People usually champion Another Music In A Different Kitchen as the Buzzcock's crowning achievement, but I could never understand why. Granted, Love Bites doesn't have that album's fast pace or frenetic energy, but their second offering (alongside Singles Going Steady) contains some of their most melodic and emotional work to date. At this stage, the Buzzcocks had perfected their punk-pop formula, which bands like Green Day would eventually ride to multi-platinum success (much to guitarist Steve Diggle's consternation). And while A Different Kind of Tension (their third LP from 1979) had some very good songs, it was apparent that their constant drug abuse was beginning to take its toll.
The songs on Love Bites run the gamut from acoustic numbers to their trademark 60's pop influenced punk rock, even throwing in a few instrumental jams to round everything out. This is one of those albums I could listen to all the way through without skipping a single track. That being said, my personal favorites would be the wonderfully emotional romp of "Sixteen Again", the wistful "Nostalgia", the exuberant "Just Lust", the creative and highly melodic "ESP", and of course, the hit single "Ever Fallen In Love". Thematically speaking, not much has changed from AMIADK. They are still writing songs about unrequited love, personal relationships, and introspective musings.
It's unfortunate that this album never got the respect it deserved. Along with Singles Going Steady, this is an essential record. If you still crave more Buzzcocks, check out their other 1970's releases, Trade Transmissions, and if you're really daring, try their experimental, acid-drenched, and mildly disturbing singles from Parts 1-3.
"Love Bites" probably falls into that "difficult second album" category of releases that have sent many bands on a one-way trip to oblivion. It's an easily forgotten album, being sandwiched between the pure energy of "Another Music" and the self-imploding, ecstasy adrenalin-rush of their final album "A Different Kind Of Tension". That's odd as the album contains their most successful single, "Ever Fallen in Love", which has deservedly moved into Classic Single Mansion.
The first thing you'll notice is the cover and lack of any design element. It's very, er...white. There's none of Malcolm Garretts' usual design flair seen on the bands singles and one album up to that point. If you're new to the band, have a search on the Internet for their sleeves and you'll see that they're beautiful pieces of artwork in themselves, from the cut-and-paste ideal of their controversial debut "Orgasm Addict", right through to their swansong "Are Everything".
It's remarkable to think that this album was released barely six months after their debut. In a time where you'll get an album every four years (if you're lucky) from your heroes, this is quite a feat. Still, everyone was doing it back in them there days. From pop-punk to pop in 24 weeks; brilliant!
"Real World" kicks the whole shebang off with Pete again wishing somebody would love him; "I'm in love with somebody/I wish somebody loved me too", a recurring theme we'd seen many times, "What Do I Get?", for example. The whole sound is, I hesitate to use the word `polished', less rough (?) maybe. Next-up is the aforementioned classic "Ever Fallen in Love". The rest of Side One (I'm old fashioned like that) is made up of the rather odd "Operators Manual" and "Just Lust", the b-side to the hit. Then we are treated to two absolute crackers in "Nostalgia" where Pete is telling us how he's surfing on a wave of nostalgia for an age yet to come and "Sixteen Again" which includes some of their best backing vocals ever; you just listen to the boys singing `and then'. Wonderful.
The rest of Love Bites (side two!) starts off with a great little instrumental written by Steve Garvey called walking distance. The other Steve had obviously had a bang on the head around this time as he contributed "Love Is Lies", an acoustic singer/songwriter type tune, which is so un-Diggle like to be untrue. That's not to say it's not a good track, it certainly is, just well, just not very Steve Diggle. Pete then treats us to "Nothing Left" and "ESP", two tracks which really show us the direction he'd take on "A Different Kind Of Tension" a year later. The albums closure is a band-written tour-de-force instrumental called "Late For the Train", it's no Trans Europe Express, but it's a really interesting piece, that would have baffled their contemporaries, I could never imagine The Clash or Gen X doing something similar. This is why, for me, the `Cocks are head and shoulders above the other bands around at the time.
This expanded release gives us an astonishing 34 extra tracks. These range from associated singles and b-sides from the period, the beautiful "Love You More", "Promises" and a raft of Peel sessions and demos, which are always interesting to hear.
I bought this album on release in 1978, I was 13 at the time, and no other record since has had the same impact, it's not my favourite album of all time or anything, but it does have a special place. I've bought this album a few times over the years in its different guises and have no hesitation of buying it again.
I once read that Paul McCartney bought all his kids copies of "Pet Sounds" to show them how beautiful music can be, he should've given them a copy of this too.
Following up the superb debut "Another Music In A Different Kitchen" and their slew of excellent singles, the Buzzcocks had their work cut out for them on their sophomore platter, "Love Bites." You can hear them working a little bit harder at the songwriting, it's not quite as natural and effortless as on their debut, and from all reports some tensions were forming in the band as well, and lots of drugs -- especially acid -- were being consumed. That makes for an erratic work environment to put it mildly, but by and large the band pulls it off with their reputation for razor-sharp pop intact. In fact, "Love Bites" contains a couple classic tracks, not just as Buzzcocks songs, but as perfect or near-perfect pop songs. For example, "Ever Fallen In Love," which was a pretty big hit back home in England. Along with other well-known songs like "Just Lust," this album contains some great fare like "Real World," the acoustic-driven "Love Is Lies," the storming instrumental "Walking Distance" (which the Descendents certainly learned from) and the krautrock-y "Late For The Train."
The remastered version includes the usual riches of this reissue series: the singles "Love You More," "Noise Annoys," "Promises," and "Lipstick" -- four of their most concise and blistering tunes; a slew of demos; several Peel Session tracks from '78-'79; and a live set from Manchester's Lesser Free Trade Hall from July 21, 1978.
"Love Bites" has taken a lot of guff over the years for being "less essential" than "Another Music In A Different Kitchen" or "Singles Going Steady." That smacks of damning with faint praise. Granted, it may have been a slight letdown when it first came out, but that's because the band had been hitting such consistent highs that anything less than perfection seemed a grave departure. We have the luxury of hindsight now, and "Love Bites" stands up pretty damn well on it's own. Apples to apples, the first three albums and "Singles Going Steady" are all pretty essential. If you like what you're hearing on any one of those releases, you're in for more of a good thing. The Buzzcocks had a unique talent for making all their albums sound like singles collections.