1978 was an enormously productive year for the Buzzcocks. It not only saw the release of their exemplary debut album, Another Music In A Different Kitchen, but also their second, Love Bites. In addition, they issued five non-LP singles. An unbelievable pace, and one no band in their right mind would have attempted. But in the first flush of British punk, it seemed like there was no tomorrow, everything had to be done right now.
Love Bites (Special Edition) is Mute Records’ second offering in their stellar Buzzcocks reissue program. One of the great aspects of this series is the opportunity it affords us to reevaluate the albums in context of the times. Besides the original 11 songs, the set includes the two contemporary singles, “Love You More” and “Promises.” Additionally, there are seven tracks from the legendary John Peel Sessions, 13 demos, and a ten-song set recorded live at Manchester’s Free Trade Hall in July of ‘78.
Love Bites has been unfairly viewed as the least of the original trio of albums. I must confess that I once held this opinion as well. Listening to it freshly though, and with the attendant singles, I feel that Love Bites is a classic in its own right. The fact that the band had progressed markedly from Another Music may be a reason it has been dismissed. But any record that includes a single as perfect as “Ever Fallen In Love” deserves a second look.
Love Bites opens with some brilliant guitar work on “Real World.” The pure-pop brilliance of “Ever Fallen In Love” follows, and then the band’s more aggressive side is showcased. “Operators Manual” and “Just Lust” are prime examples of the Buzzcock’s patented punk hybrid — there was no other group around at the time who could have penned these tunes.
Side two of the original LP was nearly flawless. “Walking Distance,” “Nothing Left,” and “ESP” are simply amazing songs. For the closer, the group looked back at the way they ended Another Music, with “Moving Away From The Pulsebeat.” It was unlike anything that had preceded it, and Love Bites’ “Late For The Train” is a similar concoction. The nearly six-minute instrumental is credited to the entire group, and is intoxicating.
The seven John Peel Sessions recordings are excellent, with the band live in the studio playing songs from the album. But it is the live Free Trade Hall material (all of it previously unreleased) that should get Buzzcocks fans most excited. There was something about playing in front of an audience that got this group fired up. They certainly were at a peak that night, and the crowd definitely got their money’s worth.
In hindsight, Love Bites is the most underrated album in the Buzzcocks' canon. It stands as a truly brilliant record. And there was more to come. Another classic would follow, just a few months later, called A Different Kind Of Tension.