Monday, February 9, 2015

The Wiseacre Duos: 10cc, Part V

In 1976, 10cc split in half, with Kevin Godley and Lol Crème seeking greener pastures away from their remaining bandmates, Graham Gouldman and Eric Stewart.  As you read in previous entries, the former duo had more experimental leanings while the latter favored more melodic, commercially minded songwriting.

Did this mean that Gouldman and Stewart were now 5cc? Many industry wags thought so, wondering if the guys could press on and continue a legacy of inventive pop music.  In 1977, they returned with Deceptive Bends, effectively silencing the naysayers, if not some of the old fans, who found the new tunes a bit more formulaic and less adventurous.  The catchy, enduring "The Things We Do For Love" would prove to be a big hit in both the U.K. and the States.  While most certainly radio friendly, the lyrics still displayed a little of the old wit, though far from the caustic verses of old when G and C were involved.  Which, for me, was what made 10cc 10cc. Deceptive Bends does at times reflect G and S's sensibilities, with tunes like "Honeymoon with B Troop" and "Good Morning, Judge", but it was clear where the band was headed.  The heavy handed medley "Feel the Benefit Parts 1, 2, and 3", a stab at the sort of epics the band once mastered ("One Night in Paris" et al.) falls flat, despite some heavenly strings and a great middle section.

Meanwhile, Godley and Crème were now free to indulge their craziest notions, including liberal utilization of their "gizmo" device on 1977's Consequences, a three LP extravaganza complete with the participation of Sarah Vaughan and Peter Cook, who provides a multitude of voices in skits that sometimes resemble The Firesign Theater; the album was as opposite of Deceptive Bends as anything could be. Very hard to describe. For invisible audience members who think they've heard it all, I recommend you check it out.  Unsurprisingly, the album was not a success.

No less odd but easier to digest were G and C's next albums L and Freeze Frame, the latter featuring participation by Paul McCartney and Stewart Copeland on some tracks.  The scathing lyrics and truly bizarre time signatures will reveal for some listeners why 10cc was so good - there were checks and balances between the boppable and the extreme.  But in the right frame of mind, I can really dig Godley and Creme's abstract leanings and have many a day gotten lost in pieces like "I Pity Inanimate Objects".  On the other hand, "An Englishman in New York", not to be confused with a song by Sting some years later, sounds as if written for a Broadway musical, reminiscent of some previous 10cc.

Gouldman and Stewart released Bloody Tourists in 1978, which leads off with one of my favorite 10cc's tracks, "Dreadlock Holiday".  It's intriguing storytelling and potential pub sing-along in equal measure, a real dandy.  Pity the album goes downhill by Track 2 and never recovers.  This is a strangely downbeat, dour batch of songs.  Very dated sounding, too.  1974's Sheet Music sounds fresher than this dud.  Very little clicks: stale melodies, misguided spirits, smutty lyrics.  Other times, the album alternates between cloying sentiment and sappy romance.  The only other song that works for me is the peppy "From Rochdale to Ocho Rios" but even it suffers from a weirdly muted, melancholy arrangement.   Mercury's remastered CD is really poor, by the way.  Whoever monitored source tape speeds needs to go back to school.

Next time we'll follow all four of the men who were 10cc into the 1980s, where some would continue a downward creative spiral and others would find new artistic challenges in which to excel.
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