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"It's one thing to know it but another to admit - we're the worst band in the world but we don't give a..."

Class C

Main Category: Smart Pop
Also applicable: Lush Pop, Art Rock, Avantgarde
Starting Period: The Interim Years
Also active in: The Punk/New Wave Years, The Divided Eighties,

From Grunge To The Present Day





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10cc may not have been the first "meta-pop" band to ever exist - Sparks, who had their debut two years before 10cc's, immediately come to mind - but they certainly wore that Meta tag prouder and flashier than everybody else around. Oops, sorry, must explain something here. If you're not sure what "meta-pop" is, well, it's pop music that's about pop music. The purpose of 10cc wasn't just making hit records; their purpose was making hit records that were, roughly speaking, spoofs on hit records. Not exactly "parodies" (it would be a severe injustice to call 10cc a "parody band") but rather smart deconstructions of all possible genre cliches. They took their main lesson from people like Frank Zappa, of course (in a way, you could argue that Frank's Freak Out! was like a blueprint for a huge percent of 10cc's classic output), but overall, their method was different: where Frank preferred to work in the key of jazz, modern classical, and avantgarde, 10cc more often than not stuck to "basic" things - R'n'B, doo-wop, music hall, and, occasionally, hard rock.

With their pop sensitivity and practically unbridled imagination, 10cc not only managed to establish a large fanbase, but actually hit the charts with their weird material. I am, of course, speaking about this side of the Atlantic; in the States there was little need for smart music in the mid-Seventies, not to mention smart music that would occasionally make fun of dumb music that actually was in demand. Well, at least 10cc weren't forced to emigrate to Britain like their spiritual pals, the Mael brothers, all of the band members already being British and all. In any case, despite garnering some bad press as well, 10cc managed to woo over a large chunk of the population - and in Europe, they are still remembered by many as one of the finest, if not the finest, pop band of the Seventies.

That said, calling the musical story of 10cc "tragic" would be something of an understatement. All over the world rock and pop bands have flourished, stagnated, and faded away, but few rock and pop bands in the whole history of pop music could be said to have scaled such tremendous artistic heights and then, in less than a decade, sunk to such abysmal tasteless lows as this particular outfit. Just as 10cc were responsible for some of the most magnificent music to come out of the Seventies, so were they responsible for some of the blandest, most generic and faceless pap to come out of the Eighties. In fact, their creative evolution is something of a chronological miracle in my book, and although it would not be too wise from a financial point of view, I would still recommend checking out 10cc both at their best and at their worst, just in order to see where it is actually suitable to apply the "how the mighty have fallen" cliche instead of wasting it on trivialities like the Stones' career.

The Rise And Fall of 10cc will, of course, be easier to understand once it is made clear that, practically from the very beginning, 10cc were really two distinct entities. On one side of the field were guitarist Eric Stewart and professional composer/guitarist/bassist/you-name-it Graham Gouldman (whom you may know as the author of the Hollies' 'Bus Stop' and the Yardbirds' 'For Your Love', among other hits). These were the Melodic Guys: big fans of all things pop-related, Motown, and - later in their career - reggae music. On the other side were keyboard player Lol Creme and drummer Kevin Godley. These were the Weird Guys: big fans of Zappa and big haters of all things predictable, always ready to cook up seven melodies for the time interval that others would have used for one. Of course, things were never quite that simple - such a basic definition omits Godley & Creme's special attraction to doo-wop, among other things - but overall, I guess you could go by that definition.

You will now expect me to say that it was the chemistry between these two "duos" that made classic 10cc material so special, and guess what... I will say it. Occasionally it looked like Godley & Creme were pushing Stewart & Gouldman into the corner, with too much weirdness over a bit too little "poppiness" (as it happened on Sheet Music); at other times Stewart & Gouldman would take over and seriously limit the weirdness quotient (Original Soundtrack), but overall, they presented a solid balance for one another, working like a double Lennon with a double McCartney. This happy process started in 1973 and went on for four years and four classic albums. Things were good. Then they split.

Why they split is still a question for many. But the basic answer, I think, is rather obvious; with the musical preferences of the two duos becoming more and more concretely fleshed out with every passing month, they probably felt less and less incentive to pool their talents, to become constrained by the preferences of their colleagues, basically - to compromise. In other words, the thing that destroyed 10cc was pretty much the same thing that destroyed the Beatles: personal ambitions. And, needless to say, just as the solo careers of the Beatles suffered from not being able to quality-check one another, so did the careers of Stewart & Gouldman (who kept the name 10cc to themselves - I really wish they hadn't!) and Godley & Creme never hope to really match the greatness of 10cc's 1973-75 period.

Godley & Creme came close, though. They kept the weirdness, and writing weird artsy pop music in the late Seventies was anything but cool, which explains why all of their output from that time got spit on by the musical press so much that even today it is still hardly visible from under all the congealed saliva - now when was the last time you heard about L as that major artistic success of 1978? When you actually should, because even as late as then, their music was still innovative, their lyrics funny, and their concepts entertaining. Yes, they suffered: without the guidance of a grizzled popmeister like Gouldman to direct their wildness, way too often they seemed to be cruising around aimlessly, trying out every single bizarre idea that came into their heads just for the sake of being bizarre, and quite often sounding really, really annoying and/or really, really pretentious. But these were flaws, not catastrophes.

Not so with the remaining members of the revamped "10cc". Without the weirdness, Stewart & Gouldman began their swift and, to be honest, unforeseen descent into misery. Pretty soon it turned out that the only two things these guys remained capable of was to write lame, limp chunks of generic cod reggae (definitely fueled by the lone commercial success of the 1978 single 'Dreadlock Holiday' - pretty much the only decent reggae tune they ever did) and even lamer, over-sentimental adult contemporary ballads. How a professional songwriter like Gouldman, with all those Sixties hits behind his belt, could lose his goldman touch so quickly, is hard to explain - although, to be fair, it did more or less agree with the general decline of The Old Guard Of Professional Songwriters in that period; I mean, ever listen to much mainstream Motown music from the late Seventies/Eighties? Nah, didn't think so. Perhaps the worst blow, though, came in the lyrics department: where early 10cc lyrics were a total gas - witty, smart, literate and hilarious - by the early Eighties they were already descending into the mudpool of tired sentimental cliches they had been so gleefully deconstructing earlier, with the hunter almost literally becoming the game.

Anyway, guesses apart, the fact is that after a couple moderately tolerable, but not particularly special albums, the "defective" 10cc degenerated into total dogshit. It took them at least three virtually unlistenable albums to realise that and break the partnership up for good. Or, at least, they thought it was for good - the "comeback" procedure was inevitable. Fortunately, they at least had the good sense to re-team up with Godley & Creme for their two Nineties albums; neither of the two made any songwriting contributions, but somehow their presence at least made the records a little bit more interesting in the melody department. Not that they're essential listening.

Still, no amount of humiliation can obscure the radiant glory of the early records, and it is 'Rubber Bullets', 'Une Nuit A Paris', and 'I'm Not In Love' (the single that often competed with 'Bohemian Rhapsody' as the single of the Seventies in many a music expert list) this band is going to be remembered for, not 'Dreadlock Holiday' or, God forbid, their Eighties material. Thus, it is my firm belief that 10cc's first four albums belong in every serious pop music collection, and based primarily on these, I have no qualms about giving them an overall class status of C. Oh, and, by the way, the meaning of the name of the band? If I remember correctly, 9cc stands for the average amount of male semen during ejaculation - and, of course, 10cc wouldn't want to settle for a fuckin' "average"!



Year Of Release: 1973

Record rating = 10
Overall rating = 13

The kind of pop music that Zappa would have written if he'd wanted a hit. I guess.


Track listing: 1) Rubber Bullets; 2) Johnny Don't Do It; 3) Sand In My Face; 4) Donna; 5) The Dean And I; 6) Headline Hustler; 7) Speed Kills; 8) The Hospital Song; 9) Ships Don't Disappear In The Night; 10) Fresh Air For My Mama.

I remember when I first put this album on and the first chords of 'Rubber Bullets' echoed through the room, I was really glad. I thought, 'hey, they messed up my CD and put on some Beach Boys instead'. (You don't know how hard it was at that time to get some Beach Boys in goddamn Russia). Imagine my amazement (I even forgot to feel disappointed) when I found out that the song was indeed from the 10cc debut album. Yes: these guys pull off an absolutely perfect, note-for-note authentic imitation of the classic Beach Boys sound when they want to, down to the vocal harmonies and imitation of Mike Lowe's and Brian Wilson's voices. And not only on 'Rubber Bullets', mind you. But that is, of course, not their only forte.

10cc's debut album is essentially the analog of T. Rex's classic Electric Warrior-era sound: an 'upgrading' of the early Sixties' pop sound for the early Seventies. This means more complex sections within the song; light, unobtrusive toying around with synthesizers and weird guitar tones; and, of course, somewhat more elaborate lyrics. But that's only half the point. The other half is that they're really fucking with these melodies. No song on here has less than two or three different ones, and the less they resemble each other, the more adequately their task appears to be completed. That's how it goes. This is the classic 10cc trick: they look like they're afraid of making a song too simple, so they take no risks. And yet, at the same time, once the initial shock is over, it's pretty much unbelievable how catchy and memorable most of these songs are.

The lyrics are actually the high point of the record - I don't know of any other record from the era that would make me laugh so hard and say, "man, how unbelievably cool". Maybe Muswell Hillbillies, but the Kinks's humor was always highly satiric, bordering on cynicism and very bitter irony. Maybe Sparks - 10cc's closest analogy in this pre-post-modern world. But Sparks are satiric as well. 10cc, on the other hand, don't want to particularly offend anybody; they just deliver funny little stories about an unlucky biker ('Johnny Don't Do It'), drunken parties at the county jail interrupted by police raids ('Rubber Bullets' - funny enough, the song was banned on the radio in Britain because people thought it referred to the 1973 decision that allowed British troops to use rubber bullets in Northern Ireland; imagine that, eh?), self-perfectionism ('Sand In My Face' - which obviously served as a lyrical inspiration for the Kinks' own 'National Health' six years later), sulky hospital patients ('The Hospital Song'), closet scandal reporters ('Headline Hustler'), and romantic embarrassments ('The Dean And I'). It's never substantial and sometimes cliched, but almost always engaging and a lot of fun.

The big rub with the melodies is that most of them are at worst stolen and at best recycled from past standards. Well, no surprise when you have somebody like Graham Gouldman in the band. The biggest influences, apart from "generic surf-rock", are doo-wop (the doo-wop sendup 'Donna' was the first record from the single), country (cool steel guitar licks, very much a la George Harrison, in 'Headline Hustler'), and soul. Actually, the soul influence is the worst, as it accounts for the album's one true failure, the forgettable 'epic' number 'Fresh Air For My Mama' that closes the record. It's about the only time that the guys try to sound serious, and it's dull and forgettable as a result - while they certainly had a good command over the "groovy" Sixties vibe, they were absolutely helpless when it came to the "serious", soulful vibe. Well, in 1973 at least.

But hey, that's only one song. On the other numbers, though, the band shows that, even if it does steal most of its ideas from their predecessors (passages from Phil Spector/the Beach Boys' 'Then I Kissed Her', for instance, crop up in no less than two numbers - I'm pretty sure I heard direct quotations from the Hollies as well), they are never going to let themselves bore us. The songs are short, yet often multipart, with practically no instrumental passages, no lengthy guitar solos, and a lot of genuine energy.

