More musically accomplished, more obsessively self-questioning, and with equally energetic yet sometimes gloomy performances, Love Bites finds the Buzzcocks coming into their own. With Devoto and his influence now fully worked out of the band’s system, Shelley is the clearly predominant voice, with the exception of Diggle‘s first lead vocal on an album track, the semi-acoustic, perversely sprightly “Love is Lies.” Though the song received even further acclaim on Singles Going Steady, “Ever Fallen in Love,” for many the band’s signature song, appears here. With its note-perfect blend of romance gone wrong, a weirdly catchy, treated lead guitar line, and Shelley‘s wounded singing deserves its instant classic status, but it’s only one of many highlights. The opening “Real World” is one of the band’s strongest: a chunky, forceful yet crisp band performance leads into a strong Shelley lyric about unrequited love and life. “Nostalgia”‘s strikingly mature, inventive lyrics about where one’s life can lead, and the sometimes charging, sometimes quietly tense, heartbroken “Nothing Left” are two other standouts. The group’s well-seasoned abilities, the members’ increasing reach and Martin Rushent‘s excellent production make Love Bites shine. The Garvey/Maher rhythm section is especially fine; Maher‘s fills and similar small but significant touches take the music to an even higher level. His undisputed highlight is the terribly underrated concluding instrumental “Late for the Train.” Originally done for a John Peel radio session and rerecorded with even more a dramatic sweep here, it gives the group’s motorik/Krautrock new power. Not far behind it is “E.S.P.,” a strong rock burn that only fades out at the end very slowly and subtly.