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Thursday, August 6, 2009

10cc: How Dare You!


10CC: HOW DARE YOU! (1976)

1) How Dare You!; 2) Lazy Ways; 3) I Wanna Rule The World; 4) I'm Mandy, Fly Me; 5) Iceberg; 6) Art For Art's Sake; 7) Rock'n'Roll Lullaby; 8) Head Room; 9) Don't Hang Up; 10*) Get It While You Can.

With How Dare You!, 10cc have comfortably and gracefully settled into middle age — an age which might have lasted forever, had the very fact of it not been grating heavily against the rest­less souls of Godley and Creme. Usually it is the more "commercially-oriented" members of the band that tend to carry the blame for a great unit's falling apart, but in this case the situation is reversed — Godley and Creme left the band entirely of their own will, unsatisfied with its crea­tive stagnation (at least, that seems to have been the pretext).

Ironically, the creatively stagnant How Dare You! turned out to be a far more greater record than anything that either the experimental unit of Godley & Creme or the "commercial" unit of Ste­wart & Gouldman's 10cc managed to produce since 1976. In a way, it is the band's Abbey Road: a record that consciously rejects any more musical revolutions, but in terms of pure quality al­most manages to outstrip all of its predecessors. And just like the Beatles may have had a sub­conscious feeling that Abbey Road were to be their swan song, boosting the desire to make it a superb piece of product, so could the four members of 10cc have felt the same — and turned their creative volume knobs all the way up to eleven.

There is no return here to either the dazzling energy level or the diversity of Sheet Music; the songs are generally more quiet and relaxed, the amount of melodies per song more limited. But that's merely a sign of maturity. The melodic hooks remain stronger than ever, the lyrical wit and the unique story-telling ability undamaged, and the arrangements, if possible, have become even more polished, refined, and complex than on The Original Soundtrack. The flow is wonderful, with a few weaker tracks carefully dispersed among the stronger material and the lazier material only better attenuating the energetic stuff. And if there is no one or two songs that are particularly jaw-dropping, like 'Silly Love' or 'I'm Not In Love', that's only due to the quality of the rest.

Much of the album is sweet and sentimental — Sir Paul might have loved this — like the lead off single, 'I'm Mandy, Fly Me', sort of a fantasy sequel to 'Clockwork Creep' off Sheet Music, with a totally off-the-cuff story of how the protagonist is saved by his lovely stewardess in the midst of an airplane crash. Taking a stupid airline slogan ('I'm Cindy, fly me'), the jokers make it into the basis for a love confession which, as is usual with 10cc, is stuck somewhere in between sincere and sarcastic — as confusing for some as it is exciting for others. 'Lazy Ways' and 'Rock'n'Roll Lullaby' have sweet vocal hooks that will send spinning the head of anyone with a thing for sweet vocal hooks; and the album closer 'Don't Hang Up' is the band's most realistic ode to quiet despe­ration, culminating in... hanging up, of course!

The harder side of the album is illustrated by the blistering 'Art For Art's Sake' (the opening riff is one of the most memorable moments in the catalog) which takes several evil punches at The Artist ('give me your love, give me it all, give me in the kitchen, give me in the hall'), and the equally biting and hilarious 'I Wanna Rule The World' ('I wanna be a boss I wanna be a big boss I wanna boss the world around I wanna be the biggest boss that ever bossed the world around'). And finally, the 'sonically creative' side is featured on the title track — a (possibly) Zappa-inspi­red instrumental that isn't so much enjoyable per se as per trying to figure out where exactly it will be heading off in the next ten seconds. Good luck hunting!

All said, How Dare You! requires a little time (say, a decade or so) to properly sink in, as do all such lazy, mature, deep, flash-less (but certainly not flesh-less) albums. Once it does, though, there's nothing preventing one from even thinking of it as 10cc's finest hour — at least, that's one possibility that's worth exploring. Naturally, with the brain harboring respect for it from the very first minute and the heart gradually accumulating love for it over the years, this is a thumbs up all the way. Don't hang up on it.

3 comments:

  1. I'm not sure about this album. What is it that makes a song like Mandy superior to similar other soft-rock songs on the airwaves those days? The lyrics are mildly clever, the melody is good, but honestly, I hear this song on the radio all the time and never registered it was 10cc's; I didn't make that much of an impression on me then and now that I know the context of it it's only mildly better.

    This is a general problem with 10cc, I do think. Once you compare the actual music they make with similar bands of the time they can fall short. Art For Art's Sake is such an awful song if you play it after Lennon's Cold Turkey, which it's obviously based on. On its own it's great, but almost primarily from an intellectual perspective.

    That's why I usually prefer 10cc's more experimental songs, as they are quite unique and can be appreciated for all their clever ideas. It's strange, though, as I love some of Gouldman's 60s songs.

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  2. My gosh, this is one strange album. What's the secret behind it, I wonder? Huh.
    What up with the title track? Do we really need it? It's really interesting to listen to, of course, and crazily all-over-the-place and whatnot, but what's its PURPOSE? What up with "I Wanna Rule the World"? Let me tell you, I personally consider that the most hilarious of all 10cc songs. When I first set out to listen to it (tonight) I was TERRIFIED and creeped out to the max, but that's basically because I wasn't listening hard enough- the Nazi part ("And there upon a rock Titanic...") really did scare me, but then I realized how overexaggerated and puffed up it is, and the wonderful creeper "Everyone will be free" part just about killed me. I literally keeled over laughing and had to listen to the song twice more.
    Everything else is much more normal. (Thank goodness?) We've got these really really nice pop songs like "Lazy Ways" and "I'm Mandy, Fly Me" and especially "Don't Hang Up" (maybe my favorite because of the "Clockwork Creep"-esque midsection), and your spook-jazz ditty "Iceberg" (seriously reminds me of the "Don't Hug Me I'm Scared" video for some reason), and your, uh, "Rock 'n' Roll Lullaby", and your FUNKY "Art for Art's Sake", and your FUN "Head Room" (I LOVE THAT GROOVE!). So what's the verdict here? What is this album about? NOTHING! AND I LIKE IT!

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  3. If you can imagine "How Dare You" (the song) as the music that plays at the beginning of "How Dare You" (a movie), I think it makes sense. The cover art, with its cinematic "split screen" effect, may provide a clue. "How Dare You" is movie music. That is its purpose.

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