10cc’s Music of genius
WHAT CAN you say about a record that fills you with such joy you wanna cry when it ends?
10cc were rightly acclaimed for their first album but this one grips the heart of rock ‘n’ roll like nothing I’ve heard before.
They’re the Beach Boys of ‘Good Vibrations’, they’re the Beatles of ‘Penny Lane’, they’re the mischievous kid next door, they’re the Marx Brothers, they’re Jack and Jill, they’re Comic Cuts cartoon characters… and they’re sheer brilliance. UK knew and invited us along to the Trident studios to hear a preview of the record, and with Jonathan King officiating they stood back to watch the stunning impact the music was making. It could have been embarrassing, everyone sitting round like that trying to look intelligent and mentally analyse the record. But the strength of 10cc is such that is brought forth spontaneous applause. And further plays revealed the full depth of its genius.
It opens with ‘Wall Street Shuffle’ which, if I understood Mr King correctly, is to be the band’s next single. It’s good enough as a straight rock song but there are some sharp digs in the lyrics about the US penthouse suite brigade in general and Howard Hughes in particular. It’s great, but so is the whole album. Any one of the tracks would make a delightful single. Not that they’d necessarily be hits — after all ‘Worst Band In The World’ is on the album and that, to the eternal shame of the singles-buying public, failed. You might hear this record a dozen times and still not catch all the witty asides the subtle jokey arrangements, there’s so much in it. The lyrics are often plain funny and it’s four fifths to being a send-up. But amongst the hilarity there remains more than a trickle of truth.
The vocals, shared amongst all members of the group, are handled with confidence and power but it’s the incredible arrangements and the timing of the falsetto backing vocals which really give 10cc their character and their right to be called innovators. “Here’s a new dance that you all can do” sings Graham Gouldman convincingly, then comes the echo “Baby baby what’s he gonna do” from mock-girlie backing voices. That’s in ‘The Sacroiliac’, one of the infectious rockers which captures the American Graffiti/That’ll Be The Day spirit of adolescence. Then there’s ‘Clockwork Creep’, an amazing tale about a bomb on an aeroplane, while ‘Hotel’ is semi-Caribbean with rich Americans as the target for good-humoured grilling. However, ‘Somewhere In Hollywood’, although not as immediately striking as the others, is possibly the most thorough work, with Norman Mailer singled-out for the treatment in a painting of Hollywood. Few records are likely to better this during the year.
© Colin Irwin, Melody Maker, 18 May 1974