Buzzcocks

Time's Up

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If you're looking for a sterling example of how much a band can change by replacing a single member, you might consider Time's Up, a collection of the earliest recordings of the Buzzcocks. Recorded live to tape in one afternoon in October 1976, five months after they played their first gig, the music documented by these rough demos is almost instantly recognizable as the Buzzcocks, with their minimalist pop-punk melodies and buzzy guitar lines. However, at this point, Howard Devoto, who co-founded the band with guitarist Pete Shelley, was still singing lead, and Steve Diggle was on bass, before Steve Garvey came aboard and freed up Diggle to play guitar. Musically, this is a blunter and less stylish version of the Buzzcocks, with Shelley's power chords forced to cover more ground without Diggle's help, and while the band is good, they sound young and a bit green (which, of course, they were), just a bit sloppy and not as precise as they would soon become. One can also hear what Shelley learned from Devoto when he took over as a vocalist, but here Devoto sounds more mannered than what one would expect from this band, and sometimes he seems to be forcing his aggression for effect; this is a long way from the cooler, more intellectual attack Devoto would perfect when he formed Magazine. All that said, Time's Up was the work of a young band with a wealth of ideas and energy, and heard as the work of four young men hopped up on the new possibilities of punk rock, it's a blast. They'd already written a handful of tunes that would become favorites in their catalog (including "Orgasm Addict," "Boredom," and "Love Battery"), the Troggs and Captain Beefheart covers are inspired, and if they hadn't fully honed their precision attack here, they clearly knew just what they wanted to achieve, and were close to getting there. This is a snapshot of a great band in the process of finding their feet, and for fans of early U.K. punk, Time's Up is invaluable. [Time's Up originally surfaced in 1978 as a bootleg, released as the Buzzcocks were becoming stars on the punk scene. Since then, the tapes have been given an authorized reissue, remastered to make the most of the reasonable if not exceptional audio quality.]

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