By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Ignored legends who received neither the press nor the accolades that are heaped upon their long-disbanded contemporaries, the Buzzcocks have stuck around long enough in various incarnations to go in and out of vogue as often as platform shoes and right-wing politics. Now they're in again, making their latest "comeback" even as the Ramones wave a bitter one-fingered farewell. The Buzzcocks aren't the rancorous golden oldies the Ramones eventually became, and their formula is still as fresh and deliberate as it was two decades ago--when the idea of fusing accelerated riffs and pristine pop melodies seemed a novelty at best and heresy at worst.
Twenty-three songs in 74 minutes, this live album is the way-post-Lest We Forget that proves the Buzzcocks haven't yet given up. There's still an explicit raw power to the oldies ("Oh Shit!," "Fast Cars," "Orgasm Addict"), a fiery intensity to the nine new-and-previously-unrecorded tracks ("Who'll Help Me to Forget" packages its heartbreak inside a sneering chord progression, and "Last to Know?" asks its question like it knows the answer), and an all-around scorching disposition that bands like Green Day couldn't capture if they had a shotgun and good aim. If you can't understand the words in this context, where lyrics are pounded into submission and even the sanguine songs take on borrowed anger, then you won't even notice "Ever Fallen in Love" didn't make the set list that night.
This is music in search of mood, a soundtrack that's meant to stand apart from its visual companion (directed by Jim Jarmusch) and create its own entity. But every time Johnny Depp's voice comes up in the mix reciting a William Blake poem, Young's feedback-and-drone aurals melt into the background they're supposed to be in the first place. There's some interesting music here, but it's all in search of a voice that isn't mumbling some movie dialogue.
Just when Young finds his course--winding his way through middle age on Freedom, mourning friends on Sleeps with Angels, rekindling his flickering flame Mirror Ball--he falls off the path and trips over his guitar. The result is a mess of feedback and stuttering static that manages to sound beautiful in spots (Young, more than anyone, knows how to wrestle noise into peaceful submission), but never purposeful.