Monday, February 09, 2009

"Ever Fallen in Love?" /
The Buzzcocks


You gotta know we're into the Unhappy in Love songs if we doing the Buzzcocks; not just the Buzzcocks, but Love Bites-era Buzzcocks. I was never a huge fan, but among the punk hordes, they struck me as having more songcraft than most. (Not that I'm any expert on punk -- not after that Stranglers concert at the Roundhouse in 1977...)

This track in particular puts its grubby finger right on the pain of a neurotic relationship. This guy knows without question that he's being shabbily treated: "You spurn my natural emotions /You make me feel like dirt, / And I'm hurt." But she's got him on tenterhooks ("And if I start a commotion /I run the risk of losing you /And that's worse"). Now, I find that kinda sweet, especially the way that unrhymed line breaks off, like he's hitting a wall with that thought. Pete Shelley's singing sounds surprisingly young, and the tinniness of the recording (is this mono?) adds to the vulnerable air -- you'd expect anger and threats, but no, he's more like a wounded puppy. He really doesn't want to lose her -- maybe just because he's afraid to be alone, but still.

In the next verse, he declares "I can't see much of a future" -- and that's where the song starts to unravel for me. I mean, this is a punk song, with all the appropriate buzzed-up tempo, frantic drumming, and harshly grating guitar -- so where's the nihilism? Punks aren't supposed to count on a future, are they? "And we won't be together much longer," he complains, "Unless we realize that we're the same." I have no idea what that means. Well, running out of new ideas by verse two does lie in the punk tradition; it's what separates this from the power pop gem it might have been.

Still, it's not philosophy you want from the Buzzcocks. You want energy, and raucous sound, and a chip on the shoulder attitude, and indeed you get it in the chorus. The lines could almost sound romantic -- "Ever fallen in love with someone /Ever fallen in love /In love with someone/ Ever fallen in love /In love with someone ''-- if it weren't for the way it jerks anxiously from note to note, all minor thirds. It's like he's stuck on that hanging question, stuttered in incomplete phrases (think Roger Daltry in "My Generation") . And when he finally completes the sentence, it means just the opposite: "Ever fallen in love with someone /You shouldn't've fallen in love with." He knows it's a losing proposition -- the trouble is, he's already in love with her and can't stop.

In love? Well, at least that's what he calls it....

Ever Fallen in love? sample


Uncle E said...

I've always been a fan of the Buzzcocks singles, but always thought the albums were very uneven. Singles Going Steady is the only album of their that I own and this is a particular favorite. Great analysis Holly.
Oh yes, and please do tell re: that Stranglers concert!

Holly A Hughes said...

I honestly can't remember all of it anymore. There was simulated masturbation, and gobs of spit, and drunken stumbling around -- and that's just what happened on stage.
Either I was too high, or not high enough, to enjoy it....

Owen said...

I had the joy of seeing and hearing the Buzzcocks sing this live a couple of weeks ago - a great teenage song if ever there was one. And they made me a teenager again for the night!

Betty C. said...

I agree with the above, Singles Going Steady is totally brilliant but perhaps all one really needs. Some great love/hate/angst stuff there, though.

In that vein, and also by the Buzzcocks, you can't really beat "Love You More." Nothing like traditional "I love you" lyrics that just suddenly stop short with "until the razor cuts!"