Essential New Music: Buzzcocks’ “Buzzcocks (mk.1) Box”

Hard to believe but it’s now 40 years since the Buzzcocks self-released Spiral Scratch. To celebrate, Domino has put together a suitably reverent and sumptuous boxed set featuring the aforementioned landmark plus Time’s Up, the Howard Devoto-fronted collection of demos, previously only available as a bootleg, plus countless assorted extras that have become de rigeur for any self-respecting boxed set these days. But why, you might ask, should we care? Because, frankly, Spiral Scratch in particular remains an absolutely epochal release, as historically important as, say, the Damned’s “New Rose” or the Pistols and Clash debuts in the launch of U.K. punk. By turns angular, arch and endearingly amateurish, it fairly whips along fueled by youthful exuberance and a surfeit of ideas. A peerless example of punk’s nascent DIY aesthetic, it single-handedly launched the British indie movement and kick-started the burgeoning Manchester scene, largely by proving relocation to the bright lights and rapaciousness of the London music biz was no longer a necessity. It’s the musical gift that just kept on giving, and for that we should all be eternally grateful.

—Neil Ferguson