Spiral Scratch

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The Buzzcocks' self-financed debut is every bit as important as the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the UK" in the establishment of the U.K. punk scene. And playing those two cultural artifacts back to back two decades later, it is the Pistols' effort which sounds more like the museum piece. Spiral Scratch's hand-pressed, blurry black-and-white sleeve housed four tracks -- each one a uniquely compelling experience, marrying raw, youthful zest with belligerent intelligence. The EP's release achieved several things at once. It opened up the independent scene, making D.I.Y. labels the natural springboard for aspiring musicians. It gave the punk scene a second regional base in Manchester, and it expanded punk's vocabulary beyond the outright nihilism evinced by London bands. And, even at this stage, the band's musicianship was a joy to behold, particularly the uninhibited drumming of John Maher. This was also, bootlegs apart, the only chance to hear Howard Devoto front the band before he left to form Magazine. For more of the same, check out the Time's Up album, a classic bootleg of the group's early days which has seen official release.

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