It’s hard to figure out what exactly sets Buzzcocks apart from other 70s punk bands, but it was even harder to spot it at their concert at the Fonda on Wednesday.
Started in 1976, Buzzcocks are one of the most important founding Punk bands. But their music has a much lighter feel than that pedigree might suggest. They still charge forward confidently with simple guitar chords and the militant passion of young men, but there’s a definite, less serious bent to their music.
With “Why Can’t I Touch It,” Buzzcocks spends six-and-a-half minutes bemoaning the limits of masturbation – beating Green Day by singing about beating off fifteen years before “Longview”. That’s not even including Buzzcocks’ other song about masturbation, “Orgasm Addict.” In fact, since I’m not super-familiar with Buzzcocks’ long career, I have to submit that it’s entirely possible that they have more masturbation songs that I’m unaware of.
But at the Fonda, they just sounded like another rock band. Some of that can be chalked up to the venue’s sound that night, which was too fat on guitar and didn’t allow any finish from the songs to seep through. But the band wasn’t exactly bursting with energy. It’s hard to be too critical – the two original members are 59-years-old and might have looked more in place at the Train concert happening across the street. It’d be exaggerating to say they only showed up for a paycheck, but young openers the Images out-enthused the headliners while trying to look cool and ambivalent about being onstage. (Though intermittently, Buzzcocks guitarist Steve Diggle had as much of a hard-on to be there as the most moshy portions of the crowd).
After a long, temperate set, Buzzcocks finished off with hits like “What Do I Get?” that sent the crowd into a tizzy. It was too little to redeem the rest of the evening, but it’s hard to complain too much. Punk rockers – even ones as casual as myself – know to be grateful for a chance to see a band as important as Buzzcocks.