Did the Buzzcocks invent pop-punk? Probably not. Did they perfect it? You bet. Marrying glorious pop melodies, the chainsaw roar of a downstroked guitar, and the furious angst of a million confused teenagers, the Buzzcocks played punk rock that was physical, passionate, and emotionally compelling, but also joyously listenable (and danceable) in a way the Damned and the Clash could never dream of being. If the Buzzcocks Mark 1 (1976-1981) ever made a bad record, they've done a splendid job of keeping it a secret; all three of the group's original albums are brilliant, and Singles Going Steady (which collects the A- and B-sides of their first eight 45s) is as perfect a compilation album as you're ever likely to encounter. But if you're looking for a single-disc package that covers the history of the band's first era, Operators Manual is just what you've been needing; it features 11 of Singles Going Steady's 16 tracks (including all the A-sides), and adds 14 superb songs from the group's three albums. And unlike Singles, Operators Manual features material from A Different Kind of Tension, and while the Buzzcocks were brilliant right out of the box, "You Say You Don't Love Me" and "I Don't Know What to Do With My Life" revealed a surprising maturity, and "I Believe" found Pete Shelley going past the perfect pop song into a moving (and heartbreaking) statement of purpose. Operators Manual is hardly everything you'd ever need from the Buzzcocks, but if you're looking for an introduction to their remarkable body of work, you could hardly do better.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming