The quintessential 10cc moment comes at the end of How Dare You?: an ethereal voice pleads, “Don’t hang up!” The riff is pretty and relaxing. Suddenly, “Brrr. . .” She’s put the phone down. This is funny the first time, clever the second and irritating from then on. Which, I guess, sums up 10cc.
In the past, the group has suffered cruelly from being overrated. Praised for their wit and intelligence, they were also misunderstood, thought wittier and more intelligent than they are or want to be. 10cc is an English pop group of a particular genre; remnants of the early Sixties beat boom, they had a vision of pop heaven in 1967, when Sgt. Pepper came out, and they’ve lived it ever since.
The clearest example of where they’re really at on How Dare You? is ‘I Wanna Rule the World’, which comes complete with military beat, Hitler rant and a childish recitation. It ain’t a song for intellectuals.
The mix is the same as before: elaborately constructed songs with constant changes, perfectionist performances and production, lyrics that are either silly or incomprehensible and anyway subordinate to the sound effects. There’s one nice pun – “Dumb waiters . . . all mass-debating my woman” – and the occasional flash of a guitar solo. Over it all, there’s the group’s sound: floating harmonies, synthesizer and a hint of the Beach Boys. It can’t sustain a melody, but then they don’t write them. 10cc tracks are jingles strung together and they have the same hypnotic effect – sit back and buy. There’s no ‘I’m Not in Love’ here, though, and for a pop group, that’s gonna hurt.
© Simon Frith, Rolling Stone, 25 March 1976