Unpredictability, though, is the key. Just as you're gonna settle into the nice poppy-boppy groove of 'Rubber Bullets', along comes the chorus ('Load up, load up, load up...') which introduces an out of nowhere menacing, even threatening vibe, and just as you're gonna settle into the nice poppy-boppy groove, this time embellished with a ridiculously over-the-top synth-guitar solo, again, the melody just sort of dies away, leaving you with a totally Pet Sounds-pattern-following middle section with complex slow harmonizing. And so on. Upbeat alternates with downbeat, slow with fast, grim with happy, country with rock'n'roll, doo-wop with heavy metal. Prog elements? You got 'em (check out the wild, wild, wild instrumental passage on 'Speed Kills'). No, not everything is instantly memorable, but that's in full agreement with the album's general 'intelligence factor': recreating Sixties' atmosphere in a Seventies' environment demanded certain creative modifications, or else you'd end up sounding like the Bay City Rollers. The instrumentation is way cool - my favourite moments are the groovy steel guitar lick on 'Sand In The Face' and the astral synth noises on 'Rubber Bullets'.

It does get a bit weaker towards the end, what with that unsuccessful soul number and a couple "unhookable" tracks like 'Ships Don't Disappear In The Night' (for some reason, I also wildly enjoy 'The Hospital Song' while it's on, but can never remember it when it's over - gotta love the mock-Satanic "here comes the dark!" interlude though), but overall it's all way, way too cool to be described. The first side is pretty much flawless, with each and every song possessing its own identity and its own brand of humour. You haven't lived until you've heard 'The Dean And I' or 'Sand In My Face' or 'Headline Hustler', and if you have heard them and haven't found them funny, well then - you definitely got problems, sir, no matter what they say about comedy elements being the most subjectively perceived elements of all. Maybe choosing the Beach Boys as the prime model was not as glorious a task as that of choosing the Beatles (the case of Badfinger), but it was definitely less pretentious and was rewarded with huge commercial and critical success, too.



Year Of Release: 1974

Record rating = 9
Overall rating = 12

Over-the-top-and-under-the-bottom. This is pop music turned on itself. Sing along to this and get a brain disorder.

Best song: SILLY LOVE

Track listing: 1) The Wall Street Shuffle; 2) The Worst Band In The World; 3) Hotel; 4) Old Wild Men; 5) Clockwork Creep; 6) Silly Love; 7) Somewhere In Hollywood; 8) Baron Samedi; 9) The Sacro-iliac; 10) Oh Effendi; [BONUS TRACK:] 11) Waterfall.


Now, years of listening have softened me up about this record, but I still don't think this is the band's peak - for me, what has always marred Sheet Music will always be its being awfully scattered all over the place. Yes, that's definitely one sign of classic 10cc material, I know, but I just cannot bring myself to feel that the more songs resemble loose collages of broken bits, the more worthy they become. These tunes are just as weird and whacko as before, but nowhere near as compact and catchy: the band goes for a certain brand of 'progressive pop', which means making the songs extremely multipart while at the same time not containing the same glossy hooks that graced the material on their original LP. And where there are hooks, they're either played once and then forgotten, or arranged in such a messy way I hardly ever notice 'em. On the other hand, they're probably trying to mould their own creative style, so screw me and think whatever you wish of that album. What am I, a guru for Chrissake?

That said, I still love the record, if only for the lyrics. Lyrics-wise, Sheet Music gotta qualify as one of the greatest comedy records of all time, right there along with Muswell Hillbillies and... err... The Birds, The Bees And The Monkees? Nope, wrong line. Anyway, Gouldman, Godley, Creme and Stewart come up with their funniest set of lyrics ever: each song takes a certain topic and hammers the humour right out of it until it's all puffed up and swollen (could you imagine that?). However, I hesitate to call this truly satyrical: these guys lack that kind of innocent sincerity which makes a humouristic piece of art acquire a satyric tinge, no matter how socially biting the actual lyrics might be. I mean, can you take 'The Wall Street Shuffle' as acute social critique? (And can you take it as a parody on the Boss's 'East Street Shuffle', for that matter? The two songs hardly have anything in common). Hardly, even if it does feature all that money-bashing stuff. It's also one of the best numbers on here, melody-wise: the ominous riff that introduces the song is extremely promising, and for once, most of the sections - the rocking one, the shuffling one, the soft cooing one - actually seem to fit together. Now let's all sing together: 'Bet you'd sell your mother/You can buy another!'.

More characteristic of the album is 'The Worst Rock'n'Roll Band In The World', that one's really hilarious. I love the lines about 'we've never seen the van - leave it to the roadies, never seen the roadies - leave 'em in the van', and, of course, the cute fadeout in the end when they chant 'here we are together on your hi fi, a little piece of plastic with a hole, fade me, fade me, fade me...'. It's all the more pitiful that the song itself sounds like a hastily stringed together sequence of unrelated, isolated pop phrases that never even amount to a good groove. Maybe the intention was to make them sound like the 'worst rock'n'roll band in the world'? A band that can't keep it up for five seconds? Well... this ain't no good joke, if you ask me, but at least it explains the situation.

After that, the band's witty twists of humour just start falling like bananas. 'Hotel' parodies the whole genre of "tropical pop" - 'well there's a big black mama in a tree/She gonna cook us, she gonna call up the rest of the tribe', with the "tribesmen" happily chanting 'Yankee go home, Yankee go home'. Heh heh. 'Old Wild Men' apparently parodies the Carpenters or somebody - it's 10cc's take on the whole "nostalgia for the innocent rock'n'roll days of yore" deal (unless they actually mean it, in which case it's horrible). 'Clockwork Creep' is just a bunch of silly enjoyable nonsense touching upon the subjects of, well, time bombs and Clockwork Orange, I guess.

And then there's 'Silly Love', the album's high melodic point: the juggin' rhythm of the song with an impeccable vocal melody, with just a slight touch of retro - actually, it's the most perfect marriage of retro boogie with Seventies' dance rhythms I've ever heard. Not to mention the hilarious lyrics again: the song deals with "love cliches" and complains about how trite romantic conversation has become in this world of ours - with perhaps the greatest line on the album: 'If you wanna sound sincere/Don't rely on Crosby's crooning/Take a little time, make up your own rhyme, don't rely on mine, cause it's silly'. What a perfect recommendation for wannabe artists.

Unfortunately, the next song is the somewhat mediocre 'Somewhere In Hollywood' - the band's take on the Kinks' 'Celluloid Heroes', but nowhere near as catchy and nowhere near as moving. Well, okay, scratch that last phrase. It's not supposed to be moving. It's friggin' 10cc, for Chrissake. A band so talented that a slightly less talented band would have taken that song and built an entire double LP around it. The bombastic prog-like elements, the Beach Boys-like vocal harmonies, the cheesy synth-horn rhythms, the ridiculous "pseudo-steel-guitar" bluesy solo at the end - none of these elements belong together but there they are together. Take it or leave it. I take it with reservations and still claim that the epics on Original Soundtrack the following year would be better.

'Baron Samedi' has absolutely nothing to do with the Pretty Things' 'Baron Saturday'; instead, it joins a wild tribal dance melody (verse) with a near-glam lush-rock melody (chorus) and lets you decide whether you enjoy the combination. 'The Sacro-iliac' is more coherent, but maybe slightly less impressive - a pretty tame, but cute melody for the 10cc standard, as they parody the "let's invent a new dance" type of song by... err... playing a countrified variation on a music hall melody? Something to that effect. And 'Oh Effendi' is rather non-descript as far as the music goes (meaning you go ahead and give it an adequate description, why is it always poor me?), but lyrically not even Frank Zappa could ridicule money-grubbin' sheiks in such a hilarious way: 'Look what I did for the pyramid/I put a pool in and I made it pay/I built an elevator and a film theater/And I shipped it to the USA'.

Oh, and on some CD issues one can find a bonus track - a brilliant Neil Young pastiche called 'Waterfall'. Sounds right like something off After The Gold Rush. Well, sort of. I guess it's a little poppier than ol' Neil would have made it, plus the melody is more or less a rip-off of 'Knockin' On Heaven's Door'. But Neil would have been proud of the vocals anyway.

Overall, I'd definitely rename this album, if not to Shit Music, then to Lyrics Sheet Music. That's what it's gonna be for the first few listens. It's only later that the melodies start coming to life as well. The lyrics are the album's one true salvation. Which would explain the rating that-a way: a 10 for the music, plus one point for the awesome lyrics, plus one point for the overall, err, creative respect towards this kind of thing. Like it or not, it's definitely one of the most inventive records of 1974. Hey, even the Pet Shop Boys liked it so much they dedicated one of their biggest hits to it. Remember how it goes? 'Sheet music, on the radio!'



Year Of Release: 1975

Record rating = 10
Overall rating = 13

Maturation sets in, but fortunately, this also means toning down the excesses of the previous album.

Best song: I'M NOT IN LOVE

Track listing: 1) Une Nuit A Paris; 2) I'm Not In Love; 3) Blackmail; 4) The Second Sitting For The Last Supper; 5) Brand New Day; 6) Flying Junk; 7) Life Is A Minestrone; 8) The Film Of My Love.

Now this is certainly the band's peak. (Well, maybe not certainly: the slight amount of filler makes it less consistent than the debut, but the high points are definitely higher to me, so let's say these guys had two peaks - come on, they deserve two peaks, if only as a consolating compensation for what would come later). This is, like, the ultimate parody record of all time. (Well, maybe not ultimate: that would probably be something by Frank Zappa or by Weird Al or someone like that, so let's say it's just classy). It's not that the songs are catchier than before, but the best material on here hits so hard that you have to grasp the arms of yer armchair so as not to fall out. (Well, maybe you don't really have an armchair, especially if you're one of 'em Eastern types, so let's say you'll have to do whatever you want so as not to do whatever you do not want). You know those feelings, right? Sometimes you feel so ecstatic and so puffed up and so beyond yourself you can't even write a good review? WHHHHOOOOAHHH! 'Scuse me while I let all the fumes out. (Well, maybe not all of them. Isn't the soul considered to be a 'fume' of some kind as well? Oh, never mind).

...... !!!!!@#$%^&*()_+ %^&)( &&&

All right. Where were we? The first side of this album is perfection, combining brilliant lyrics, wonderful character impersonation, magnificent, near-revolutionary instrumentation, and excellent melo... Wait, the melodies aren't necessarily excellent, but it's not about the melodies. Look here. The first track is the hilarious, unparalleled nine-minute spoofy mini-opera ('Une Nuit A Paris') about a tourist's adventures in a Parisian bordello. It's a terrific mess of music hall, Edith Piaf impersonations, goofy French accent, and God knows what else, and how can you resist when they chant: 'He was a pimp/In a black bere-e-e-t/But he was an artiste/In his own way'? I nearly laughed my everything off while listening to this stuff. Again, a less daring band could have made an entire album out of these nine minutes - they pack so many musical ideas it's downright frightening, and what's more important, the ideas are given some time to sink in, unlike the disconnected bits that make up pseudo-songs like 'Worst Band In The World'. 'Is he gonna buy? Is he gonna pay? Is he gonna fall in love the all-American way?'

The second song is even more jaw-dropping, though. If yer a Yank, ya might know it: 'I'm Not In Love' was 10cc's biggest (if not the only) US hit, and a song that boasted an immense popularity at the time - in fact, the NME went as far as to boldly proclaim it and 'Bohemian Rhapsody' "the two greatest singles for centuries" or something like that. Today, 'I'm Not In Love' will sound nice, but will hardly get eyebrows raised, but at the time, it was a sensation. Why? Simple. It predated today's 'adult contemporary' by a good ten or fifteen years. The ballad's atmospheric, celestial layers of hi-tech synth tones, soft plodding percussion, and complex vocal harmonies (more than two hundred overdubs, from what I've read, and they provide an intricate sonic tapestry rather than a 'vocal battle scene', as in 'Bohemian Rhapsody') are exactly the ingredients that were later appropriated and profanated by adult contemporary. Profanated, because 'I'm Not In Love' adds a great catchy melody, a marvelous production, and above all, the lyrics: it is, in fact, not a love ballad, as the title suggests. Have you ever met a song that sounds like a completely dippy saccharine love ballad but features the following lines: 'I keep your picture upon the wall/It hides a nasty stain that's lyin' there/So don't you ask me to give it back/I know you know it doesn't mean that much to me/I'm not in love, no no...'? Awesome.

