Gig/Concert: Buzzcocks, with The Dollyrots opening
Venue: Le National, Montréal, QC, Canada
Date: 18 May 2010
In one word: Buzzin’
Opening for the Buzzcocks are L.A. band The Dollyrots. Halfway through their set, I‘ve come to the conclusion that they would make an excellent high school band in some nerds vs cheerleaders teen movie: fairly unintimidating pop-punk with a mix of attitude and tease that isn’t about to disturb anyone’s parents, but still fills the quota for teen angst. Lead singer Kelly Ogden looks like a punked-up Goldie Hawn and channels a Kim Deal-like sweetness in her singing style and stage banter, but their look & sound is very much in the Avril Lavigne-style of born-in-the-eighties pop punks. While managing to knock out some decent covers of Joan Jett’s “My Bad Reputation” and 70s folk singer Melanie’s “Brand New Key” (Does the last one sound familiar? If you know your Tarantino soundtracks, it should), there were a few detours into the saccharine territory of pop like “California Beach Boy” that kind of grated on me. But for the most part they’re earnest and likeable enough. (Side note: standing in front of the stage, what I mistook for a setlist was actually a couple French greetings spelled out phonetically – “New sum les Dollyrots”. OK, that’s kind of sweet, so hating on them would feel too much like punching kittens. I just can’t.)
On the other end of the pop punk spectrum, the Buzzcocks open their set with “Fast Cars”, sounding like it was recorded yesterday (except for the Ralph Nader reference; I doubt many people under thirty would be familiar with his early work with the regulation of the auto industry). To describe the Buzzcocks as pioneers is an often-repeated understatement, but that their endurance as an act whose music continues to have such fresh appeal speaks volumes. I’ve long been a fan Pete Shelley’s punchy, clever lyrics – and it’s usually a band’s lyrics that get my attention first. If there’s anything that can excuse pop’s catchy excesses it’s either cleverness or innovation, and the Buzzcocks consistently have both in spades. While a lot of today’s pop punk just grates on me for displaying more attitude than they’re rightfully earned – with even some straight-up punk just sounding conventional – the ‘cocks managed to write some phenomenally enduring songs within their short span. The first time I listened to “Harmony in my Head” I had to agree with Henry Rollins: this song sums up perfectly what good music means to me. If I could tattoo it across my heart, I would. Wait a minute… hmm.
Whereas songs like “Orgasm Addict” or “Oh Shit” could come off as merely a cheeky exploitations of taboos in both language and subject, it’s the intelligence behind their lyrical construction that sets this band apart from the rest. It’s a combination that’s rare to find, and precious when you do. I mean, fuck – remember the first time you ever played “Orgasm Addict” for someone who might not have even liked punk or had no idea who the Buzzcocks were? Yeah? Had some ‘splainin to do? Good times.
Throughout their show they manage to hit all their classics without sounding like a Vegas oldies karaoke act – Billy Idol, I’m looking at you – while throwing in some longer instrumentals like “Moving Away from the Pulsebeat”- which, clocking in at around seven minutes, may just be the longest punk song ever. (Speaking of longevity, they ended up playing a nearly two hour set – egads. I want to have that kind of energy now, let alone when I’m in my fifties.) The encore hits up some of my favourites – the aforementioned “Harmony”, “Promises,” “Love You More,” and “What Do I Get.” “Orgasm Addict” triumphantly closes their set, effectively crossing another band off my bucket list – but hopefully not the last time I get to see them.
© Liz Keith, Music Vice
Pictures of the Buzzcocks at The Dollyrots: