10cc were the Howard Jacobsons of pop - intellectual Prestwich Hebrews who exhibited a simultaneous mastery of, and contempt for, the art form and genre in which they worked. Loathed perhaps more than any other band by the punks, they were briefly resurrected and cherished a decade later as being as emblematic of the Seventies as Abba or Queen. Since then, they have slipped away from public consciousness, even their none-more-cynical aural masterpiece "I'm Not In Love" not finding much FM airplay nowadays.
Their reputation presents an interesting contrast with the group that was, conceptually at least, most similar to them - Steely Dan, who are in critical terms much more highly valued. This is despite the Mancunian group's music being more playful and varied, as well as being more commercially successful. Perhaps Godley, Creme and Gouldman's awareness of the disposability of pop was too keen - they may have been undone by their own disdain for what they were doing. This being the paradigm example of their brilliant self-contempt:
Friday, 26 July 2013
Thursday, 11 July 2013
It doesn't seem a coincidence that album art of the 70s so often recalls the wax dioramas of 19th century metropolitan low art later appropriated by Surrealism. The air of stilted bourgeois drama that hangs around the form at its most stagey - Dali, Paul Delvaux, the sculptures of the 1936 International Surrealist Exhibition - resurfaces in the gestures of a form caught between the glistening pleasures of international business (which rock had long since become a part of) & the now antiquarian memory of wrenching sexual & material alienation (that survived, coelocanth-like, in the likes of the Knack & Dr. Feelgood). (The radical strangeness of the dioramas, incidentally, would be picked up primarily by Walter Benjamin, who devotes part of The Arcades Project to them, & Hollywood's B-industry, responsible for 1953 Vincent Price vehicle House of Wax, whence it fed into the likes of Alice Cooper & The Dictators.) The climate of many of these covers, curiously composed, simultaneously frozen & charged, hinting at non-existent mystery, seems of a piece with the LP's ongoing role as spliff-rolling surface. They provide the appearance of spurious depth whose spuriousness they self-consciously proclaim. They appear to us now as the sexual climate of the fin de siecle appeared to the 1970s - the emphasis on tits, arses & male impotence in particular is quite peculiar; the general air, particularly of Hipgnosis' many covers, quite explicitly recalls Moreau, Watts & Alfred Moore.