Sunday, 28 February 2010

Over the hill and far away


10cc were an infuriatingly talented group. Musicians, vocalists, song writers and producers all, the original incarnation of the band burned brightly for a short period of time, but are still fondly remembered by those of us that like a soupcon of smartarse with their music, and I mean that in the nicest possible way.

‘Donna’, their first single, was a huge hit, notable for its nostalgic rock and roll pasticherie and Lol Crème’s amazing falsetto vocals, and more singles (hits and misses) and a clever debut LP followed, but it was their second album, ‘Sheet Music’ (1972) that sealed the deal.

Full of invention and great tunes, it’s a superb cocktail of influences that draw from every aspect of the popular music spectrum: rock and roll, calypso, hard rock, soft pop, reggae, beat, tin pan alley…all multi-tracked and beautifully produced and choc-a-block with hooks and hits. On this LP more than any other, they pull off the trick of playing in ten different styles but still sounding like one band, and it’s a fantastic, fun listen from start to finish.

‘The Worst Band In The World’ is perhaps the most ironic song on the LP, and tells the story of a terrible but incredibly popular band and their inexplicable rise to fame and features the classic lines: ‘Up yours, up mine, but up everybody’s? That takes time’. ‘Silly Love’ was released as a single and mixes crunching guitars and teen idol vocals, and a middle eight that sounds like it was recorded live on a cruise ship.

Just in case you thought they were only a novelty band, ‘Old Wild Men’ is a stately meditation on ageing with elements of the baroque and a beautiful instrumental section, and ‘Somewhere In Hollywood’ is simply a great song with its clever arrangement and tap shoe rhythm. I sometimes imagine that The Beach Boys recorded these two songs and released them on ‘Surfs Up’, turning that LP from a hit and miss semi-masterpiece in a work of genius but, sadly, that never happened.

Easy to find, cheap to buy, ‘Sheet Music’ is not a fashionable album, but it’s one that you’ll listen to again and again. My thanks to Ian Townsend for pointing that out in the first place.

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