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Thursday, July 23, 2009

10cc: The Original Soundtrack


1) Une Nuit A Paris; 2) I'm Not In Love; 3) Blackmail; 4) The Second Sitting For The Last Supper; 5) Brand New Day; 6) Flying Junk; 7) Life Is A Minestrone; 8) The Film Of My Love; 9*) Channel Swimmer; 10*) Good News.

If 10cc was the sound of a genius band in its infancy, and Sheet Music — the teenage wild child running round and trying all sorts of nasty tricks on its neighbours, then The Original Sound­track is, by all means, a mature and much more responsible young man looking for a job. (Hint: not everyone will consider this to be a good thing).

Experimentation is still the word of the day, and so is Satire and Sarcasm; but Madness and Whirl­­­wind no longer are. They seem to have gotten tired of genre-hopping, for one thing, and most of the selections here are strictly within "pop rock" territory, or maybe "prog-pop" territory... it's still a huge territory, to be sure, but the most oddball of styles, like the calypso of 'Hotel' or the tribal airs of 'Baron Samedi', do not make any more appearances.

For another thing, the piecemeal melodies are almost gone as well. They have relegated all the jig-saw puzzle constructing to just one track, the opening mini-operetta 'Une Nuit A Paris', about the life and death of a, so to speak, respectable courtesan, but mini-operettas are supposed to be multi-part, and since when do we have a band like 10cc doing what it is supposed to do? The element of surprise is pretty downtrodden here, to say the least.

Or maybe this whole feeling of increased seriousness and solemnity is due to 'I'm Not In Love', the band's first (and biggest) hit to not sound like a parody. The song stupefied listeners with its arrangement — layers upon layers of vocalizing synthesizers and synthesized vocals that created an atmosphere of such heavenly dreaminess as had never been experienced before. Today, much of this is routine matter, and the same tones and tricks have been used over and over again in un­countable "adult contemporary" ballads, so it's almost as hard to realize the groundbreaking po­tential of 'I'm Not In Love' back in 1975 as it is to marvel at the wonders of the first notes played on electric guitar. But that doesn't make the song itself any less inspiring, or its lyrics any less inspired — 'I keep your picture upon the wall/It hides a nasty stain that's lying there' sounds sad upon first listen, hilarious upon the second one, and soon afterwards achieves a perfect synthesis of irony and des­pair so that guess all you like, you won't be able to discover the primary motiva­tion behind the composition.

It's little wonder that after the grand opening of 'Une Nuit A Paris' and the groundbreaking follow-up of 'I'm Not In Love', the rest of the album seems rather hastily slapped on, or, at best, just somewhat out of place. For instance, 'Blackmail', a lively pop-rocker about a hilariously botched attempt at blackmailing a promiscuous girl's husband, would feel more at home on Sheet Music or even 10cc — closing out the first side with this little ditty is a bit anticlimactic. And as for the second side, I can never memorize much of it except for the blistering heavy metal ope­ning of 'The Second Sitting For The Last Supper' (the lyrics, about how we really need a second Last Supper these days, are great, though) and the carnivalesque optimism of 'Life Is A Minestro­ne' (served up with parmesan cheese, no less). It's not bad, just not up to 10cc's better standards.

Therefore, although the brain, as usual, is on highly friendly terms with this band (that is, while it was still a band rather than a duet), it is only reluctantly that the heart issues its thumbs up, which hardly applies to the second half of the record. Still, this is certainly not "the beginning of the end", rather just a momentary loss of focus justified by ambitiousness of the goals.

Check "The Original Soundtrack" (CD) on Amazon


  1. You know, you used to LOVE this album, calling it the ultimate parody record of all time and such. Well, I love it. "Une Nuit a Paris" is nothing short of fantastic- its chorus is so catchy and amazing. "I'm Not in Love" is not any worse- beautiful, with silly lyrics mocking the whole genre of "love ballad". "Blackmail" is a really fun rocker with awesome, stupid lyrics. "The Second Sitting of the Last Supper" is absolutely Zeppelin-meets-something-else...opera? whatever. "Brand New Day" is kinda boring, but has enough "little beauty" for me to handle. "Flying Junk" may also be boring, but the "flying" noises and Paul McCartney's "Junk"-ish lyrics (second ripoff so far) certainly salvage it. However, "Life is a Minestrone" is absolutely awesome- whenever I sing that chorus, my parents look at me like I'm insane. That's how I know... and "The Film of Our Love" gets stuck in my head often too. So the album sags a bit during "Brand New Day" and "Flying Junk", but who cares? The other tracks are quite fantastic enough. Thumbs up from me. And have you heard the bonus track "Channel Swimmer"? It's a sweet little song, but it's nothing like "I'm Not in Love".

