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Love Bites, originally released in September 1978 was the second album by the legendary Mancunian punksters The Buzzcocks.
The first album, "Another music in a different kitchen" saw the band slowly migrating from the angst ridden lyrics of Howard Devoto and settling in a much warmer musical climate of power pop punk anthems.
The line up of Pete Shelley - Guitar & Vocals, Steve Diggle - Guitar & Vocals, Steve Garvey - Bass, John Maher - Drums remained unchanged from the previous line up.
Love bites and its predecessor were both released in 1978. Unlike "Another Music" none of these songs were co written by Devoto, illustrating the song writing skills and sense of creative urgency within the band.
The original LP had 11 tracks. This reissue has added 4 tracks, being the A and B sides of 2 singles that were released around the same time period.
The production skills of Martin Rushent, who had produced the previous album, are exercised once again with the sound quality being pristine and slightly improving on the original vinyl quality.
A track by track breakdown (excuse the pun) -
Real World -
This opener, a Shelley written love song, sets the theme of the LP - "Love". The songs starts with a tom and snare drum pattern which is shortly joined by guitar riffs and gets progressively louder until it burst into a splendor of pop punk perfection. Lyrically this song is not that dissimilar to 'Fiction Romance' from their previous album. The lyrics imply that Pete wants his lover to remain in 'The real world' and not in a fictional world.
Ever Fallen in Love (with Someone You Shouldn't Have)? -
This is undoubtedly the bands most successful song and single. It is a pure and simple punk pop love song. Hallmarked by Steve Diggles signature lead guitar riff and Shelley's power chords. Shelley's lyrical genius is proved by fitting the exhaustive lyrics -" Ever fallen in love with someone, ever fallen in love in love with someone, ever fallen in love in love with someone you shouldn't have fallen in love with!" as the songs chorus.... she sells sea shells would have been far easier! The success of this song led The Fine Young Cannibals to release a cover version of it many years later. Virtually every 'Best of Punk Rock' album will have this track on it. This is undoubtedly the group's swan song.
Operator's Manual -
Starts with a 2 chord guitar loop that quickly becomes the main structure of the song until the chorus cuts in with a tango style tempo and all preconceptions are blown out of the water. Although written by Shelley it has a definite lyrical Devoto feel to it. The subject that Pete requires a manual to guide himself through a relationship - "Operators manual, tells me what to do, when emotions blow a fuse, and I'm feeling blue". This song unlike the previous track is a return to the more musical quirky and challenging Buzzcocks.
Musically a mid tempo, Buzzcocks by Numbers tune. That's not entirely a bad thing though as it stabilizes the album and helps the play list gel. Lyrically it's very clever, like the film back to the future Shelley awaits "Nostalgia for an age yet to come". Punk band Penetration used to cover this song, and some say performed the song more convincingly, jury's out.
Just Lust -
Its songs like these that the band performs best. Very quirky and unexpected guitar chord changes, tempo changes and intelligent lyrics. The song is about attraction led by lust.
Sixteen Again -
Just as the first LP's a-side ended with a song called 'Sixteen' the original vinyl version of Love Bites a-side ended with this song called 'Sixteen again'. It is there that the comparison ends. In the song 'Sixteen' Shelley sang about alienation and hate, on 'Sixteen again' he is reminiscing of the tumultuous rollercoaster of teenage angst and emotions.
Walking Distance -
On the original vinyl release this song would have opened side B. The song starts with a jaunty up-tempo riff of bass chords which are quickly joined by the guitars and drums all playing harmony riffs over the top. The ringing of the guitars is not dissimilar to the sound of wailing bagpipes, full and enveloping. The song, an instrumental penned by the bass player Garvey is a short but happy little ditty, though its subject unclear.
