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Thursday, August 27, 2009

10cc: Look Hear?

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.


  1. This might be the funniest review you've ever done, George. Love it.

  2. What just happened? We're even more boring now! If you take it as an album, of course.
    Let's go through it, shall we? "One Two Five" is a really good song, although I didn't think so from the beginning- it seems like a normal stupid rocker, but goes through some complexity and really cool harmonies. But "Welcome to the World" is an attempt at something Gentle Giant-ish that just falls flat. "How'm I Ever Gonna Say Goodbye" is a pretty, but also BOOOORING reggaeish number that goes into a couple of pretty, but also BOOOORING ballad midsections. "Don't Send We Back" is STUPID beyond belief and features the first ever lead vocals of one Rick Fenn, who has one of the dullest voices since Mark Coyne. Great.
    Saved, though? "I Took You Home" is very pretty and sweet. I like that one. Even when it goes all power-ballad on us. And even if the main hook is "I took you home, you took me in"- that's just something to accept about the record. The lyrics are dropping like flies..."It Doesn't Matter At All" is also pretty and sweet, but it doesn't have a hook as good as the previous song, but its lyrics are as hilarious as 5cc get ("Well, people say that I'm crazy, well they've got no business to talk"), that is, until it gets to the midsection and gets minor and loud and ominous and really really good! The rest of the song is just poppy cuteness. But then "Dressed to Kill" kinda brings the album back to suck- it's a rocker, but not fun at all, even when you've got the handclaps in there. Interesting "trippy" beat, though (typical of the album). "Lovers Anonymous" is an okay pop song. "I Hate to Eat Alone" is wonderful, though! It's so nice, much more so than the other ballads on the album. "Strange Lover" just doesn't have a good reason to exist. By the time I get to "L. A. Inflatable", I'm kinda ticked. It's okay, though, with a cool ending and whatnot.
    But I think it should be documented that this is the first 10cc album that was actually a PAIN for me to sit through. Yeah.