From its title on down, The Way is Buzzcocks‘ version of a self-help manual: a non-didactic set of pep talks from two guys — longtime leaders Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle — who’ve been laughing off alienation, heartbreak, sexual frustration and general confusion since 1976.
The Way is the sixth Buzzcocks full-length since the group reformed in the early ’90s. While it lacks the choppy pop-art-gone-cubist charge of their ’70s output, it’s sufficiently fuzzy and hooky, and bookended with fine blueprints for living. On opener “Keep on Believing,” Shelley tries to summon the youthful yelp needed to sell his message of hope: “Don’t let your consternation spoil the celebration.” He gets closest on “Virtually Real” and “Out of the Blue,” reckoning with a couple of formidable adversaries: Facebook and fate, respectively.
Diggle’s Nirvana-esque closer, “Saving Yourself,” is reassuring in its pragmatism: “It’s all about saving yourself from desire.” Shelley said basically the same thing in ’77 with “Orgasm Addict,” except that these days, they have bigger problems than keeping their jeans clean. Better coping mechanisms, too. “I see solutions in the back of my mind,” Diggle sings on “In the Back,” an ’80s obscurity revisited here with extra assurance. The groovy Beatlesque guitar riff is an added bonus, a reward to remind us why we fight our daily battles.