Review Summary: Hugely enjoyable sophomore album from one of the progenitors of classic pop-punk
Although The Ramones had flirted with the idea of pop accessibility on their second album Leave Home
, and an up and coming band called The Undertones were about to sing about their teenage kicks, one of the first concentrated efforts to meld punk and pop together came in the form of Love Bites
, the second effort from this Mancunian band. It’s got the raw production and angst-fuelled teenage vocals that characterized so much classic punk, but Pete Shelley’s uncanny knack of producing wave after wave of catchy hooks give it a more accessible appeal, the pace being kept firmly under control by the tight rhythm section and frenetic drumming that prevails, while the indefatigable thrust and drive propels you through track after track of relentless riffage.
The first side of this album is a near-flawless barrage of gritty guitars that crunch their way through verses and chime on the choruses. The rather obvious highpoint of all this is the standard, ‘Ever Fallen In Love’
, pop-punks’ colours well and truly nailed to the mast. But others, such as the bouncy ‘Just Lust‘
(the rhythm won’t leave your head for a long time) and the sprightly teenage anthem ‘Sixteen Again‘
stand up well in the face of such mighty competition, while chaotic minor-keys abound in ’Nostalgia’
and add a touch of menace. Lyrics about teenage doe-eyed obsessions are perfectly adequate, functional rather than Dylan-esque; that is, except when Shelley attempts the occasional horrible machinery metaphor:
Tells me what to do
When emotions blow a fuse
That aside, what truly stops this being a classic is the decidedly hit-and-miss second side. The energy doesn’t let up until the dire ‘Love Is Lies‘
, Steve Diggle taking vocals on this ill-fitting acoustic number that tries to be sentimental. The album never recovers properly from this stumble; the riffs that are left are milked for all they’re worth (’E.S.P.’)
, while the ending instrumental, despite a fake fade-out followed by a dramatic crashing return, is head-crushingly repetitive.
Thankfully, this 2001 reissue features four bonus tracks; singles and b-sides from before and after that follow the same short, sharp and snappy stylings of the first side. ‘Love You More‘
is surely one of the shortest A-sides ever, clocking in at a meagre 1:48. Simplistic as you like, choral ahh-ohhhs serve as the main hook, a practice repeated in ‘Promises‘
, their best single after the iconic ’Ever Fallen In Love’
. The stop-start nature of ‘Noise Annoys’
unfortunately means that the song more than lives up to its name, but b-side ’Lipstick’
finishes it all off nicely enough, with a return to those clear ringing guitar licks.
Perhaps the Buzzcocks come across more comfortably as a singles band; yet, Love Bites
is mostly a solid (if slightly shallow) effort, and it would be a shame for the many obscure gems on here to remain hidden. Anyone into honest classic punk should lap this up.