It has become fashionable lately for a band to play their classic, all-time-best album in its entirety. But when British punk pioneers the Buzzcocks play three shows in New Zealand in the coming weeks they're going one better and cranking out their first two albums back-to-back.

Debut album Another Music In A Different Kitchen and follow-up Love Bites were both released in 1978 and had songs like No Reply, Autonomy, Just Lust, and, their biggest hit, Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've) on them.

It should be one hell of a 90-minute show. And judging by their gig at the St James in Auckland three years ago leaders Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle, the only two remaining long-time members, still play at a frantic, punk rock pace.

"For us, we have songs that we enjoy playing - and that are still fun to play. That's the only reason we do do it," laughs Shelley on the phone from London.

Though the songs they will be playing, like Orgasm Addict with its, er, breathless verses and climactic choruses, are songs they wrote when they were young and boisterous lads in their early 20s, Shelley believes they still stand up today.

"You know," he chuckles, "I'm a very modest man and I'm not prone to revelling in how good we are, but these are great songs and doing the two albums together actually works as a piece, because even when the albums first came out we never played them back-to-back."

Diggle, who's still a maniac on stage, kicking in a drum kit and breaking a microphone stand when they played at the St James, is a little more dramatic: "We're appealing - like Shakespeare - to the human condition, we're all falling in and out of love, we all have comedy and tragedy in our lives.

"I'm not putting us on a par with Shakespeare but people are still reading Shakespeare and the Buzzcocks' music is like that as well. What we believed in then and the songs we wrote, still rings true with people. We thought about the human condition in the lyrics and we had catchy tunes but we never imagined that we would influence so many bands."

He's talking about bands as varied as U2 and REM, through to current punk heavyweights Green Day, and even New Zealand bands like the Mint Chicks.

Shelley - who looks like he could be the younger, more rock 'n' roll brother of All Blacks' coach Graham Henry - prefers to see the band's legacy as simply having come up with "a lot of memorable songs".

Shelley formed the Buzzcocks in the northern English town of Bolton, in 1976 and Diggle joinedsoon after, just in time to support the Sex Pistols in nearby Manchester.

Along with that band, and the Clash, they spearheaded the punk rock movement in Britain - although the Buzzcocks were a little different in that they were more on the melodic pop side of punk than the other two.

Shelley remembers how recording their first two albums at Olympic Studios in the London suburb of Barnes during 1978 was "just a real treat".

"The joy hadn't been beaten out of us yet," he laughs.

"A good day in the studio is far better than a week of doing anything else because you're discovering something. Even though you might have an idea about how a song is going to be before you go in the studio, there's a certain magic that happens when you start playing it, and then hear it back. It's one of the best things in the world.

"I mean, nobody knew Ever Fallen In Love was a good song," he laughs.

Shelley recalls how when they recorded that song their girlfriends had come down to London for the weekend with them, and they went out shopping while the band recorded.

"When they came back in the evening they asked what we'd done and we said, 'listen to this', and everybody's jaws just dropped. And it's become the track that everybody loves the most."

Shelley and Diggle have been making music together for more than 30 years now.

"There's a special chemistry between Steve and me, even though we couldn't be more different," reckons Shelley.

Although at one stage they were not so matey. In 1981, only five years after forming, the Buzzcocks split up because Shelley wanted to launch his solo career and the band's music had started to get bogged down by record company politics.

"It just lost its way," he resolves.

"Steve was a bit gutted when I left the band in 81, so for a couple of years we weren't actually in contact. But then I met him in Manchester one day and we went out and got drunk and everything has been okay since then."

And they are both carrying on the punk rock message of old.

"Although two-thirds of the audience are kids who weren't even born when we started, they can still relate to us and take our songs as inspiration to start to think for themselves and if we can pass that on to people, maybe that's what makes us legend," says Diggle.

"Punk is not just about music," continues Shelley.

"It's about people defining themselves and I think that gives people great power."

Who: The Buzzcocks
Where & when: The Studio, Auckland, Nov 14

- additional reporting NZPA