And it is immediately followed by one of the band's most impressive rockers - 'Blackmail', about a guy who collects compromising pictures of a rich girl and mails 'em to her in order to satisfy his class anger, but it all falls back on him when she shows the pictures to her husband: 'He sold her to Hefner/Who put her in Playboy/He gave her a centre-fold/I made a real blunder/She made it in movies/I made her a superstar'. Heh heh. Definitely one of the more bizarre lyrical twists since the immortal 'you may think he loves you for your money but I know what he really loves you for' Dylan line. Anyway, the funky (almost proto-disco) guitar work by Eric is fabulous as well, quite a daring tone for a supposedly 'pop' album.

Unfortunately, the second side lets the listener (me) down a bit with a couple filler tunes like 'Brand New Day' (a kinda bland and chaotic ballad with no humour at all and not much to hang on to) and 'Flying Junk' (a pedestrian rocker) being the first potential hints at the band's rapid descent into mediocrity less than two years later. Even so, that's two out of five, and the other three numbers make a perfectly good stew. 'The Second Sitting For The Last Supper' has some really insightful social commentary lyrics and rocks pretty hard as well (the fast opening hard-rock section may not be Led Zeppelin quality, but definitely shows these guys could kick major ass if they wanted to - but no, I won't say the rest of the song never lives up to the opening; it's just different). 'Life Is A Minestrone' is danceable and very Italian-poppish, indeed, besides, who could resist a song featuring such immortal lines as 'Life is a minestrone/Served up with parmesan cheese/Death is a cold Lasagna/Suspended in deep freeze'? And it all ends with the fake Hollywoodish 'The Film Of My Love': 'Co-starring you/And co-starring me/Starring us both together/The film of my love/Will travel the world/Forever and ever and ever'. And dig this: 'A close-up of yours/A long shot of mine/Superimposed together/I'll zoom in on you/With a love that is true/In cinemascope together'. In other words, if the lyrics alone aren't enough to send you rushing to the store, I don't know what else will.

In short: The Original Soundtrack is the best synthesis of experimental arrangements, sharp, witty lyrics, irresistable humour and unpretentious poppiness ever created, minus the couple filler tracks. That said, in no way would I recommend getting it alone and leaving the previous two albums to rot. They form a definite Great Trio which should be taken as a whole (if you're a fan, you might want to add How Dare You? to round out the quartet, but I don't feel that album actually adds something previously unheard of to the experience). The debut is light and frolicky; the follow-up is messy and bizarre; and the conclusion is more serious and experimental. The perfect cocktail.



Year Of Release: 1976

Record rating = 8
Overall rating = 11

Don't get too serious! The sandman's gonna get you!


Track listing: 1) How Dare You; 2) Lazy Days; 3) I Wanna Rule The World; 4) I'm Mandy Fly Me; 5) Iceberg; 6) Art For Art's Sake; 7) Rock'n'Roll Lullaby; 8) Head Room; 9) Don't Hang Up.

The last album for the band's original line-up, it's a slight - but not overwhelming - disappointment. It's a bit similar to Sheet Music in that once again, the band runs all over the place and carefully avoids overblown lengthy epics, trying to pack up all their messages and anti-messages within a limited amount of minutes and seconds; but it's also similar to Soundtrack in that there's not as much humour and satire on the album as before; the band tries to expand more as 'serious musicians', and that's hardly 10cc's forte.

A typical example is the album opener, the instrumental title track. It's hardly bad, and is very hard to categorize - since it incorporates everything from Latin beats to hard rockin' guitar to quasi-progressive synthesizer passages. But its actual purpose avoids me: it doesn't rock hard enough to get me going, it's hardly danceable and hardly catchy, and it's not really emotional enough to bring a tear to my face or a jerk or two to my heart. What's it there for? To show the world that 10cc can play complex music? All of us learned that with the first few songs on their debut record. Methinks they took one more listen than necessary to Zappa's 'Peaches En Regalia'.

The actual songs with lyrics are mostly good, though. Actually, they are less complex than before, usually - the band mostly accepts some conventional melodies, heavily borrowing from jazz-pop this time, but the 10cc touch is still there, and apart from maybe just a couple fillerish tunes, all of the songs are guaranteed to trigger at least something within you. 'Lazy Days' is perhaps the best known song on here, but as in the case of 'I'm Not In Love', it wouldn't give you a 100% correct perspective on the band, sporting just a little bit of that usual tongue-in-cheek attitude that spices up classic 10cc material. It's still a touching, upbeat, pretty little pop ballad with rather lazy hooks that'll get to you eventually.

However, on classy songs like 'I Wanna Rule The World' the band recaptures that classic vibe perfectly - great martial rhythms, great lyrics, great moody shuffles, excellent changes in tone and key, and a great theatrical delivery. ('And there upon a rock titanic, I'll cast a giant shadow on the face of the deep and never again will they dare to call me a Freckled! Spotty! SPECKY! FOUR EYED! WEEDY! LITTLE! CREEEEEEEEEEP!..'). 'Art For Art's Sake' is classic 10cc material as well - the band dabbles a little bit in funk (best riff on the record), a little bit in humorous sexism ('gimme your love, gimme it all, gimme in the kitchen, gimme in the hall'), and a little in production excesses (the atmospheric mid-section that recycles the style of 'I'm Not In Love'). Both songs, of course, make fun of big business and corporations and everything ugly that goes hand in hand with 'em - understood. It's 10cc.

Meanwhile, 'Rock'n'Roll Lullaby' shows that somebody in 10cc's camp has been listening to the Kinks' contemporary efforts - it's styled exactly in the manner of Soap Opera, with a generic Fifties' doo-wop melody and a near-Ray Davies vocal tone that nevertheless substitutes Davies' banal mid-Seventies lyrics for a brilliant parody on lullaby lyrics. 'The sandman's gonna get you!' sounds pretty weird and spooky in this kind of context. And then there's the "Beat THIS, Paul McCartney!" type of song - 'I'm Mandy Fly Me' tries a bit too hard to ape the Liverpudlian's style, and frankly, I'm not as much in love with it as many a 10CC fan, but at least it's growing on me, which is more than I can say for the band's subsequent efforts. The biggest problem is that I honestly can't take "beauty" from the hand of 10cc, whether they mean it or not - 'I'm Mandy Fly Me' tries at once to be a pretty pop song (the harmonies, the tasty acoustic flourishes, these angelic keyboard melodies in the background, the anthemic electric guitar riff etc. etc.) and lyrics that actually deal with an aircrash (or with somebody falling out of an airplane anyway - 'I'm outside looking in' actually has to be taken literally!). That doesn't sit too well with me, although I guess that's a bit hypocritical after all my praises for 'I'm Not In Love'. Well, decide for yourselves.

The other songs, like I already mentioned, are more in the jazz-pop pattern: 'Iceberg' wouldn't have been out of place on a classic Seventies Queen record, although 'Head Room' is too cabaret-like even for Queen. Both songs rule, nevertheless, with glistening, unforgettable hooks like the brilliant falsetto/acoustic duet on 'Head Room'. And the album fizzles out with another of 10cc's trademarks - the Hollywoodish ballad, this time it's the unbearably pathetic 'Don't Hang Up', with exciting lyrics ('Dumb waiters waiting sweating straining/All mass-debating my woman' is my favourite line) and a melody that's nothing special but heck, it ain't supposed to be anything special. Good album closer.

In all, while How Dare You? never adds anything special to the 10CC legacy and obviously represents the band past its peak (if 'peak' is to be taken as 'the most fresh and innovative'), but it's still a first-class record. If it shows the band not breaking new ground, it at least shows that the band wasn't yet tired and Gouldman and Stewart were yet able to make impressive and unpredictable material. Just forget all about that stupid title track. Leave that stuff to Collins-era Genesis, will you? And please don't accuse me of trying to "pigeonhole" the band into one category. I love it when artists start branching out - but a record gotta be playful or a record gotta be serious. You can't have your pie and eat it too, but I suppose I needn't really tell that... In fact, I don't suppose I'll shed any important secrets if I tell you that it was seriousness that killed off the band in the first place.



Year Of Release: 1977

Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 10

You might save the girl from drowning, but saving the band's identity without two key members is a bit more tricky.


Track listing: 1) Good Morning Judge; 2) The Things We Do For Love; 3) Marriage Bureau Rendezvous; 4) People In Love; 5) Modern Man Blues; 6) Honeymoon With B Troup; 7) I Bought A Flat Guitar Tutor; 8) You've Got A Cold; 9) Feel The Benefit.

Okay, Lol Creme and Kevin Godley left the band, to form their own duo. Was that supposed to make any impact on the sound? Initially I didn't think so. But apparently, I just didn't have my head screwed on properly - for whatever reason I believed that Gouldman was the main creative brain behind the other three guys. Alas, it wasn't that simple. Godley and Creme left and took a) the majority of the humour and b) the majority of the weirdness with them. What was left behind, then, was Gouldman's excellent sense of pop melody and Stewart's excellent arranging and playing talents.

Deceptive Bends does indeed sound like it was written and recorded by not more than a half of the band. You can still feel the 10CC vibe throughout - the jerky, paranoid guitars, the unpredictable tempo changes, and an occasional multi-part suite or two. But somehow most of the songs lack that youthful, playful energy and, particularly, the mind-blowing tongue-in-cheek qualities of 10CC's classic releases. On release, the album was slightly panned (or patted on the head, if you prefer to see it that way) as a Paul McCartney pastiche and quickly forgotten - and that actually seems reasonable.

I don't have anything in particular against the actual melodies, and therefore the rating of the album isn't at all low (or 'really low', if you're the kind of nutty guy who feels offended at an album he likes receiving anything less than fifteen thousand stars). The only track I feel kinda sour about is the lengthy multi-part dud; I mean, who needs eleven minutes of a song like 'Feel The Benefit' when it ain't even funny? In fact, when the lyrics are downright preachy, in a slightly annoying way? 'If all the people in the world would say together we're all black and white, we're all day and night... we'd all feel the benefit'? Who gives a damn? This is the emploi of Stevie Wonder, not of a hip sarcastic outfit like 10CC. And, even worse, when they rip the main acoustic riff that links together the different sections directly from 'Dear Prudence'? And the rest sounds like a poor man's variation on a Yes instrumental?

The shorter songs, though, are still rather cool - in a limited way. The bouncy numbers verily do bounce - I'll be the first to admit that 'Good Morning Judge' would have been a worthy candidate for inclusion onto any of the 'classic four' 10CC albums. The playful half-retro, half-futuristic riff, in fact, almost tricks you into thinking the rest of the record will match it: we never had an upbeat, self-consciously "cool" introduction like that since 'Rubber Bullets' first thrust the band under our noses. Unfortunately, the only true match - much later on - would be the hilarious discoish 'Honeymoon With B Troup', certainly unpredictable in the classic 10CC way as well - who would predict neat martial rhythms suddenly popping out of the verses when you least expect it? Okay, so this is a song about the "B Troop", but it's still impossible to predict the development of a 10CC melody by the song's title. And don't forget the lyrics - 'My baby goes topless/And brings her beauty to a bottomless day'. Classic!

'You've Got A Cold' and 'Modern Man Blues' are slightly less impressive, but they still work. The former one touches upon the ever-actual subject of fevers and temperatures, funnily enough, exploited almost at the same time by the Kinks in 'Hay Fever' - both songs are really similar in that, for some unknown reason, they try to make direct fun of the human condition and come out as half-assed, stupid jokes that are. for some unknown reason, still funny in a very incomprehensible way. The latter is notable since it is, in fact, a blues - if my memory does not fail me, the first time 10cc ever resorted to doing a straightahead blues variation. Hardly surprising - the blues form is so rigid and strict they obviously had little use for it before, what with all the five-tempo-changes-per-minute creative approaches and all. So, despite the fact that they still try to do something interesting to the blues (the chorus, for instance, throws us into fast upbeat pop before returning into the moody 12-bar thing), it is still somewhat symbolic that their first "straight blues" experience had to happen exactly at a time when Godley and Creme abandoned ship.

