The Buzzcocks have had difficulty living up to the formidable legacy of their past on the studio material they've released since reuniting in 1989, but in the early years of the 21st century they've finally learned to make new records that don't need to stand in the shadows of Singles Going Steady. The darker undertow of 2003's Buzzcocks set it apart from their previous albums, and though 2006's Flat-Pack Philosophy isn't haunted by the same degree of angst as that album, it reflects the same degree of increased maturity that informed Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle's material on that collection. While The Buzzcocks are still trying to figure out the nuts and bolts of love, "Reconciliation," "God, What Have I Done," and "I've Had Enough" speak of the stakes and responsibilities of grown-up relationships rather than the teenage frustration of their salad days, and the larger world has also become a subject of keener interest to them on numbers like "Sell You Everything" and "Credit." Fast and loud is still The Buzzcocks' preferred mode of attack, but though there are hooks galore to be found on Flat-Pack Philosophy, the tempos have eased up a bit so that Diggle's and Shelley's guitar parts have more room to interact with one another, and bassist Tony Barber's production is clean and roomy while giving the melodies plenty of opportunity to show off their muscle. Very few bands made better use of their teenage mood swings than The Buzzcocks, but Flat-Pack Philosophy shows that they have plenty of compelling things to say about their adult lives, too, which is a good thing for a band whose career now spans four decades. - Mark Deming
TRACKS: flat pack philosophy - wish I never loved you - sell you everything - reconciliation - I don't exist - soul survivor - god, what have I done - credit - big brother wheels - dreamin' - sound of a gun - look at you now - i've had enough - between heaven and hell.