If it's true that Green Day was the Buzzcocks' revenge on a public indifferent to melodious punk the first time around, the originators have yet to recoup anything but moral satisfaction. Maybe the cruelest chapter in their ongoing career took place in 1993. As the Berkeley trio was finishing Dookie, which became the biggest thing with hooks since Def Leppard, the long-toothed lads from Manchester released one of rock's greatest comebacks, Trade Test Transmissions, to mixed reviews and near-empty venues.
Now, as Buzzcocks peers Gang of Four get the platinum knock-off treatment from Franz Ferdinand, it's as auspicious a moment as any for the remastered, rereleased Trade Test Transmissions to find its audience. Nearly as smart, catchy, and consistent as the early best-of Singles Going Steady, the album bears all the marks that made the razor-sharp band the giddiest anomaly of punk's first wave. Lead singer Pete Shelley's wry wire of a voice is the perfect instrument for his love-struck wit on should-be classics "Innocence" and "All Over You," while guitarist Steve Diggle's less distinctive but earnest mod-rock tunes refresh when things get too prickly-sweet. Shameless trendies take note: The Buzzcocks were no strangers to that now-fashionable drone of Gang of Four and Wire -- but rather than inert modern art, their sticky little hands squeezed it into transcendent pop diamonds.