Judging by these songs, I'd say Stewart and Gouldman effectively prove that they still have enough force in their bowels to push out some prime material (superficial on the surface, intelligent and attractive deep inside). That said, the playing, arranging and lyrics are still not up to past standards; I don't feel like dying of laughter at hearing these guys tell stories of automobile thefts or bride rape as I do in the previous cases, and none of these numbers actually grapples me as tight as, say, 'Silly Love'.

But the biggest disappointment lies within the ballads. 'The Things We Do For Love' sounds a bit too much like a generic Fifties sendup. Where are the innovative vocal harmony arrangements and the brilliant lyrical insight of 'I'm Not In Love'? Why are they pushing this half-assed pop throwaway material at us? If I want unambitious pop balladeering, I'll stick to Paul McCartney, whose skill at writing catchy ballads is at least ten times as developed as these guys' one. I mean, heck, it's not a terrible song, and on repeated listenings it does grow on you, but I have no idea why I should submit myself to repeated listenings of a feeble late-period 10CC ballad. You? The same and thrice so applies to 'People In Love', a saccharine strings-laden slow-moving idyll that has absolutely no reason to exist - maybe Karen Carpenter could have done it better justice.

All in all, Deceptive Bends is quite listenable and everything, but this is evidently the breakpoint where casual fans need to stop and only hardcore fans need proceed any further; with the departure of two founding members, the band just lost the edge. It's a good thing they knew how to write non-shitty melodies (which is always a saving grace - heck, McCartney has spent thirty years with no 'edge' whatsoever, only carried through on the wings of his sheer musical talent), but if you only liked 10CC as long as they wrote their 'Meta-Pop', if you know what I mean, you will be sorely disappointed. I know I was.



Year Of Release: 1978

Record rating = 7
Overall rating = 10

What REALLY gets me paranoid is this constant battle between "we're so smart and hip" and "we're so emotional and commercial".


Track listing: 1) Dreadlock Holiday; 2) For You And I; 3) Take These Chains; 4) Shock On The Tube (Don't Want Love); 5) Last Night; 6) Anonymous Alcoholic; 7) Reds In My Bed; 8) Lifeline; 9) Tokyo; 10) Old Mister Time; 11) From Rochdale To Ocho Rios; 12) Everything You Wanted To Know About!!!; [BONUS TRACK:] 13) Nothing Can Move Me.

It ain't exactly a disaster - these guys still have enough songwriting talent not to put out something without a single redeeming quality - but it's getting ever closer, and it was truly the first 10CC album I didn't feel like relistening to, ever, again, whatever, after the necessary three times. Time heals all wounds, and in the end I have come to realize that a large part of my bitter disappointment was due to pulverized expectations - Bloody Tourists isn't really much of a departure from the 'pacified' sound of its predecessor; yet it sure ain't better either. Besides, if Deceptive Bends still had at least a little bit of 10CC's former humour, wittiness and experimentality, this record forgets it all. For the most part, Gouldman and Stewart just pen further exercises in soft-rock, retro-pop and adult contemporary that sound inoffensive and tolerable, even pretty at times, but ultimately forgettable.

I mean, about half of the songs on here are ballads that don't really go anywhere, awash in synthesizer arrangements, sweeping harmonies that never even hope to match the creativity of 'I'm Not In Love', and melodies that take a really long time to get into, let alone memorize. The other half, then, is dedicated to trashy dance numbers whose hooks sound forced and whose moods look ridiculously dated. Meanwhile, the lyrics, while not exactly bad, are for the most part dragged down by sentimentality ('Take These Chains', 'Last Night'), nostalgia ('For You And I') and cheap adoration ('Tokyo' - the band's commitment to the land of the rising sun, almost as cheesy as the Beach Boys' 'Sumahama' except that the latter at least had a solid melody). And when they try to rescind the spark of old and pen something humorous, the result is often disastrous: 'Shock On The Tube' is about somebody falling asleep in the underground and dreaming of having a wild orgy with the girl next to him, for Chrissake! Where have all those 'Blackmail' and 'Johnny Don't Do It' thingies gone? Apparently, Gouldman used to write crap like that back in the Sixties, but I used to think... I used to think things had gotten better since then. So, just as Sheet Music got extra bonus points for excellent lyrics, so does Bloody Tourists get extra penalties for verbal crapshit.

Not everything is so hopeless, of course, because some songs still have some God-sent excellent qualities to redeem themselves. 'Dreadlock Holiday', in particular, is one of the band's best late period creations; they had never yet tackled reggae seriously before, and it might have been a questionable choice to tackle it in 1978 of all years, but they still do it, and they do it well. Even the lyrics are good... moderately. (That is, if you don't wanna judge them as racist, which is a possible interpretation - after all, it's perfectly possible to express contempt for Jamaican "style" by means of actual Jamaican music, isn't it? Not that that is the case, of course). Anyway, by marrying the reggae bit to a nice vocal pop melody ('I don't like cricket! I love it!'), the guys show they can still do it! But then, during the next ten tracks, they go on to show they can't, of course.

'Take These Chains' ain't a bad song. Sounds like something from a George Harrison solo record in the early Eighties, crossed with a little upbeatness from Fleetwood Mac and a little introspectiveness from Mark Knopfler. A dreadful cocktail in theory, but eminently swallowable in practice - especially considering that it's sandwiched between the fabulously mediocre ballad 'For You And I' (which tries a bit too hard to be gorgeous, especially considering that you don't exactly achieve gorgeousness with these kiddie synth burps) and the already mentioned 'Shock On The Tube' - a song that sounds like perfectly normal AOR tripe that nobody in his or her right mind could be interested unless doing a Ph.D. on AOR.

'Lifeline' I kinda like, too, maybe because of what some might call 'untrivial hook' - a ballad that's not satisfied with sounding like a ballad but which also has to feature some nice and majestic mid-verse climaxes and... and... that kind of crap. I like the way they sing 'a telephone line's like a lifeline'. Something Beatlesque about it, don't you think? Nah. Something ELO-esque. Somebody in the boot camp had one too many listens to A New World Record. Bonus useless fact: the main vocal hookline ('ship to shore, air to land...') sounds exactly the same way as Annie Haslam's lines on Renaissance's 'Let It Grow'. Subconscious rip-off? Surely these guys must have heard the song at one time. But ah, there goes my musical knowledge preventing me from enjoying the music with my soul, as I'm sure some of my readers will be dying to inform me.

And that's about it. Don't expect me to dis or praise the other songs on here. They might please you, they might please me. Some of them are more okay, some are less okay. They're nothing special. They won't knock down a warhorse, and they don't stick in my head. Gimme something sticky! I love my 10cc for what they did best, and if I just wanna have some soft rock, I'll take Fleetwood Mac. Scrap that, I'll take Macca. Damn you people for dissing solo Macca. Macca's 1978 album, London Town, featured thrice as many interesting, creative ideas than Bloody Tourists. When you start referring to Macca's Seventies' output as generic Seventies pop, I dare you to put on this album instead. This is generic Seventies pop - good generic Seventies pop, as opposed to some Carpenters' albums, for instance. I do mean it. I do mean it's good. Professionalism oozes from every pore of this album. Soul 'n' spirit, unfortunately, does not.

Hey, actually, there are a couple of bonus tracks on my CD, and at least one of them, 'Nothing Can Move Me', is better than almost anything on the album itself! It's a stomping and energetic blues-rocker with nice slithery guitar lines and cool tempo changes. Why couldn't they write more songs like that and reduce the lethargy level on the LP is way beyond me. Probably were too busy battling with Genesis for the title of "Most Blatantly Washed-Up Old Geezers Who Used To Kick Ass A Few Years Ago".



Year Of Release: 1980

Record rating = 5
Overall rating = 8

Is the sheep supposed to represent the 10cc fan who's still buying their records in 1980?


Track listing: 1) One Two Five; 2) Welcome To The World; 3) How'm I Ever Gonna Say Goodbye; 4) Don't Send We Back; 5) I Took You Home; 6) It Doesn't Matter At All; 7) Dressed To Kill; 8) Lovers Anonymous; 9) I Hate To Eat Alone; 10) Stranger Lover.

Continuing in exactly the same way - which, naturally, means that the records worsen with every subsequent one. It's like squeezing the last drops of toner powder from a spent printer cartridge, with the print getting finer and finer and paler and paler. It's not a hopeless album, but I don't see even the most avid 10cc fanatic hunting for this bland, nearly lifeless piece of "music-making" or treasuring it in any way. There's not a single note of classic 10cc humour on this record, and the melodies are less and less unpredictable as they progress.

It seems that by this time, Gouldman and Stewart simply gave up on any kind of ambitions and decided to simply market themselves as 'intelligent dance music'. Funk and other dance rhythms are all over this record, and they're danceable all right, and there are enough tempo and signature shifts and the lyrics are decent enough to make this different from your usual sellout, but there's nothing you ain't heard before, and the songs drawn out of the general context have next to no artistic value, while placed inside the general context they just blend together in a boring mess.

To make matters worse, 10cc get preachy on what could probably be hailed as one of the worst songs of their career, the anti-war 'dance anthem' 'Don't Send We Back'. The band that once was the epitome of clever, untrivial, profound satire, now falls on cliched lyrics and direct anti-war slogans! What are they, Country Joe And The Fish? And all this set against a generic dance beat with a slight Latin tinge, which makes the proceedings even dumber. Are we supposed to dance and feel about the fate of soldiers sent over the border at the same time? Or is there something I didn't quite understand? I have absolutely no idea towards what kind of audience could a song like this be "targeted".

It's not like everything is stupid to that level. There are a few traces of past glories - for instance, the soft silky ballad 'I Hate To Eat Alone' with one of the most charming 'flowing' vocal melodies these guys ever managed to come up with, maybe even more reminiscent of the late-period* Kinks than themselves, even the isolationist lyrics are typical Ray Davies. In terms of arrangement or melody, there's little to laud (at least the chimes are a much wiser choice than some hi-tech synth which could fuck this stuff up worse than a Poison ballad), but the vocals are really endearing. Irony and hipness is somewhere out there, five thousand miles away, gagged and bound in a dirty sewer, but forget that this is 10cc and hoopla, there's a really decent soft-rock ballad for youse, especially if you also happen to hate to eat alone. For the record, I love to eat alone, and even I like the song.

A couple mildly catchy pop-rockers like 'I Took You Home' also qualify, with pretty straightforward, but acceptable, hooks (I don't know why the 'I took you home... you took me in' line sticks in my head, exactly, but that's a fact my conscience cannot deny); and some instrumental passages occasionally catch fire, like at the end of the album, when their generic, forgettable rocker 'LA Inflatable' ends in a short, but mighty barrage of organ/guitar duels, way too clean for true rock'n'roll excitement but still invigorating in a certain way. The funny thing is, where these guys started out as quirky jerky twisted lovers of upbeat pop and rock, in the case of Look Hear? it is the limp balladry that does the trick. The sissier they sound, the more attractive the music is. But when they start to go all funky on our asses, that's when the ultimate boredom sets in. Weird, isn't it?

I suppose, nevertheless, that nothing besides the preachiness of 'Don't Send We Back' ever sounds truly offensive - if anything, at least these guys were clever to stay away from pretentiousness and posing. The songs just go by without offending your ears and that's it. But no acceptable hooks. Some four-four beats, some more throwbacks to the old garage days with the energy thrown out, some choruses that never stray too far away from the verses. It's all okay, you can gulp it down, in fact, first time I heard the record open with 'One Two Four', I kinda liked that song. Good solid beat, hummable melody, and hey, it may have disco overtones, but then it goes into a silly reggae section in the middle, so there you have some intelligent twist... But when one song after another turns out in the same style, nothing supernatural, nothing particularly memorable, you simply get sick o' the style. If there are hooks, they're so pedestrian it's as if they didn't exist at all.

