10cc: Bloody Tourists (Polydor)

WHEN LOL Creme and Kevin Godley took their gizmo and went off to make Consequences, the remainder of 10cc (5cc?) seemed to be reeling from shock. Sure, Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman managed to squeeze out a hit single, the drippy ‘The Things We Do for Love’. However, their albums told a less deceptive tale, one of rapidly dwindling ideas.

Stewart and Gouldman always seemed to be the straighter half of the group, down-to-earth and moderate in their manipulation of conventions. It’s clearly been tough learning to do without their old mates’ flash, but on Bloody Tourists 10cc have finally adjusted.

Bloody Tourists gets its fire from a sincere moral outrage. Although 10cc’s songwriters lack the finesse to let their characters hang themselves, they still do a nice job of bludgeoning and discrediting those who practice the condescension of the human zoo. ‘Dreadlock Holiday’ shows an island visitor resorting to a forced chumminess to save his ass: “I don’t like reggae no no/I love it.” ‘Last Night’ is harsher, taking the subject through your basic one-night stand and forcing the admission that “In the morning it was just the same/I’d lost again.”

If 10cc’s impatience with human weakness is sometimes cruel and puritanical, as in their ridicule of alcoholics, Stewart and Gouldman can also be gentle and humane (‘For You and I’). They display an understanding of how a situation can turn on the presumed villain; ‘Reds in My Bed’ is a desperate plea for release (“You’re a cruel and faceless race/I don’t like your philosophy”). And they know that foibles can be the road to a laughable ruin.

As always, though, the bottom line for 10cc is the sound. Gone is that arid, cartoony quality that made earlier 10cc slightly inhuman. Stewart and Gouldman have enlisted four musicians on a variety of new instruments: violin, sax, steel drums and marimba, among others. The result is warmer, fuller, and more convincing than anything 10cc has done before. Their ceaseless appropriation of every pop idiom imaginable is no longer mere cleverness, but an effective use of sonic expertise.

Perhaps the nicest thing about Bloody Tourists is that it proves the current 10cc to be a genuine group. The new members really get to play (Stewart often cedes lead guitar to Rick Fenn), take vocals and even chip in on the writing. Although Bloody Tourists may not rival Some Girls or Muhammad Ali for comebacks, it does signal the resurgence and metamorphosis of a bloody good band.

© Jon YoungFeature, January 1979

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