  2. I know I've already commented on this one, but I must say- every time I read your reviews of this album, I'm absolutely flabbergasted. What happened, George? Did you just get bored with it? The rating went from "close to perfection" to "it's not bad, just not up to 10cc's better standards" and "momentary loss of focus" and whatever else. Shame on you! This album has grown on me TREMENDOUSLY since my last comment- I mean, if you thought I was fanboying last time, well, be prepared.
    And what the heck do you mean, you can never memorize much of the second side? Remember, you said that even though "Brand New Day" and "Flying Junk" sagged, that "The other three numbers make a perfectly good stew". Do you not even like "Second Sitting" or "Film of My Love" anymore?
    And what about "Blackmail"? Wasn't that, and I quote, "one of the band's most impressive rockers"? I mean really.
    And "Une Nuit A Paris" is not praised nearly enough here. It's absolutely magnificent- I have no idea why I didn't say that before. I have yet to find a flaw in it. "I'm Not In Love" at least gets its due here- good job on that one. But "Blackmail", once again, is so much fun, and the guitar is great, and even though it DOES sound a little like it would belong on Sheet Music (well, it would need some crazya** reggae midsection or something, at least), why doesn't it work well here? Even though the album does scream out "Maturity", we NEED these "little ditties" rounding out our rock operas and such.
    "Second Sitting"? That song is so wonderful- I cannot, simply cannot help chooglin' on the air guitar or singing along at the top of my lungs to the fantastic pop melody. Also, the ending jam is absolutely AMAZING and gets my head banging like nobody can. (I recently realized something really interesting- apart from the heavy metal bits and the lyrics, the song sounds JUST like it could have gone on Bloody Tourists!)

  3. "Brand New Day"? That song has grown on me A LOT- I think it's another parody, obviously on the "inspirational ballad" genre (my reasoning is, no inspirational ballad would have lyrics like, "I smell cooking and it might be you, you sure ain't goin' nowhere" and no serious song PERIOD would even mention the word "breeches"), and it has some GORGEOUS piano & vocal melodies and singing from Godley (?!). How can you dislike this track? The "But there below, your body will go" bit is so DREAMY!
    As much as that one's grown, though, I have become INCREDIBLY fond of "Flying Junk". It may be because I don't think of it as a "rocker"- I think of it as a softer track, really, one that's just supposed to just BE there, something like Caravan's "Songs and Signs" or something. But its main riffs, like the one at the beginning (or when the guitar is on its own between verses), are REALLY REALLY strong, and the vocal melody is so singalongable it's ridiculous. It's just so subtly likable. Ya know?
    "Life is a Minestrone" is just an absolute masterpiece of nonsense. That full, extended chorus (including the "Love is the fire of flamin' brandy" part) is so brilliant it totally releases any tension within me. Mine mine mine minestrone...
    "The Film of My Love" is NO WORSE! How could you not mention it?!? My God, that verse melody is one of the catchiest non-trivial melodies I've EVER heard, and I listen to a lot of Yes, too. And even though the chorus is just a simplification of that verse melody, I don't care, I don't care, because those lyrics get me rolling in the aisles. And Gouldman sounds GREAT.
    And have you heard "Channel Swimmer"? It is such a nice song oh my gosh! It's just so cute and hooky and the lyrics are cool and the chorus is wonderful and when they do the chorus near the end but have everyone harmonizing it's fantastic and this is the longest run-on sentence I've ever seen in my life...
    I have no idea what happened to you, George. But the bigger question is, will it happen to ME? Will I, one day, stop loving an album that's easily in my top 50? PLEASE no.

  4. "Flying Junk" was actually one of my favorites back when this album was new. I can see why it, and "Brand New Day," create a bit of a valley on side two, but they both have something. If anything, perhaps they suffered from substandard production...which is a terrible thing to say about 10cc, but still. I was unable to appreciate "The Film of My Love" back then (I was 15 years old at the time) -- it just seemed so cheesy, and I was too young to see that that was the point. Now, I think it's brilliant, and Graham truly does nail the vocals. As for "Channel Swimmer," that is, simply put, one of my absolute favorites by the band. That it never made it onto a proper album says something about the standards of 10cc: "Channel Swimmer" wasn't good enough?? My Lord. Listen to Eric Stewart's guitar good he could have "creamed his coffee with it," to quote Dave Thompson at All Music. (He was discussing a different 10cc song, but the words still apply here!)

  5. As for "I'm not in love", I think what spoils the song is the moment when girls repeatedly whisper "big boys don't cry" (or maybe it's just there to enhance its parodic aspect ... In fact, I don't know whether you can call that a real parody or not. It sounds genuine).
    The other thing is, it is not particularly well written. Funny at times, but not outstanding as regards to the lyrics. What a pity ...