on 1 February 2005
Recorded in 1993, Trade Test Transmissions was the first studio album since '79 for Buzzcocks. In '93 I'm pretty sure I was sporting a Vanilla Ice haircut (winning me the best hair award at St. Paul's Juniors no less), and so news of a new Buzzcocks album would have been insignificant compared to my gravity-defying quiff. Twelve years have passed, and thankfully a handful of fumbling's and a healthy exposure to cheap alcohol have helped to broaden my musical horizons somewhat. Were I to be on Desert Island Discs, one of my easier choices would be Ever Fallen' In Love, such is my liking for Buzzcocks of old.
And so it with great trepidation that I approach Trade Test Transmissions, because whilst Buzzcocks had achieved great things post De Voto, bands rarely return to form after such extended breaks. Do It instantly dismisses any such fears, with joyfully adolescent lyrics which set the tone for Innocent's plea 'Even though you're not my mum, I've got to get my washing done'. Of course, there was always more to Buzzcocks than quirky lyrics; Shelley and Diggle's highly regarded and oft-imitated angular sound is present and as satisfying as ever.
Will I Be The Last To Know perfectly summarises the bands sound, with its deliriously catchy chorus and brutally efficient production which delivers most tracks in less than three minutes. Palm Of Your Hand neatly echoes the seminal Orgasm Addict, displaying Buzzcocks sense of fun, and a band proud of their back catalogue. Whilst such nostalgic nods to previous work give Trade Test Transmissions a sense of perspective and time, the album does more than enough to earn it place next to classics such as Love Bites.
This was the first new Buzzcocks album to be recorded in fourteen years, since the release of the majestic "A Different Kind Of Tension" way back in September 1979. I, for one, was a little concerned. Would the comeback ruin the Buzzcocks' legacy? It's now been a similar amount of time since TTT was released, an unbeliveable thirteen years, and I now realise that I needn't have worried too much. The reformed quartet have recorded a respectable five new albums and TTT is probably the best, along with the recent "Flat-Pack Philosophy".
For me, TTT is the album that most closely resembles the original albums from the 70's. Pete Shelley's crystal clear melodies are here in abundance and, as usual, Stevie D chimes in with his usual set of mighty anthems.
The album starts off with "Do It", the second single culled from TTT. I always thought this was a strange choice for a second single. There are certainly stronger Shelley tunes on here. My personal choice - if they'd asked me! - would have been Steve's superb "Isolation", surely his best composition since "Harmony In My Head"?
After "Do It" we get the debut single from the album, "Innocent". This is, in my opinion, one of the strongest tracks Pete has ever written, whether solo or with the band. If ever a song cried out for radio play then it was this. It has everything; a catchy chorus, one of Pete's "magical" guitar solos, gorgeous melody and a superb lyric "...who calls the tune must pay the piper/fix the plug and catch the spider..." Great stuff!
The title track is pure Shelley and wouldn't feel out of place on "A Different Kind Of Tension". Shelley tells us to put down our books and turn on the tele. After Diggle's immense "Isolation" we get a couple more Shelley classics, "Smile", with it's classic singalong chorus and Pete trying to get to the high notes. Love it. "Last To Know" is a re-recorded version of the track that appeared on the "Alive Tonight" EP back in 1989. Also included on TTT the title track from that EP, Steve's track also in re-recorded form.
There are other strong tracks on the rest of the album, standouts are Steve's "When Love Turns Around You" and Pete's "Crystal Night" and "369".
An added bonus to this re-release of TT is the inclusion of the excellent non-album single from 1994, "Libertine Angel". A mighty Pete Shelley track. Also included are associated b-sides from this and the two album CD singles.
All in all a great album. If you've got the original albums and want to dip your toe into Reformation Waters, then you could do worse than starting with TTT. Alternatively, the latest album "Flat-Pack Philisophy".