Love Is Lies -
Just when you thought you had the feel of the album out pops this strange little love song. The first thing you notice is that all the fuzz and distortion of the typical Buzzcocks song is gone; instead you have an acoustic guitar mid tempo song. The second difference is the vocals, it Steve Diggle instead of Pete Shelley singing. Diggle's voice is much deeper and defined than Shelley's. The song itself is not dissimilar to a country song, and Punk rock it is not! Despite this, the song actually fits into the albums playlist perfectly; well it is another love song after all.
Nothing Left -
A tribal drum beat and a guitar riff form the backbone of this song. Lyrically it's all gone wrong for poor Mr. Shelley. His partner has left him and he has nothing left. The song to demonstrate this feeling of loss slows down and becomes progressively quieter mid section. Finally the song rebuilds into a tower of noise and Pete shouts about his loss once more and then it's all over. The band performed this live on the BBC's 'Old Grey Whistle Test' in 1978 and many consider that to be the definitive version.
ESP or Extra Sensory Perception is the subject here. The music is a shrill guitar lead line that continues in a loop for the duration of the song. Shelley sings "Do you believe in ESP?, I do and I'm trying to get through to you" which is an eloquent way of saying 'do you know how I'm feeling'. The songs repetition at first does get a bit boring but then starts to grab your attention again in a hypnotic attention grabbing manner.
Late for the Train -
This instrumental, credited to the whole band, starts with a bass drumbeat that sounds like a fast heartbeat. The whole song with flashes of guitar reverb and stereo flanges of sound give the feeling of speed and urgency. On vinyl this would have been the last track, and quite a clever selection.
Love You More (*additional reissue track) -
Love you more was originally released as single in June 1978 and the Buzzcocks fifth single. This song is a straight forward chainsaw bar chord punk love song. Pete sings "It's in my blood to always love you more". This song would have fitted well onto the vinyl release of Love Bites and doesn't appear out of place as an added extra on this reissue.
Noise Annoys (*additional reissue track) -
Originally released as the B-Side of 'Love You More', this song could have quite easily been an instrumental. It's a fast quirky song with intentional discordant guitars and variations of the vocal line of 'Pretty girls, Pretty Boys, have you ever heard your mummy say noise annoys". What originally could be considered a filler (a musical track for a tracks sake) has become a catchy song and good live number.
Promises (*additional reissue track) -
Originally released as single in November 1978, not dissimilar the structure of 'Love you more' this is another bar chord pop punk love song with a sing-along chorus. A sad song lyrically about being let down and broken promises.
Lipstick (*additional reissue track) -
This song was originally released as the B-Side of Promises. Pete Shelley sings this song almost falsetto. This is another sad song about the breakup of a relationship. Even more tongue twisting quirky lyrics ensue - "When you kiss me, does the lipstick on your lip stick on my face?". Musically it's a progressive rock riff which isn't a hundred miles away from the riff in 'Shot by both sides' (a single released by ex-Buzzcock Howard Devoto's band magazine).
The success of music in a different kitchen was going to prove a difficult record to improve upon. Love Bites isn't a better album, but it isn't worst either. In fact they are like chalk and cheese by comparison. The Shelley penned love songs drive this album and are lyrically direct and uncomplicated. The musical quirkiness is still present but there is much more musical variety ('Love is Lies' is testament to this).
I've always questioned if the album was a concept album and tells a story from start to finish. It could read as - a man meets dream girl in the real world who he shouldn't have fallen in love with. He is unsure of how to control his emotions and needs an operators manual and looks forward nostalgically to the future. Following a period of lust and feeling sixteen again he walks to his lover's house where he finds she has been unfaithful to him and their love is based on lies. Having nothing left he runs for the late train home. Of course I could be reading a bit too much into this!
Summary: Brilliant second album from Mancunian Punk Legends
© Otalgia 2008
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Real World
2 Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't 'Ve?)
3 Operator's Manual
5 Just Lust
6 Sixteen Again
7 Walking Distance
8 Love Is Lies
9 Nothing Left
11 Late For The Train
12 Love You More
13 Noise Annoys