Typical example: 'Lovers Anonymous'. An upbeat, but pretty obvious pop introduction, a vocal melody that doesn't stick out at all (nor do the lyrics - 'Doctor, I'm getting in deeper, show me the way I can slow myself down?' What the heck?), and just ONE moment that makes me perk up my ears, when the vocal melody goes 'you gotta SAVE ME, TAKE AWAY THE TEMPTATION', and that's mainly because it can't help but remind me of the Bee Gees or.. wait, not the Bee Gees, rather somebody like Barclay James Harvest or Styx or some other lame Seventies art-pop band. Then, a quiet restrained mid-section with stale piano-and-synth watery tinkling, whose function is to stretch out the song length and nothing else, and back to the main melody. A semi-decent guitar solo at the end is about the only truly interesting thing here, but there are plenty of Eric Stewart's solos that are much better. So what do we get? Five minutes of me wasting my life (multiply by three and get fifteen!), and five seconds of YOU wasting YOURS (multiply by however-many-get-to-read this page per day, per month, per year...), and who's gonna count out the moral harm?

Stay away from this album. You might have noticed that this review was messy, chaotic, unstructured, poorly thought out, rambling, and verbose, and that's a regular reaction to overwhelming mediocrity. If you can come up with a better one, I promise to push the rating up a couple of points, but I really don't know why you would bother when you still have to save the world from illegal whale hunting or something like that. Leave the drainage to sloppy Russian reviewers.



Year Of Release: 1981

Record rating = 3
Overall rating = 6

Ten out of ten? Says who? Isn't that a bit overreaching?

Best song: DON'T ASK. (That's the actual song title, I mean).

Track listing: 1) Don't Ask; 2) Overdraft In Overdrive; 3) Don't Turn Me Away; 4) Memories; 5) Notell Hotel; 6) Les Nouveaux Riches; 7) Action Man In Motown Suit; 8) Listen With Your Eyes; 9) Lying Here With You; 10) Survivor.

Yeah right. You know, if we sum up the production, the arrangements, the craft, and the reputation, this might turn out different from the utter crapfest that I currently envisage this record as. But I'd rather we didn't, because sometimes production, arrangements, craft, and reputation don't mean shit. Not when it comes to comparing this profoundly uninspired, shallow, and just plain boring album to 10cc's former absurdist glories. With Ten Out Of Ten, the "band" (by this time, the "duo" - Stewart and Gouldman assume full responsibility for this mess) hits its nadir.

Where should I begin? Well how about this: by 1981, so it seems, out of all their former richness of styles these two had preserved only three - mild mannered funk-rock with about as much energy to it as a horny toad two steps away from cardiac arrest; flimsy, "comic-flavoured" reggae of the 'Dreadlock Holiday' type, exactly in between "parody" and "the real thing" so that it couldn't be either; and sappy, corny, faux-emotional balladeering somewhere around the Carpenters level - only the Carpenters had a better singer, of course.

All the tracks on here can be neatly classified into these three categories, although they sometimes merge, like on the dreadful 'Memories', easily the worst 10cc song of all time. It starts out as a piece of generic sentimental slush, kinda like Billy Joel at his worst, and then unexpectedly transforms into generic ska in the chorus before swallowing an ounce of pomposity and spiralling back to sentimental slush on a more "ambitious" level. All this without a decent hook anywhere in sight, of course, but with plenty of cheap "tear-jerking" pianos and background adult contemporary synths, as well as a completely "serious" vocal delivery - oh wow, this is supposed to be a song about nostalgia and memories of good old days, how deeply moving. Let me just say I consider this "transgression" between corny keyboards and flabby ska one of the clumsiest and most pointless in the entire history of the band.

Not that the other ballads are much better. 'Don't Turn Me Away' is exactly one step away from Styx territory - that step being the lack of Dennis DeYoung on vocals. Actually, Stewart isn't a bad singer, technically, but when he sings sentimental stuff, his voice is very much in the "beautiful Seventies romantics" type, the one epitomized by Styx and that lameass in Manfred Mann's Earth Band and stuff, and as much as I dislike that style, those guys at least had strong voices, whereas Stewart's is just whiny and weak. Of course, not even a strong voice could save something as generic and forgettable as the mild mid-tempo stomp of 'Don't Turn Me Away'. 'Lying Here With You' is slower and even more sentimental, a direct piano ballad where they attempt to do something slightly sad and melancholic in the 'Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word' style, but fall flat on their faces - for one thing, there's hardly anything more stupid than merging sissyass romantic lyrics with a supposedly "sad" melody. When I hear lines like 'All our cares will drift away/Leave them all until another day/I don't really mind/As long as I can find/That I'm lying here with you' sung in this tearful, melancholic voice, well, you can excuse my basic reaction for being something like "Uh? Come again?".

Probably the best of the ballads is 'Survivor', which at least manages to effectuate a decent transition from the slow into the mid-tempo part. But even in this case I can't help feeling that they're consciously trying to ape yet another style - after Billy Joel, Styx, and Elton John pastiches comes an attempt to better Paul McCartney (that opening arpeggiated part sounds bizarrely similar not only to Lennon's 'Dear Prudence', but also to Paul's own 'We're Open Tonight' off his 1979 album). It's true that by 1981 Paul had already been washed up enough to give others the possibility to write better Paul McCartney songs than he could himself, but, unfortunately, this one case doesn't qualify.

You'd think at least they could redeem themselves on the non-ballad material, but they don't. Much of the album is dominated by offensively dumb attempts to be "sarcastic" like 'Les Nouveaux Riches' - that particular song makes me even sadder than the ballads do, because that is exactly the kind of material that made records like Sheet Music so good. But apparently the golden touch was never to return. It's a weak, half-pop, half-reggae tune driven by cheesy "glub glub" keyboards (hey, I don't expect you to understand me about this, but I really can't be bothered to look for extensive details on the name of that particular brand of synth they were using on this song) and culminating in its idiotic "pseudo-Jamaican" chorus: 'Les nouveaux riches when they tres fatigue/They fly off to the ocean/They hot foot away they don't/Get a buzz they don't get a kick/Man they talk in circles/They must be thick/A say tick dem/A tick tick tick-a'. Bummer, eh?

I count TWO moderately decent songs on the entire album. The opening number, 'Don't Ask', at least has a moderately driving funk pattern and a moderately catchy chorus, and has at least a pinch of that nice self-irony and sarcasm we've always loved the band for. No cheap sentimentality or offensive jerky dumbness, just an acceptable melody and lyrics that actually make some sense. And then there's 'Notell Hotel', a five-minute "musical thriller" that's certainly no 'Hotel California' (yeah, 'Hotel California' is a great song, 'scuse me) but at least manages to create a little bit of suspense. That said, neither of these two songs deserve more than one line of text to describe them.

Everything else either just pure stinks, like the stuff I've namechecked, or is banal and boring to the core. Well, rather just plain boring than offensive, which explains the pretty high rating I've managed to squeeze out of myself. Hollow, soulless professionalism with no point to make and no fun to offer - you know, it's albums like these that kinda make me understand why Paul McCartney's collaboration with Stewart on Press To Play proved to be one of the worst moves in the honourable Sir's career. Hey, he oughta have drafted the man into Wings back in 1975 or something. Perhaps that would save us all of this unbearable mediocrity of post-Godley & Creme 10cc.

PS. What I have reviewed is apparently the US edition of the album, which replaces three tracks on the UK edition with... well, with different three tracks. There might be chances, of course, that these three UK edition songs are masterpieces, but according to the theory of probability, these chances are miserable, and I can't even calculate probabilities.



Year Of Release: 1983

Record rating = 2
Overall rating = 5

Isn't it a bit too late to carry the epitome of Seventies' blandness over to the Eighties?


Track listing: 1) 24 Hours; 2) Feel The Love (Oomachasaooma); 3) Yes I Am!; 4) Americana Panorama; 5) City Lights; 6) Food For Thought; 7) Working Girls; 8) Taxi! Taxi!

Yeah right. If we sum up the production, the arrangements, the craft, and the reputation, this might turn out different from the utter crapfest that I currently envisage this record as. But I'd rather we didn't, because sometimes production, arrangements, craft, and reputation don't mean shit. Not when it comes to comparing this profoundly uninspired, shallow, and just plain boring album to 10cc's former absurdist glories. With Windows In The Jungle, the "band" (by this time, the "duo" - Stewart and Gouldman assume full responsibility for this mess) hits its nadir.

Where should I begin? Well how about this: by 1983, so it seems, out of all their former richness of styles these two had preserved only two - flimsy, "comic-flavoured" reggae of the 'Dreadlock Holiday' type, exactly in between "parody" and "the real thing" so that it couldn't be either; and sappy, corny, faux-emotional balladeering somewhere around the Carpenters level - only the Carpenters had a better singer, of course. As for the mild mannered funk-rock with about as much energy to it as a horny toad two steps away from cardiac arrest, don't even expect this one.

So thank you very much, Mr Stewart and Mr Gouldman, for relieving me of the necessity to come up with another smartass intro. The Internet is a wonderful medium for plagiarizing oneself, and 10cc's Eighties output is as fine a pretext as any for just copying stuff from one review and pasting it into another. Fortunately, this album isn't quite the carbon copy of its predecessor. For their final effort before scrapping the entire project, 10cc prefer - oh horror - a more complex approach. For some reason, they must have thought that working on a couple more lengthy multi-part suites might rejuvenate their songwriting craft, and thus there are only eight tracks on the album, three of them well over the six minute mark. Does it work? Does it help? Naturally, it doesn't.

The easiest way to illustrate that failure would be to point your attention, oh dearest reader, to the endless coda that winds up both the wimpy soft-rockish suite 'Taxi! Taxi!' and the entire album. The song itself, like most other tracks on here, strives to achieve a dramatic effect, but gets sorely undercut by the "playful" chorus that squeezes out any possible 'emotional uplifting' one might receive from the verses (not that I received any - just sounds like generic cheesy adult contemporary to me, with a whiff of solo George Harrison to it). But the stupidest thing about it is the coda: a simple, endlessly looping acoustic riff, "strenghtened" by ambient keyboard patterns and a weirdly 'off-beat' drum pattern that probably thinks of itself as skilful and untrivial, and probably is, but to my musically uneducated ears seems like the product of the drummer having had one Jack Daniels too many and trying, for about three minutes, to finally get in the friggin' time.

What's the most funny about it is that pretty much the same bag of tricks, only without the drumming, had been used by Genesis a decade earlier on 'Dancing With The Moonlit Knight' - and there it worked, even if the guitar line was even more simple. Actually, exactly because the guitar line was more simple: ah, the sweet combination of that heavenly high tone with that minimal amount of notes that sounded so fresh and innocent! Genesis seemed to know exactly where it was at. 10cc seem to have no clue, falling on boring middle-of-the-road cliches. A coda that has the nerve to go on for three minutes must be real fuckin' great. It must make Wagner piss his pants. Otherwise, in my world it has no reason to exist.

That said, at least I have something to ruminate upon when discussing 'Taxi! Taxi!' - the opening suite, '24 Hours', is even longer, but I have absolutely no idea what else to say about it. No matter how much I listen to it, everything that happens is boredom. I've heard much better material from Barclay James Harvest. Apparently, I still can't take a band like 10cc seriously, despite their obviously wanting me to shed a couple tears at lines like 'Living under pressure/Do you wanna buy a dream?'. The fact that they at least switch melodies a couple of times doesn't mean jackshit, because all of them are weak. This is all calculated, formulaic product; where do you expect me to find genuine emotion? In these conventionally "passionate" vocals?

