Thursday, September 25, 2014

Buzzcocks -- "Something's Gone Wrong Again" (1979)

Look at my watch, just to tell the time
But the hand's come off mine
Something's gone wrong again

(That's happened to me.  Has it ever happened to you?)

I've never been a big fan of live music shows.  Most of the time, I prefer listening to a band's recorded music than seeing them perform live.  There's usually no comparison between the quality of the music on studio albums and live albums.  

Of course, sometimes you want to be able to say you've seen a band in person.  I'm very glad I've seen the Rolling Stones, and the Kinks, and Blue Oyster Cult, and Leon Russell, and Doug Sahm, and the Flamin' Groovies perform live.  

(Not the Sonic Youth show I saw)
In 1998, I took my 14-year-old son to see Sonic Youth at the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC.  I love Sonic Youth and I was really looking forward to seeing them perform live.  But my timing was off.

Washington was the band's first stop on a tour promoting its new album, A Thousand Leaves.  The album was released one week after the Washington appearance, so I had no chance to hear it before the show.

I almost never like music the first time I hear it.  I usually have to hear an album two or three times before I start to respond to it.  Because I had no chance to hear A Thousand Leaves before seeing Sonic Youth perform that night, that show was a big disappointment -- with the exception of a couple of more familiar encore numbers, all they played that night were the songs from A Thousand Leaves

I bought that album shortly after seeing that show, and it became one of my favorite Sonic Youth albums.  But when I heard that music for the first time at the 9:30 Club in 1998, it was just a lot of noise.

Unfortunately, I had a similar experience when I went to see the Buzzcocks recently.  The Buzzcocks -- a British punk/pop band that was formed in 1976, broke up in 1981, and re-formed years later -- was in town to promote their new album, The Way.

The Buzzcocks then
We've come a long way in terms of digital distribution technology since 1998.  Back then, there was no such thing as iTunes -- if I wanted to listen to A Thousand Leaves, I had to go to a record store and buy the CD.

When I learned that the Buzzcocks had a new album out, I assumed that new album would be the focus of their live show.  That didn't make me happy, but I was prepared to make the best of it by buying the new album online and familiarizing myself with it before going to the live show.  

For some cockamamie reason, the new album wasn't available on iTunes or Amazon.  It was available exclusively through PledgeMusic, a website used by bands who wanted to pre-sell their music.  

Or I should say it had been available through PledgeMusic.  If I had known about the album earlier this summer, I could have downloaded it.  But by the time I heard about the Buzzcocks coming to Washington, PledgeMusic had raised 153% of the band's goal, and so had stopped accepting orders.

The Buzzcocks now

I could have purchased a CD or a vinyl LP -- assuming that I could have figured out how to do so on the PledgeMusic website, WHICH MAKES IT PRETTY MUCH IMPOSSIBLE TO ACTUALLY BUY ANY MUSIC.  

And even if I had figured out how to buy a CD or LP, it would have taken a week or two or longer to be delivered.  I didn't have a week or two or whatever before the show.

It is incomprehensible to me why a band would want to make it virtually impossible for someone to buy its music.  

Maybe it's just as well I wasn't able to buy the album.  From what I could tell at the show, the album sucks.

But I'm not really sure of that because the sound at the venue where I heard the Buzzcocks was so loud and so distorted that what I heard was a lot of undifferentiated noise and two songs at the end that I actually recognized.

In other words, it was a bad news-good news situation.  The bad news was that the Buzzcocks sucked.  The good news was that they played for a really long time -- so at least I got my money's worth.

("It was 35 years ago today . . .")
"Something's Gone Wrong Again" was released in North America exactly 35 years ago today on Singles Going Steady, a compilation album.  I don't think the Buzzcocks played "Something's Gone Wrong Again" at the live show I saw, but I wouldn't swear to it.  

Here's "Something's Gone Wrong Again":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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