All Set

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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett

Hooking up with Neill King as producer for All Set was an amusing turn on the part of the Buzzcocks, given that King had engineered Dookie, the breakthrough album from open Buzzcocks worshippers Green Day. Apparently the group felt a little acknowledgement back was in order, even going so far as to record the album in that trio's stomping ground, Berkeley, CA. Far from trying to capture the MTV audience with a variation on "Basket Case," though, the quartet here sounds like -- the Buzzcocks, if again essentially the pop-friendlier side of the band. Opening song "Totally From the Heart" is actually one of the strongest numbers yet from the newer version of the band, with a great chorus and all-around soaring crunch. King definitely earns his pay with his producing and engineering work; things haven't sounded this crisp and clear for the band even since the late '70s. The Barber/Barker rhythm section has by now well settled in, with Barker in particular showing more individual flashes and flair than before. Shelley and Diggle throw in a couple of almost mainstream guitar solos along the way, but otherwise are as dedicated as always to the virtues of high-volume, brisk poppiness. Happily, hints of trying to breathe once again beyond the basic formula do crop up here and there. Hammond organ adds a nice extra touch here and there, as on the lower-key groove of "Hold Me Close," one of Shelley's tenderer love songs, while Diggle pulls off a rock-of-the-gods epic start for "Playing for Time." The concluding two numbers both have something to them in particular -- "Pariah" has a quirky rhythm crunch to it à la "Sixteen," while Diggle's "Back With You" starts off with an acoustic guitar and turns into a string-synth-swept declaration of love. Otherwise, it's generally effective business as usual.

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