And did I say 'Memories' was the worst 10cc song ever? Well, it might share that place with the repugnant sentimental trash of 'Yes I Am', a song I'm afraid even Phil Collins wouldn't want on his worst solo album. Once upon a time 10cc practically invented the stereotype of the soft adult contemporary ballad with the creative, sonically unique and lyrically smart 'I'm Not In Love'. In 1983, they sounded like one of the innumerable performers who managed to grasp the style but not the essence, and certainly not the irony of that approach. Look, if I ever go crazy and want to listen to some Chris de Burgh, I'll take the real sick thing, not the warped sick thing. The "angelic" Eighties synth, the obligatory elevator jazz sax solo, the generic lyrics with the obligatory 'I'm ready for love' cliche - put it this way: no album with a song like that on it deserves anything more than a 6. It's that brain-and-soul-rotting.

As usual, there is a couple acceptable numbers, this time all concentrated on Side B, that may be worth salvaging. 'Americana Panorama' totally sucks in the way of lyrics (where's the fucking irony? don't we have Bruce Springsteen and/or Ray Davies to be straightforwardly serious already?), but at least the song has a minimal drive to it, and this time around the sax solo ain't half bad, reminding me of certain powerful solos on John Lennon solo tracks. Meanwhile, 'City Lights' sounds like a half-assed ELO outtake from Discovery; considering that on this album the song's a definite highlight, that certainly says a lot about the general quality of the album. However, even these minor "successes" get wiped over by still more of that horrific spineless pseudo-reggae shit they're still wishing to pile upon us: 'Feel The Love' and 'Food For Thought' are also among the worst stabs at that genre I've ever heard. In fact, I don't think I've ever heard anybody wrapping reggae in so much Seventies' polyester as 10cc liked to do it in the early Eighties. Bob Marley should have sued them for moral damage to the prestige of the genre.

After this dump, I can only surmise what a 1986 10cc album might have sounded like (actually, the closest to a 1986 10cc album would probably be Paul McCartney's Press To Play, with Macca and Stewart collaborating on a lot of the songs) - thank God the guys finally had the guts to call it quits. Yet, let us not forget that with these five mediocre-to-awful efforts in a row, Stewart and Gouldman effectively put all the good reputation the "classic" version of the band managed to gather in the trash can. The awful thing is that it seems a lot of people only know the band for its later output, with 'Dreadlock Holiday' as the best song! I mean, you could accuse the Rolling Stones of the same travesty, but at least the Stones, throughout all of their career, only put out two or three openly worthless albums with nothing to laud about them - and I assure you, even if you happen to be pretty sceptical about their Eighties career, Dirty Work will seem like a Mozart-class album to you when set next to One Out Of Ten and No Windows In The Shithouse.



Year Of Release: 1992

Record rating = 6
Overall rating = 9

You know, this one actually does not suck. I still can't believe it.


Track listing: 1) Woman In Love; 2) Wonderland; 3) Fill Her Up; 4) Something Special; 5) Welcome To Paradise; 6) The Stars Didn't Show; 7) Green Eyed Monster; 8) Charity Begins At Home; 9) Shine A Light In The Dark; 10) Don't Break The Promises.

Reunions. Are they good or are they bad? As is the case with most stupid questions, there's no single answer. But generally, I think, it depends - and not so much on whether the reunion is money-oriented or not (about 99% of all reunions are money-oriented) as on whether the newly reformed band is willing to look back on its past and actually learn something from their triumphs and mistakes or is just going to pick it up from where they left without giving a hoot. In this particular case, it seems like the band did follow the former scenario, but not completely.

This is said to be a full-fledged reunion album, with Stewart and Gouldman actually collaborating with Godley and Creme again. You sure couldn't tell it by simply looking at the credits: all of the songs are, as usual, credited to Stewart/Gouldman (with Paul McCartney collaborating on the final ballad - returning Stewart's favor on Press To Play, no doubt?), and even in terms of playing, Godley and Creme's contributions are usually limited to friggin' backing vocals. However, I have reasons to doubt that these guys would have entered the studio with those other two guys just to contribute some backing vocals. There must have been some quality control they actually exerted - otherwise, I'm not able to understand how this album could have been such a huge improvement over everything they did in the early Eighties. 10cc fans correct me if I'm wrong, of course; I couldn't find any info on whatever was happening in the studio during the recording process. (In fact, I was lucky to find any info at all - Meanwhile only had a rather limited UK release, and remains pretty much unknown to the public at large).

Now I'm not saying it's a fantastic, or even a really good, album. In fact, it's pretty generic and ultimately forgettable. Not only that, it's the first 10cc album that doesn't in the least feel like a 10cc album. Even at their worst, Stewart and Gouldman were still actually trying to do something about their songs - to write the basic melodies and then make them undergo a set of transformations and mergers, making the result unpredictable. As much as I'm left unimpressed by something like 'Memories', that song did have an adult contemporary melody in the verses and then an unexpected shift to ska in the chorus: the classic trademark of the 10cc writing style. Sure, that transition was stupid, unfunny, and clumsy, but it was there. On Meanwhile, each and every song is predictable as hell. Verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo, verse, chorus, sometimes a middle-eight or something. Standard pop with no ambitions.

But hey, it ain't bad pop. Lots of these songs qualify as "nice easy listening". They have yer hooks, yer nice guitar lines (sometimes), and yer feel-good atmosphere. If they do not excite me, at least they don't bore me or offend me. Yes, the experimental approach is gone, but here's the good news: so are the two ruts that Gouldman and Stewart had intentionally clogged themselves in more than a decade earlier. There's only one reggae tune on the entire album, and only one (well, maybe two) bland, liquid adult contemporary heavenly-synth-style ballads. The rest of the songs are slow- or medium-paced pop - with tinges of ska, blues-rock, even lounge muzak at times. In fact, the lounge muzak tune is my favourite: 'Something Special' is absolutely nothing special, but does have a moderately impressive melody which, at least, doesn't immediately remind me of any other melody. It just sort of rolls along slowly, lazily, and with a little bit of sly sarcasm to it, and brings me the sort of simple gut pleasure that I'd normally expect from, I dunno, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band rather than 10cc, but hey, I'll take it from anyone who's gonna give it to me.

The synthy sentimentalism now dresses up in better forms than sloppy mush. 'Woman In Love', the six-minute "epic" that opens the record, might actually be the best song on here (I'd still take 'Something Special' over it, though, so as not to be accused of pandering to melodic corn! Heh heh), with a clear ringing guitar rising well above the synth backgrounds and a whole set of vocal tricks (like the rising 'she's a wooo-maaaan iiiiin looooove' "counterpoint" to the first line of the chorus) that shows the craft is still there. Plus, Eric adds a slide guitar solo to keep it bloozy, and it works. And 'Wonderland', believe it or not, sounds like a catchier version of solo Sting from around the early Nineties; whether that's a good thing is up to you to decide, but I've always complained about lack of memorability being the worst element of Sting's solo career, so count me satisfied on this account.

Also, towards the end they go off with a few fun-hearted, bouncy pop songs like 'Charity Begins At Home' (preachy lyrics, but bold message: 'keep your hands in your pockets/Charity won't leave you alone'!) and 'Shine A Light In The Dark' - this one I was afraid was gonna be some overblown gospel anthem, but instead it's a relatively fast-paced pop-rocker with a chorus partially ripped off the Hollies' 'Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress' (the way they sing "reckless!" and "legless!" is, in fact, the exact same way in which the Hollies used to sing "bad mess!" Probably a stupid coincidence, but you can never rule out the ways of the subconscious), cheerful and inoffensive.

The actual ballads are, as usual, the weakest part: particularly the closing number, the McCartney-cowritten 'Don't Break The Promises' which strives to achieve "grand" but, no matter how much catharsis Eric tries to coagulate with his ecstatic soloing, is still a bit too thin and straightforward to do that. Which is to be expected, since Paul hasn't been too wonderful with his ballads since at least the early Eighties, you know. But, once again, there is at least an attempt to do something. This whole album is an attempt to do something: and in general, it's so low-key and unpretentious that it's hard to have any hard feelings about it even if you don't like it. Sure, it's disappointing to learn this is the best they can come up with even when there's all four of them once again, and in terms of simple, unassuming Nineties pop I'd much rather listen to Fountains Of Wayne or Blur than 10cc. But if, like me, you happened to be digesting the work of this band in chronological order, I'd bet you anything you'd experience an enormous relief - just like the one I did experience. For that, I'm grateful to these guys.



Year Of Release: 1995

Record rating = 6
Overall rating = 9

More decent quality retro-pop for an audience I'm probably unaware of - or maybe for a non-existing audience.

Best song: they're all equally so-so.

Track listing: 1) Yvonne's The One; 2) Code Of Silence; 3) Blue Bird; 4) Age Of Consent; 5) Take This Woman; 6) The Monkey And The Onion; 7) Everything Is Not Enough; 8) Ready To Go Home; 9) Grow Old With Me; 10) Margo Wants The Mustard; 11) Peace In Our Time; 12) Why Did I Break Your Heart; 13) Now You're Gone; 14) I'm Not In Love.

No, Nineties' 10cc are definitely better than Eighties 10cc. They seem to have come to perfect terms with their limitations, the most serious of which is being more sterile than a wombless cow. And what does a professional composer do if he's being sterile? Option number one is to retire, but hey, they already did that. Option number two is to make unpretentious, openly derivative, openly simple music which you can dismiss for being uninteresting but can't dismiss for being unprofessional or offensive.

That's more or less what they did on Meanwhile, but the tendency to simplify and streamline things is even more evident on Mirror Mirror, the band's second (and, fortunately, last) Nineties album. Maybe Meanwhile still had a couple lyrical and stylistic ambitions left, but this one is made according to the "keep it simple, stupid" principle from the first to the last moment. And guess what, it works. They have finally found that acceptable adequacy level and made it show. I don't like this record, I don't need this record, but I'm not gonna spit on it because as harmless background music, it can easily make my day when I need little else but harmless background music.

There's some stylistic diversity here - that means, alarmingly enough, that reggae and ska are back, but this time they're accompanied by decent (if completely predictable and twist-less) vocal melodies delivered with enough credibility to take them for the pleasant fluff they're supposed to be. (Note: I don't really like talking of unambitious pop music in "fluff" category - it makes me nauseous every time I hear people speak of Paul McCartney's Ram as "fluff", for instance - but I'd like to differ between fluffy lack of ambition as an artistic principle and fluffy lack of ambition as a sign of burning out, which pretty much covers the basic difference between albums like Ram and Mirror Mirror).

Like, 'Yvonne's The One' opens the album with a moderately solid "reggae-dance" number where the lyrics mean nothing and the melody means next to nothing, but you can dance with your girl to it or something and not feel yourself in the middle of a cheap high school flick. The ska-styled 'Take This Woman' is almost defiantly dumb, with a chorus that goes 'got to take this woman, cause she's a whole lotta woman, why don't you take this woman, lock her away'. Not bad for a band that once sang 'you know the art of conversation must be dying, when a romance depends on cliches and toupees and threepees', eh? For some reason, the song reminds me of mid-period solo George Harrison - a strange sign, because I've always valued even mid-period solo George Harrison higher than that. It must be the vocals, I guess, almost emulating George's intonations on some of the Somewhere In England tunes.

A couple of the "rockier" tunes actually make the mistake of trying to convey a preachy message, which mars the overall atmosphere - hey guys, if you wanna play it dumb, play it dumb to the end and don't mess up my ears with generic sloganeering like that of 'Everything Is Not Enough' (yet another half-decently crafted pop-rocker, that is, unless you realize that the chorus is essentially a rewrite of the one in 'Good Morning Judge'. Sheez). 'Peace In Our Time' is an almost religious tune - one thing I'd never expect from these guys but, hey, everything is possible as you get older, I guess. Maybe they got this "anthem" idea from Paul McCartney, who was at the height of his Lennon-inherited Messiahnistic phase at the time and actually contributed some help to the recording of Mirror Mirror, fulfilling the ever present obligations. Wherever they got it from, it didn't help. 10cc shouldn't be doing glossy soul music. The result is a Styx with less annoying vocals.

