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Thursday, August 20, 2009

10cc: Bloody Tourists


1) Dreadlock Holiday; 2) For You And I; 3) Take These Chains; 4) Shock On The Tube; 5) Last Night; 6) Anony­mous Alcoholic; 7) Reds In My Bed; 8) Lifeline; 9) Tokyo; 10) Old Mister Time; 11) From Rochdale To Ocho Rich­dale; 12) Everything You Wanted To Know; 13*) Nothing Can Move Me.

Somehow, 'Dreadlock Holiday' managed to be a huge hit — maybe because its village-idiot style nod to reggae fell in with the emerging New Wave's preoccupation with Jamaica (after all, if 'Roxanne' could be a hit, why couldn't 'Dreadlock Holiday'?). On the coattails of its success, the entire album managed to sell respectably. In retrospect, however, Bloody Tourists, now quite explicitly, continues 10cc's slide into mediocrity and irrelevance.

I feel obliged to stress that the songwriting is still at a high level, and that there are plenty of de­cent pop hooks, and that, given time enough, the album is a "grower", not a "shrinker". Stewart and Gouldman still continue to do their best trying to come up with interesting subjects and match them with unpredictable music. But they're mildly interesting, and the music is mildly un­predictable: for one thing, they have completely lost the ability to rock out — when the 'hard' section on 'Shock On The Tube' takes over, it turns out to be little more than 'clown-rock', a term that I think well-suitable but almost unexplainable.

For another thing, they start going too heavy on the ballads; in fact, the entire album is divided almost evenly between straight-faced sentimental balladry and the 'weird' numbers — this sort of worked on Original Soundtrack, where 'I'm Not In Love' was a swell tilter that made you lose sleep over thinking just how much they actually meant it, sandwiched in between 'Une Nuit A Paris' and 'Blackmail', but when these things become the rule rather than the exception, and when you take them in perspective — CLICK! — you really understand that this band has changed, and not necessarily for the better.

But I repeat: if you manage to stay away from the perspective, Bloody Tourists, on its own, isn't bad at all — I'd put it on the same shelf with some second-rate solo Paul McCartney album. I do like 'Dreadlock Holiday', with its eerie tale of an unfortunate English guy on an unhappy vacation in Jamaica (apparently inspired by a real incident that happened on a real vacation undertaken by Eric Stewart and Justin Hayward) — one might complain that the band really knows nothing of reggae, but that would be missing the point, because they're not here to play reggae but rather to make fun of the reggae craze; I feel happy about the catchy retro-pop of 'Take These Chains', simple, unpretentious, and fun; I think that 'Anonymous Alcoholic', appropriately starting out as slow barroom rock and then going into a hot funky section, is more of an artistic success than a hoodlum failure; and I even like some of the ballads — why not? They're pretty.

So, as you understand, this is where the brain enters into a serious conflict with the heart. The best advice here, I think, would be — for those who were primarily enthralled with 10cc for their quirkiness and experimentation, to stay away from this album (let alone everything that follows; it would only get worse from here); for those, however, who loved 'Rubber Bullets' and 'I'm Not In Love', but hated 'The Worst Band In The World' and 'Clockwork Creep', Bloody Tourists is recommendable. And since I do not insist that a record has to be both intellectually stimulating and emotionally pleasing to be good, I still give it a thumbs up.

Useless bit of trivia: on this album, 10cc are once more a 'full' band, adding drummer Paul Bur­gess, guitarist Rick Fenn, keyboard player Duncan Mackay, and an extra percussionist (Stuart Tosh). Does it show? Not really. But some people like to know.

1 comment:

  1. I must admit I enjoy this one less than the ones before it- but it's still perfectly enjoyable! I mean, really, most of the songs here are quite good. You've got your "retro-pop", as you call it ("Take These Chains", my favorite of this category; "Last Night", not as enjoyable but still enjoyable; "Reds in My Bed", my least favorite here but still with the GORGEOUS part that goes like "Leeeeeeet me go home (you're nothing more than a memory) I don't like your philosophy!"), your "weird" numbers ("Reds in My Bed", only for the lyrics; "Shock on the Tube", which EASILY wins me over because I can TOTALLY find this little mini-genre of "clown-rock" acceptable (the guitar/piano interplay of the main part is amazing), and because the faster instrumental parts IMMEDIATELY remind me of Elton John in his prime; "Anonymous Alcoholic", another of my favorites because it's just so much fun, with its slow, almost "You Gotta Move"-ish groove and gospelish backing vocals, and then the fun disco-funk part, where the brass/synth interplay with the little guitar licks all over the place is; "Everything You've Wanted to Know About...!!! (Exclamation Marks)" is EVEN BETTER, with more of that fun "clown-rock" guitar/piano stuff and a FUN FUN riff, and fun lyrics and cool slow-down-and-get-ominous parts that Alan Parsons later stole for "Somebody Out There", with great scary brass added in at the end, wowzers), the novelty tracks ("Dreadlock Holiday", the band's first and best reggae song; "From Richdale to Ocho Rios", which is this sort of Latin/country piece that's quite silly), and the ballads ("For You and I", which I really love, except for whoever's singing gets ever so slightly out of key, and the synths are really obtrusive; "Lifeline", which is very ELO/Moody Blues-ish, and that's a compliment (Moody Blues even stole part of the melody for "Highway"); "Tokyo", which is pretty unmemorable except for the gorgeous piano line and the main "hook" ("Tokyoooo-ooooooo, oh Tokyo"); "Old Mister Time", which actually feels like it's in between a ballad and a soft-rocker (see Led Zep's "Ten Years Gone") and is based on a very good piano line). But you see, there sure ain't no "Good Morning Judge" or "Honeymoon with B Troop" or CERTAINLY "I Bought A Flat Guitar Tutor", not to mention "Silly Love" or "Fresh Air for My Mama". Everything is becoming very mainstream and toned down- it's like the band is choking itself. And I guess that's what happened.