10CC: DECEPTIVE BENDS (1977)
1) Good Morning Judge; 2) The Things We Do For Love; 3) Marriage Bureau Rendezvous; 4) People In Love; 5) Modern Man Blues; 6) Honeymoon With B Troup; 7) I Bought A Flat Guitar Tutor; 8) You've Got A Cold; 9) Feel The Benefit; 10*) Hot To Trot; 11*) Don't Squeeze Me Like Toothpaste; 12*) I'm So Laid Back, I'm Laid Out.
Despite leaving so abruptly, Godley and Creme couldn't help but leaving some scent behind them, and for a brief moment of one or two years it almost seemed like the castrated Gouldman-Stewart variant of 10cc might be able to make it anyway. Deceptive Bends may be a small step down from the level of the fearsome foursome, but it is still a thoroughly enjoyable and frequently unpredictable record that not only pledges allegiance to the band's old credo, but even manages to uphold that allegiance in more than just words.
After all, one might complain that the songs have become more streamlined, featuring fewer surprising twists and grotesque stylistic clashes than we came to expect from 10cc, but wasn't that already the situation on How Dare You? and its "mature" type of sound? Deceptive Bends is generally made in the same mood, mixing up tongue-in-cheek sarcasm and sweet sentimentality until you cease to understand which is which and what is where.
Only occasionally do we get true signs of the decay and decline to come: the percentage of slow ballad stuff is ominously going up, and although a song like 'People In Love' is quite melodic and quite exquisitely arranged with its light-symphonic mixture of pianos, weepy slide guitars, and strings, in the end it lands in MOR territory where 10cc have never landed before. 'The Things We Do For Love', too, is like a slightly de-arenified version of Foreigner, although that might as well be a compliment (given how Foreigner's first two albums weren't that bad at all). Still, 10cc turning into Foreigner isn't exactly a heartwarming observation.
And yet these unhappy feelings are still quite muted next to the album's successes — 'Good Morning Judge', 'Modern Man Blues', and 'Honeymoon With B Troup', in particular, are all catchy, funny highlights, showing that the Gouldman-Stewart duo is still able to handle both ferocious melodic hooks (the opening to 'Good Morning Judge' is simplistic, but nevertheless one of the most energetic openings on a 10cc record) and snappy lyrics (no record with lines like 'My baby goes topless and brings her beauty to a bottomless day' can be all bad).
Finally, the duo's brave take on a multi-part suite ('Feel The Benefit'), although it feels somewhat meaning- and directionless next to 'Une Nuit A Paris', is still easily listenable throughout all of its eleven minutes. I used to get somewhat indignant at its openly "borrowing" the melody of 'Dear Prudence' for the main opening theme, but now that I think of it, its complex structure, bombastic conclusion (featuring some truly soaring leads from Eric — arguably his most "spiritual" playing in 10cc) and overall feel are all intended to be Beatles-like, reminding one of the closing symphony on Abbey Road. In this light, 'Feel The Benefit' is not only pardonable, but forms an excellent conclusion to the album — and, in fact, just like the closing symphony on Abbey Road, forms an excellent swan song to the band's career as a whole.
For all I know, Deceptive Bends might, and should, have been a goodbye record — created by just the duo of Gouldman and Stewart (with a little help from Paul Burgess on the drums), with the spirit of Godley and Creme still whirling around in the studio. Everything that follows is but one large footnote, and one that gives fairly little pleasure to study. Deceptive Bends is our last and smallest piece of Turkish delight to gobble up, but it's still a piece of Turkish delight and so deserves a good thumbs up from both the emotional and the intellectual departments.