Other than that, though, I dunno... okayish. A simplistic acoustic ballad ('Now You're Gone') that might have fit on the Eagles' debut. Another of those weepy adult contemporary ballads with just enough lukewarm passion to make it pass the grade ('Code Of Silence', the best thing about which is the endlessly repeated 'it's a deadly game' mantra which contributes to the atmosphere on a far more mature level than the generic "heavenly" synths). A sentimental, strings-backed ballad ('Grow Old With Me') that could be wonderful due to simple, not tremendously sappy production - but, alas, lacking the emotional strength that's necessary for this kind of material (such a strength is well present in John Lennon's song of the same name, even if that one never got the good production to render it justice. One hell of a shittyass way to distribute the goods, if you axe God about it).

There's even a romantic acoustic ballad ('Blue Bird') that I could have easily mistaken for a late-period Moody Blues - or Justin Hayward solo - song, only Justin's vocals would be a wee bit higher than in this particular song. Plus, a bit of very tepid funk ('Age Of Consent'), a bit of very bland calypso ('Margo Wants The Mustard'), and, to top it all, a remake of 'I'm Not In Love' which pretty much serves as the one obvious illustration of what has become so very wrong with the band over the past twenty years - the melody is the same, but the approach is about as interesting as yesterday's snow. Who needs an 'I'm In Love' with all the vocal harmony layers edited out? Not me. Don't think 10cc fans need it either.

There was a short point in time when I actually wanted to give this album an overall ten, the kind of rating I give to records that keep me moderately entertained but don't usually remain in my active memories for too long, but then again, the basic difference between a 10 and a 9 is that 9-rated records don't really have any reason to exist, and Mirror Mirror's only reason of existence can be defined as "keeping the band name alive". Well, that might have been a valid reason in 1995, but as of 2003, it's been rendered anachronistic. So save your money - or, better still, don't save your money and go and buy one of the band's earliest records for a dozen bucks instead of plunking down one when fishing a rusty copy of Mirror Mirror out of a used bin, where it obviously belongs. (Although, as far as I understand, this one had no US release either - so you'd be an even greater fool to order import copies of this useless thing).



After 10cc virtually self-destructed by splitting in two parts, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme stayed together for a rather long period (longer than the Gouldman/Stewart duo, actually) and released quite a few albums - which, as some claim, have been more true to the real 10cc spirit than anything else, but this is not quite correct. 10cc's classic period meant successfully merging the weirdness and experimentation of Godley & Creme with the pop instincts of Gouldman and Stewart, and as a result, both duos suffered seriously without each other, and both only represent a "chunk" of the original 10cc magic. That said, it is obvious that, legal procedures aside, Godley & Creme really have the exact same right to represent the "10CC Legacy" as Gouldman and Stewart had, which is why I am not placing them on a separate page of their own.

Unfortunately, I've only got the first three records these dudes produced on their own - said to be their weirdest and, overall, least accessible (and it does show). In the Eighties Godley & Creme, as so many other experimental souls, became more "normal", succumbing to their love of doo-wop and stuff; but in the late Seventies, they were easily the most absurd and baffling act on the planet, and thus managed to earn the hate of pretty much every single rock critic alive. I mean, heck, 1977 wasn't exactly the best year to release a puffed-up triple album, was it?


Year Of Release: 1977
Overall rating =

A triple album made by two adventurous and clever guys - isn't that enough to scare the pants off anybody?

Best song: sorry, I still cannot say for sure if there are any songs at all.

Track listing: 1) Seascape; 2) Wind; 3) Fireworks; 4) Stampede; 5) Burial Scene; 6) Sleeping Earth; 7) Honolulu Lulu; 8) The Flood; 9) Five O'Clock In The Morning; 10) Dialogue; 11) When Things Go Wrong; 12) Dialogue; 13) Lost Weekend; 14) Dialogue; 15) Rosie; 16) Dialogue; 17) Office Chase; 18) Dialogue; 19) Cool Cool Cool; 20) Dialogue; 21) Cool Cool Cool (reprise); 22) Dialogue; 23) Sailor; 24) Dialogue; 25) Mobilization; 26) Dialogue; 27) Please Please Please; 28) Dialogue; 29) Blint's Tune (Movements 1-17).

Godley and Creme's solo debut was definitely not for everybody. In fact, considering the times, it was pretty much for nobody. And considering the harsh beating it had taken upon release, it still remains for nobody, even if it's an excellent candidature for one of those "cult classics" that bunches of lonely hyperbolistic nerds like to construct shrines around. Like Roger Waters' Pros And Cons or maybe even Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music.

Although it definitely sounds like neither. Now if you ever saw anybody follow the usual trend and dismiss this record with one or two quick phrases, chances are you got the picture wrong, too. Because this album is often counted among the worst excesses of Seventies' prog-rock - an opinion which would subconsciously place it on the same bench with Yes' Tales From Topographic Oceans and Jethro Tull's Passion Play, when it is in fact an entirely different entity. Neither when they were still a part of 10cc nor in their solo careers Godley & Creme ever displayed any serious tendencies to imitate classic prog rock outfits. They were sarcastic avantgarde posturers, not deadly serious combiners of rock and classical. And Consequences, despite the length and complexity, is not a prog rock album. What is it then? Well - basically, it's a musical.

Yes, a three LP-long musical, and while by saying "musical" I don't mean it's anything like Cats or even Westside Story, it would still help if, before starting the listening process, the listener flipped his little perception switches into the "Broadway-style" position. Above all, it would make the proceedings more tolerable from a purely technical point of view. Consequences is a big mess, but so's your average musical, particularly when you're listening to it instead of watching it. Upon my first listen, I tried separating the "songs" from the endless streams of dialog, concentrating on the former and dismissing the latter; it was a disaster, and only when I reluctantly agreed to take in everything at once did it start to make a wee bit more sense.

Musically, the record's main aim has been always said to have been Godley & Creme's desire to demonstrate the ample possibilities of the "gizmo" - a weird gadget which, when fastened to the guitar, allows the player to produce a symphonic effect while bending the strings. Actually, they had already used the "gizmo" on some earlier 10cc material, but, apparently, that was not enough for them. So they recorded an almost LP-length set of instrumental "tunes" with that effect and decided to make it represent The Great Battle of Nature Against Humanity or something like that. Eventually, this grew into a full-fledged 'musical' with the instrumental tunes forming sort of a huge overture, after which came two more LPs - the "consequences" of the battle in question.

Textually, these two other LPs constitute of a one-act "play", narrated by several actors, chief among them Peter Cook, and predictably interrupted by unpredictably crafted songs from time to time. The play takes part in the office of a lawyer where a married couple (with the "wife" representing a grossly overdone French whore stereotype, replete with thick accent and all - obviously, an element these guys carried over from 'Une Nuit A Paris') is trying to get a divorce while the elements are wreaking havoc around the building. Oh yeah, and then there's this hole in the floor which leads to the attic where a certain respectable gentleman called Mr Blint is playing his piano and trying to calm the elements down with his music.

As is probably already obvious from these last three phrases, the play is firmly grounded in the European absurdism tradition (occasionally calling to mind Eugene Ionescu and the like) and has to be taken as such. However, when you add up the nutty music, it's obvious that the main inspiration for the proceedings - provided there has been one - lies in such Frank Zappa "aural panoramas" as 'Billy The Mountain' and others he used to do in the early Seventies. And therein lies the rub. Things like these have about as much emotional resonance for the average listener as Justin Timberlake has for Alice Cooper. Instead, they often get by by being funny and/or biting in their sarcasm, but Consequences isn't really funny or sarcastic. (Unless you count lines like: 'Ah, Mrs Stapleton! Did you hear the news about Wall Street?' - 'No, I don't work streets, I visit hotels' really funny). Or they might be full of clever lines that actually make you think twice about things, but Consequences isn't really deep. (Unless you count lines like: 'I'd say I was married to my piano. I have all the questions, and she has all the answers' really deep).

Basically, Consequences is just weird. There definitely has been no album like it before, and almost positively nothing quite like it ever since. It breaks down all the patterns with the exception of basic cohesiveness (if, in addition to everything else, the 'play' were not cohesive, I doubt there would be more than two or three Gargantuas in the world to stomach the weight of it) and revels in itself. At the same time, it isn't really "pretentious" or "self-indulgent" in the classic sense of the word, because it never takes itself (or anything else) seriously. It is a bizarre intellectual challenge which is very hard to judge - because intellectual challenges deserve objective judgements, and how can you pronounce an objective judgement upon something so absurd?

So, essentially, my rating is flawed: it is primarily based upon the musical merits of the album, with the "play" elements hardly taken into consideration, and, as I've just said, this wouldn't be the right way to perceive the record. The most "interesting", then, is the first LP, with the "gizmo" in full free flow and lots and lots of things going on in classic 10cc tradition: that is, with elements replacing each other faster than you can say 'jack knife'. There's special effects, ambient landscapes, little classical interludes, avantgarde jazz noodling, mini- (and I do mean mini-)piano sonatas, hard rock jamming and even samples of contemporary disco tunes and God knows what else; at one point, if I'm not mistaken, they even lift the familiar 'Hard Day's Night' opening power chord. Only one number is vocal-dominated - 'Honolulu Lulu', which announces the arrival of the great hurricane in classic Broadway fashion and does this for the duration of an entire minute. In my eyes, that's all little more than a weird curiosity, hardly deserving repeated listenings, but well worth experiencing once - like, I'm pressed to say, about 90% of "hardcore avantgarde" stuff ever released.

On the next two LPs, when things are free from "dialogue", they move a little more smoothly and poppily - in fact, the opening number, 'Five O'Clock In The Morning', had enough appeal to become a minor European hit for the duo, even if it's not all that catchy: just a sub-standard piano-based music-hall number a la average McCartney. The rest follows suite, with more music hall, doo-wop and Beach Boys influences, but all of them ground through the whacky artistic vision of G&C. I like bits and pieces of 'Cool Cool Cool' and bits and pieces of Mr Blint's romantic aria 'Rosie', but that's about it. Arguably the worst thing about the record is that it finishes with the fourteen-minute mess of 'Mr Blint's Tune' - in which the aforementioned Mr Blint produces sort of a "lullaby for the elements", playing pretty much every single melody and half-melody that happens to venture into his head at any given moment on his piano and sounding not unlike a professional tuner testing the instrument. It may be executed in the same paradigm as the stuff on the first LP, but it sure adds nothing new to the proceedings.

All said, though, I would definitely recommend finding this album over substituting it for the also-available one-LP edition, Music From Consequences, which reputedly omits most or all of the dialogue and just concentrates on the "melodic" side. Were the "melodic" side of it really "melodic", I'd say yeah, like I definitely say yeah to, for instance, the dialogue-free version of Pete Townshend's Psychoderelict, where the fine songs are almost rendered unlistenable by all the interrupting verbal pap. But this is a cohesive entity where, if the pieces have any meaning at all, they only have it in relation to one another. And don't be scared of it. Giving the album one star out of five, as the All-Music Guide did, would be really unfair - that kind of rating should be reserved for some generic, predictable, rehashed soft-rock or adult contemporary crap (although just a few years earlier I could have done that with little remorse). Calling it a masterpiece would be going to far in the opposite direction (although I'll have to wait a few more years to see if I change my mind). Instead, so far it looks like an interesting piece of product, and a timeless piece at that: it's really impossible to tell it was recorded in 1977, since it doesn't really bear any significant trademarks of its epoch. And, to tell the truth, the guys make far better use of the "gizmo" than Adrian Belew did of all his numerous gadgets when he tried to make his guitar sound like an orchestra in 1995.



