Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Buzzcocks, "Everybody's Happy Nowadays" (1979)


Well, this is an old favorite just because I owned the single before making the smart move and latching onto the band's masterpiece album, Singles Going Steady (A-sides and B-sides, arguably the only way to do a punk-rock album). It's thus a sentimental favorite but I think anyone would have to agree. "Everybody's Happy Nowadays" is still a beaut—it's the slashing guitars that make it, which are so nimble and quick and yet so suddenly heavy, pushed to the forefront when the backing vocals cut in. David Gedge, for one, was an evident student. They are like blasts of gently scrubbing steel wool to the brain, abrasive yet cleansing in the full-out sprint of this song. Pete Shelley's vocal traces a relentlessly hooked-up melody, made to pogo to yet so much more, operating at precision levels of popcraft, chiming notes and fat chords and ratatat snare. When the space opens for it Shelley's nervous yelping, "but I know it's OK OK," makes the point perfectly. Of course this is no song about happiness, even if it sounds that way, but rather one of jeering anxiety, with built-in propulsive release courtesy those slashing guitars, which suddenly elevate and relieve and go full circle to the song's fundamentals. Manchester's finest, I don't care what anyone says, the Buzzcocks would have been stars in any era, and they should have been bigger stars in the late '70s. The art is all over it—this is the punk-rock that willfully eschews politics—and they are so good at assembling pop music out of 2 guitars bass drums that one is practically humbled by it. At the same time "Everybody's Happy Nowadays" is so generous there's only occasion for the joy of it, and playing again.

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