Monday, 5 November 2018
10cc - Sheet Music (1974)
Released May 1974
Recorded in Stockport
10cc were an odd group, completely impossible to categorise. Arty, clever, smart-ass, wry, witty, Beach Boys and Beatles influenced, but also having very much their own unique identity. Personally, I always found them somewhat pretentious and contrived, and that cod-American accent of singer Lol Creme bugged me no end. To be fair, though, they wanted to push the boundaries of contemporary pop music and they certainly did just that. They could all play and they had a priceless knack for a catchy tune and witty lyric.
In amongst that, though, they produced great singles. They had two absolute killer on here - the muscular and riffy "Wall Street Shuffle" with its lyrics about high finance and the similarly dynamic "Silly Love" with more guitars to the fore. The rest of the album is full of all sorts of diverse stuff - the calypso-influenced goofy fun of "Hotel" and the funk rock of the self-deprecatory "The Worst Band In The World" (which even has hints of dub reggae before it even existed) are highlights.
Tracks like "Old Wild Men", however, are frustrating. Good passages lie side by side with indulgence and over-production. I always got the impression that 10cc were trying to be just too clever. It never quite worked for me, but I do understand why many people still love this album (and others of theirs) today. The frenetic "Clockwork Creep" reminds a lot of the sort of thing Sparks were putting out at the same time and I could never quite get into them either. Look, there are great bits to these tracks, but so much of them annoy me. Maybe it was the vocals, maybe the constant changes of mood and tempo, the layered on cod-Beach Boys harmonies. I don't know. I remember trying to get into the album back then and failing and falling short again now, when trying again. I am certainly having more success now than I did at fourteen, though.
"Somewhere In Hollywood" is a six-minute piece of quirky indulgence that never raises itself above walking pace but has a strange sort of appeal, as indeed does the proto-Talking Heads-ish, rhythmic "Baron Samedi", with its Santana-esque guitar breaks and percussion. Apart from the two singles, this is my favourite track on the album. "The Sacro-Iliac" is a goofily appealing "dance-craze" song (about a joint in the back) and I quite like the Band-like rock of "Oh Effendi". The country rock of bonus track "Waterfall" is impressive too, as is "18 Carat Man Of Means".
10cc certainly caused a bit of a stir with this album and more and more people got into them. Their next few albums were successes (and many singles too) and they had considerable credibility for nearly ten years. This album definitely merits more than just a few listens, even for me.