Year Of Release: 1978
Overall rating =

The best thing happens when you start understanding this crazy sonic mess actually MAKES sense.


Track listing: 1) The Sporting Life; 2) Sandwiches Of You; 3) Art School Canteen; 4) Group Life; 5) Punchbag; 6) Foreign Accents; 7) Hit Factory/Business Is Business.

And the funniest thing happens when you realise the united front of rock critics unmercifully trashed this album for the exact same reasons that the same people used to praise Frank Zappa. Now, granted, neither Godley nor Creme could be suspected of possessing the equivalent of Zappa's musical talent. But then again, we don't exactly pay attention to Frank's musical talents when we're discussing stuff like Sheik Yerbouti - these albums are primarily appreciated because of their wittiness, weirdness, and unpredictability (and a fair dose of smut which definitely is not a Godley & Creme trademark, for which we probably should only be grateful. Not that I'm all that turned off by Frank's smuttiness, but having it replicated by these two British buddies would be a travesty).

Well, L is witty, weird, and unpredictable, starting right from the title, which must have been - barring all the "untitled"s, of course - the shortest album title ever invented (Jethro Tull's A wouldn't come out until two years later, and even in that case, at least we knew what the "A" actually stands for). So, what's not to like? Oh, and apart from that, it is all that Consequences wasn't: fully musical, with no distracting interludes, fully non-Broadway-oriented, and, above all, extremely short, making its point in just a little over thirty minutes and then going away; a reasonable decision for a relentlessly avantgarde album, I'd say. If you're gonna be perverse, you might as well make it short and sweet, for better consumption.

Listening to this stuff, it becomes perfectly clear just who was the mastermind behind all the unthinkable, hyper-adventurous, if "non-genius" chaos on Sheet Music, and how the band's evolution in 1975-76 was most probably due to a gradual transfer of control from the hands of Godley & Creme, the weirdos, into the hands of Gouldman and Stewart, the popmeisters. Certainly, L suffers a bit from the lack of a "normalizing" influence, but definitely less so than 10cc's concurrent records without the "weirdifying" influence. Where something like Bloody Tourists just grows duller and duller with every new listen, L just gets curiouser and curiouser.

Not that it's just weird and that's that. Unlike Consequences, this isn't a vain exercise in absurdism; the lyrics are classic 10cc-style, with chunks of biting satire and poisonous mockery on every corner. In fact, holding up a lyrics sheet may actually help you dig into its "unnaturalness" as you get carried away by the constant flashing change of tempos, signatures, melodies, styles and genres. The very first track, 'The Sporting Life', seems to be a rumination on the average Joe's everyday life and how it alternates between the state of goalless, boring, frustrated idleness and the state of being in a mad, almost paranoid and equally goalless and useless rush - and the music clearly reflects it by switching from a "relaxed" (if still a bit herky-jerky) jazzy pattern into a fast "modern boogie" piano-based part and back again. It's not any less of a clever 'mock-epic' than something like, say, 'Une Nuit A Paris' - and makes its point in a little less time as well.

The most "accessible" song on the album is 'Sandwiches Of You' (as far as I remember, it was chosen as a single, although I'm not sure if it made any impact on the charts anywhere), but, of course, saying that song is "accessible" is a bit like saying that 'A Day In The Life' is progressive symph-rock. Meaning everything is relative, of course. It's essentially a hilarious conversation between a guy who wants to get laid and a gal who wants to 'keep this relation platonic' and 'discuss the ramifications/Of a lasting complex relationship/Like mature and responsible people do' instead. And get this, it does indeed have a mildly catchy chorus using gastronomic slogans as a metaphor for sexual tension! Tee hee.

As for the rest of the songs, hey, these guys cover a large number of topics. And another hey - no wonder, actually, that the critics hated it, since the album is oh so clearly directed towards us the "nerdy" percent of the population. I mean, every high school nerd will gladly associate with something like 'Punchbag', the anthem of the lone bespectacled kid getting bullied by all the cool guys for being so drastically uncool ('fourth form atrocities/come and get it Socrates/get down on your knees/ready for the polythene bag'), but for the rock'n'roll-oriented music reviewer such a targeting will always be a bit too much. Too bad - musically, it's a pretty cool little ditty with another bit of cool "modern boogie" guitar in the middle, with a very unusual tone to it (The Gizmo again?). Too bad nobody ever pays attention to the cleverness of 'Art School Canteen' either, with its wonderful 'Does getting into Zappa/Means getting out of Zen?' line.

In fact, the only time they really stumble is when they go for a purely musical approach on the genre-defying instrumental 'Foreign Accents'. It's pretty doggone hard for me to digest a lyricless Godley & Creme, and whatever they're doing on the track, to me it mainly means dicking around one never-changing rhythm with a bunch of go-nowhere sax noodling and dissonant keyboard phrases intruding in the least pleasant spots. Even if you happen to like it, you'll have to admit they're intruding rather rudely onto Zappa/King Crimson territory here, and there's really no particular obligation for any of us to put all of them on the same level.

Fortunately, they recover with the excellent 'Hit Factory/Business Is Business' - a vicious attack on you-know-what, with the first half actually playing upon the metaphoric use of the expression 'hit factory', and the tune carried forward by industrial rhythms and textures (I wonder why nobody ever thought of this - rather obvious - idea before. Good ol' Frank, at least, should have played a few cards upon that particular table). Then the second half, much more lyrics-heavy than the first, annihilates the music industry with a line like 'Keep it simple/Keep it neat/Aim your hook/At the man on the street/Throw him the bones/But freeze the meat/'Cuz the meat goes off/But the beat goes on' and then ridicules it further by slipping into a lethargic piano-based watery "trance" while chanting 'MOR is good, MOR is safe, MOR is here'. A classic swipe if there ever was one.

To sum it up, L is one of the least compromising albums of 1978, but that is one of the reasons why it sill proudly holds up to this day - provided you give it a fair chance, which pretty much all the Godley & Creme haters refused to do. I mean, I too was willing to dismiss it as a load of incoherent rubbish when I heard it for the first time, but when it clicks, it really clicks, I mean really clicks - it's not like the "uhh, well, I don't get it but I'm grudgingly ready to acknowledge it's sort of interesting" pattern, it's much more than that. Although I still have no idea what L stands for. Lies? Lethargy? Laziness? Lions? Leeches? Lycanthropes? Lords Of Lunacy?



Year Of Release: 1979
Overall rating =

Slightly darker and more serious in tone, which isn't all that cool - I prefer their "whacky dementia" to their "moody paranoia".


Track listing: 1) An Englishman In New York; 2) Random Brainwave; 3) I Pity Inanimate Objects; 4) Freeze Frame; 5) Clues; 6) Brazilia (Wish You Were Here); 7) Mugshots; 8) Get Well Soon.

Hmm. Apparently, Godley & Creme did worry about actually selling their production, because this album is one step more 'normal' than L. In fact, you could arguably view all of Godley & Creme's career as a continuous attempt to find that one perfect slot where they could make decent money without having to betray their ideals - which, granted, was a little easier to do in the UK than in the US. In any case, just as they managed to make 'Sandwiches Of You' into a minor 'cult hit', so did they, in this particular case, succeed with the album's lead-in track, 'An Englishman In New York'. Not that the two are in any way similar: 'Sandwiches Of You' was all kiddish pranks and "smart silliness", where this here song actually strives for social commentary.

It's still very very good, based on a steady jazzy pattern with perfectly normal chimes and trumpets all around as the band deliver their take on late Seventies' America (supposedly from an "Englishman"'s point of view, but you can never tell). Throw in a pseudo-doo-wop middle section and a catchy chorus, and you do get something that can be played on the radio without having people switching off to their local MOR stations instead. In fact, for all of its five minutes and thirty seconds, there are surprisingly few signature changes and extra non-belonging melodies thrown in - could it be that the guys are mellowing out? Alert! Commercialization sets in! Get Phil Collins out of there!

Nah, not yet. Not really. Already with the second track and its scaryman 'woo woo woo' greetings, it becomes perfectly clear that Godley & Creme are still going strong. In fact, 'Random Brainwave' might just be singled out as the quintessential Godley & Creme song of all time. See, the way I see it it is about a 'random brainwave' - trying to musically model whatever is happening in the brain of a particular person during a randomly chosen time interval. Just how much is going on in your brain when you "let it loose" for a minute or two? Lots of things, right? Well, lots of things happen in this song as well, including a bizarre "funk interlude" and an equally bizarre "symph-prog" instrumental passage with screeching (Gizmoified?) guitars. And, in a way, that's how Godley & Creme actually work: according to the "raindom brainwave" principle. Still, don't think the song is just a messy sonic collage, like 'Revolution #9' - it actually has structure and it has repeated elements, because even a 'random brainwave' usually has 'em. You can't think about different things every five nonaseconds.

Overall, the tone on Freeze Frame is somewhat denser and darker than on its predecessor; whether this slight shift of attitude had anything to do with the band's lack of commercial success or with the impending life-crisis or was simply self-imposed "for a change", I have no idea and I wouldn't want to guess. But it's a definite fact that so far, Godley & Creme hadn't yet written anything as gloomy as the album's title track - 'Freeze Frame' is their "heaviest" number to date, built upon a riff not unsimilar to Black Sabbath's 'N.I.B.' (although, naturally, more complex) and filled with rather viciously sung lyrics that, on one hand, sing about nostalgia and old reminiscences, on the other hand, don't seem to have anything remotely 'nice' to say about them (well, when your song begins with lines like 'I find myself a child again/Asleep in baby lotion/The air was thick with Scalextric/And the cars were in slow motion', it sure ain't no 'schooldays were the happiest days', is it?).

And then there are all these crime-related songs like 'Clues', which I honestly don't remember much about except that it was rather over-produced, and 'Mugshots', which is musically sort of like bubblegum meets free jazz - and has the band chanting 'mooooooogshots' with a very clearly pronounced 'oo'. Weird, as there are no Moogs on the track. Actually, 'Mugshots' is one of the lighter songs on the album, which would hardly be out of place on Sheet Music, but in the overall context of the album its 'lightness' really gets lost on the listener (me).

One track I would count as a lost opportunity: 'I Pity Inanimate Objects' has the coolest title ever as well as lyrics that have more direct references to existentialism than the collective works of Peter Hammill, but the basic gimmick that serves as the song's main attraction looks surprisingly cheap to me: dicking around with the tapes containing vocal tracks for the song, speeding them up and slowing them down at random. Not to be rude, gentlemen, but isn't this the kind of thing that little kids do with their tape recorders when they have nothing better to do? Passing this thing as 'art' or, at least, as one of the main points of attraction for a particular song is not welcome in my book. Too bad - even with no additional hooks, the "song" could have been a lot of fun. As it is, I still get the urge to check out the state of my CD player every time these distorted vocals jump another level.

The album's centerpiece is the duo's atmospheric "dance number" 'Brazilia (Wish You Were Here)', which, to be frank, has little to do with Brazil (then again, so did that old tune which Terry Gilliam used for his movie) - although there is a little Latin-tinged interlude towards the end, the rest of the time it sounds like a slightly more timid take on a late period Krautrock instrumental, something that Can or Amon Duul II might have used around 1975-76. It's not bad or anything, but, once again, my conscience just doesn't let me imagine these guys as "creators of a new type of serious music", which is why most of the time this tune is playing I just keep biting my nails and whatever there is under them at that particular moment. It's nowhere near as pointless as 'Foreign Accents' but there just isn't all that much demand for it in my book. I'd much rather go listen to Soon Over Babaluma.

Overall, though, this is still a solid, consistent effort - 'Englishman' and the title track alone earn it at least one thumb up - but where L sounded like cheetahs on grass, Freeze Frame is rather elephants on benzedrine. And believe you me, it took me quite a few listens to be able to mount that elephant properly, even if, paradoxically, it is the most "immediately likeable" Godley & Creme album to that date.


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