legged formation stepping of lrish display dancing, join in the set dances, or even stand at the bar and drink Bushmills whiskey (with an ‘e’). then get along to the Henry Wood
Halls and the Grand lrish
Ceili, spelt Ceili. (Norman Chalmers)
Altan play Henry Wood Hall. Glasgow on Fri 4; The Irish Ceili is at the same venue on Sat 5. See
feature for details ofthe
32 The List 4—l7 June 1993