Review Summary: A short, effective EP that mixes pop sensibilities with the rough, straightforward qualities of 70s punk rock.
While the Buzzcocks are far better known for their pioneering pop-punk singles released after Howard Devoto’s departure, the band’s first EP was itself very influential despite lacking any of these defining songs. Alongside being one of the first widely recognized EPs released by a British punk band, it was also one of the first punk records released independently by the band’s own label. This context alone is enough to cement Spiral Scratch as a notable part of music history, but what about the music itself?
Despite its seemingly by-the-books punk rock sound, Spiral Scratch is actually a pretty unique EP for its time, considering how few punk records were available. While it does sound pretty standard alongside the many similar albums that followed its release, Spiral Scratch really is timeless in its delivery. In typical 70’s punk format, the songs are fast, fun, and undoubtedly catchy, focusing on giving the listener a dose of quick and easy entertainment as opposed to lengthy, embellished soundscapes. The jumpy guitar chords and Devoto’s slightly high-pitched snarls even display early attempts at the heavily pop-oriented style that the Buzzcocks would become known for in the near future, making the EP a bit more accessible than other somewhat more abrasive 70s punk albums such as Damned Damned Damned and Pink Flag.
Overall, Spiral Scratch is a great early punk EP, displaying the talent of a pioneering pop-punk band in their earliest stages. While it may be simple in its delivery, it’s effective, focusing on the strength of the group’s energy while cutting out any unnecessary filler, in line with traditional punk ethos. While the EP is likely more important for its context in history than the music contained inside, it’s still worth a listen for just about any fan of early punk music or anyone who wants to hear what the Buzzcocks sounded like before the release of their more well-known albums and singles.