The Way


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The Way Review

by Mark Deming

Keith Richards once opined that the worst part about being in the greatest rock & roll band in the world was you had to go on being the greatest rock & roll band in the world, and as the leaders of one of the best and most enduring acts in British punk, Steve Shelley and Steve Diggle probably have some sense of what Keef was talking about. Fully 36 years on from their debut album, the Buzzcocks clearly have no inclination to stop, but their 2014 studio effort, The Way, suggests this band is slowly but surely running out of gas, at least as far as writing and recording new material are concerned. Shelley and Diggle and their current rhythm section, bassist Chris Remington and drummer Danny Farrant, sound thoroughly professional and commendably tight on these ten songs, and on the peppier numbers, like "Keep on Believing" and "Chasing Rainbows/Modern Times," one can hear glimmers of the band they were in their glory days. But on most of The Way, the Buzzcocks seem stuck in what by their standards is a midtempo rut, and there's a certain lack of energy and inspiration here, both in terms of the performances and the songwriting, which are curiously stale. (It doesn't help that Shelley's voice is losing its upper range and he simply sounds weary much of the time.) More than on any of the Buzzcocks' studio efforts since reuniting in 1989, The Way is the sound of this great band going through the motions, and though they're good enough to at least be entertaining even when they seem rote, if you're a fan you've heard them do this before, do it better, and do it with greater passion and commitment. The Buzzcocks haven't lost their touch as a live act in the 21st century, but The Way makes it clear these guys need to recharge their creative batteries before they attempt another studio album.

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