10CC: LOOK HEAR? (1980)
1) One Two Five; 2) Welcome To The World; 3) How'm I Ever Gonnna Say Goodbye; 4) Don't Send We Back; 5) I Took You Home; 6) It Doesn't Matter At All; 7) Dressed To Kill; 8) Lovers Anonymous; 9) I Hate To Eat Alone; 10) Strange Lover; 11) L.A. Inflatable.
No thank you. I can still look (especially since the album has two different covers — the UK release had 'ARE YOU NORMAL' written on it in huge letters, and the US release had a picture of a sheep reclining on a Roman-shape bed located on a beach, transatlantically suggesting, perhaps, that the correct answer to the former question is NO), but I'd rather not hear.
The only redeeming quality of Look Hear?, in contrast to the following two albums that lacked even that, is that it's still nicely melodic. Apart from a completely non-descript bad prog rock contribution by two new members ('Welcome To The World'), Gouldman and Stewart can still ensure that the bulk of the record is constituted by chord-based pop melodies that took time to write and incorporate some real feeling as well.
The trouble is, tons of people can write moderately decent pop, but from these guys we have come to expect more than that. We expect some wit, some grit, some laughs, some unpredictability — in short, that 10cc feel that everyone brought up on Sheet Music instantly recognizes. Well, Look Hear? is the first 10cc album that sounds nothing like 10cc. It doesn't rock out at all — the closest it comes to rock is on Rick Fenn's 'Don't Send We Back', but even there the sound is seriously watered down. It isn't in the least unpredictable: same reliance on McCartney-style balladeering and reggae influences as on their last record.
But, worst of all, it isn't funny at all. Almost as if Mother Superior had removed the crucial members' tongue-in-cheek mechanisms for long-term repair, most of the songs take themselves dead serious. The love ballads are lyrically straightforward, the character impersonations almost try to make you care about the impersonations, and 'Don't Send We Back', entrusted completely to the cares of Rick Fenn, is the band's first ever straight social song — not satire, not sarcasm, but an angry comment on the sad fates of illegal immigrants. What the heck??
The best song is Gouldman's 'I Hate To Eat Alone', a pretty and touching ode to loneliness that could have creeped in as a minor highlight on one of the band's better albums — unnoticed and unloved at first, perhaps, but cherished later. (See 'Old Wild Men' on Sheet Music). But the rest of the ballads, such as 'I Took You Home', pompous beyond reason, or 'Lovers Anonymous', go way too heavy on the melodrama and unpleasantly remind me of the worst excesses of Seventies' pop. I've already mentioned how 10cc managed to end up sounding like good Foreigner — on Look Hear?, way too often, they end up sounding like bad Foreigner without the heavy guitars. So much so that it's even a relief to have the album ending on a lightweight, forgettable, but — in the context of it all — heartwarming bit of generic boogie ('L.A. Inflatable').
So this is the real beginning of the end, although the agony would be prolonged further for several unhappy years. Thumbs down from the brain, who thinks himself so insulted he is seriously considering challenging the G-S duo to a brain duel, and likewise from the heart, which does not accept betrayal of its confidence lightly.