aNewDomain — Used to be, bands peaked out early. I don’t know if musicians are responding to the fiscal pressures of digitization or what, or maybe it’s just a 2015 thing, but some old bands are releasing some great news lately. Here’s a look at what The Buzzcocks, Client, the dB’s and other 80s punk and alternative bands I once loved are doing now.
The Buzzcocks: Brit Punk Evolved
The Buzzcocks‘ most recent album, “The Way,” continues a remarkable forward movement for a group that burst on the scene with androgynous lyrics about the politics of romance and relationships some four decades ago.
Like so many bands in its generation, this punk group broke up in the 1980s and reformed in the 1990s. With the new release, you’ll see the band’s kept its signature buzzsaw guitars.
It still maintains its core concerns, all while evolving its signature sound and songwriting chops.
Highlights of the reunion period include “Modern” (1999), the self-titled non-debut “Buzzcocks” (2003) and 2014’s “The Way,” which switches back and forth between songs written and sung by Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle. “Virtually Real,” about social media, would come off as contrived and insipid in the hands of lesser social satirists. In the hands of Buzzcocks, it’s a gem.
Client: Frosty English Electronica
This is one of those situations that usually spells music death.
Yet the 2014 CD “Authority” not only maintained enough of the original musical and conceptual aesthetic to satisfy existing fans but moves things forward with more forthright political commentary on the nature of oppression in the 21st century, all to an inevitable dance beat set behind a new singer whose voice is different enough from Blackwood’s to carve out her own territory while moving the band forward.
Hard-hitting English electronica band Client has reveled in mystery since its founding in 2002.
The group’s two original members were identified only as Client A and Client B, and their images never appeared on their CD artwork. Blending retro 1980s synthesizers and frosty lyrics influenced by the late singer Nico and the early 1980s French Cold Wave movement led by KaS Product, Client was a reliable favorite – until Sarah Blackwood, the lead singer of Dubstar, formerly known as Client B, left the band.
Don’t get me wrong: I still love the old albums. But the new one is just as good, if maybe a bit more contemporary.
The dB’s: 1980s American Pop Power Returns
Okay, so this one came out in 2012, but I didn’t notice and neither did many other people so I’m talking about it now.For my money the seminal American power pop band, the dB’s, never recaptured the highs of their somewhat neglected 1984 masterpiece “Like This.” Yet here we are, three decades later, after a series of on-again off-again albums, including the insanely flat 1994 “Paris Avenue,” with their next album, “Falling Off the Sky.”
Critics like to say this a lot, but this really is a true return to form, plus it moves the band forward in a way that doesn’t spell “old.”
The Adverts: Melodic Post Punk
Year after year, the Adverts put out one CD after another, each better than the one before, which is itself amazing. Most recent was last year’s “I Delete,” which blends elements of classic late 1970s British punk, 1980s hair metal, 1990s grunge, early 21st century postproduction gimmickry and pretty much everything else that has ever mattered to me.
Lots of amazing songs here, but “It Don’t Work,” about the feelings and failings of technology on both a personal and political level stands out. It’s unbelievable to me that this is a guy who made it big with a 1970s novelty song, “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes.”
Of the many unjustly overlooked musical artists out there, there has never been a bigger gap between soaring talent and popular obscurity than that of singer-songwriter TV Smith, formerly the lead singer of the Adverts, who were contemporaries of the Buzzcocks in the late 1970s in the UK.
Smith writes heart-wrenching, droll elegies, from those crushed by the steamroller of heartless capitalism (e.g., “It’s Expensive Being Poor“) to delightfully melodic postpunk.
Frank and Walters: Irish Alternative Bond
Finally, another revelation, which thanks to the Internet I just found out about even though the thing came out in 2012, is that Frank and Walters, an alternative rock band from Ireland famous for their jangly guitars and beautiful, winsome lyrics about the nature of desire who formed in 1990, got back together and issued a new CD, “Greenwich Mean Time.”
Here the triumph isn’t so much that they moved forward. They didn’t.
“Mean Time” sounds like they never went away. It’s a seamless transition from 2006 to 2012, which is kind of amazing when you think about it.
Sometimes, when you love a band, more of the same is good enough. And sometimes, rarely, it might even be better.
For aNewDomain, I’m Ted Rall.
A version of this story ran on aNewDomain’s sister site, BreakingModern.
Cover image: “The Buzzcocks 1” by Robman94 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
The Buzzcocks. Image: Wikimedia Commons
The Adverts. Image: Wikimedia Commons
The dB’s. Image: Wikimedia Commons
Frank and Walters. Image: Wikimedia Commons
Client. Image: Wikimedia Commons