Monday, May 11, 2009

They don't make 'em like that anymore. Pt 578

You know me: can't resist a bit of clever cloggery. Which is why I've already blogged about this bunch. As a teen I dug their smart subversions of pop in singular form. As an adult I finally discovered their four albums (as the original four piece) and was predictably smitten all over again.
But what set them apart was their studio craft just as much as their songwriting chops. Many conversations with the Bass Player about how the band, esconsed in their Strawberry Studios base in Manchester using the STUDIO AS AN INSTRUMENT recently prefigured the sudden synchronistic appearance of this on the BBC. Grab it on the iPlayer while it's hot folks!
It's a delight from start to finish. The combination of Gouldman's early diet of easy listening and fab four, Stewart's love of James Burton and Godley and Creme's art school background as well as a healthy dose of smart Jewish humour made for something that was every inch as clever as Steely Dan, but without the slavish devotion to jazz.
The BBC's Record Producer series, hosted by Richard Allinson, is old school programming that satisfies because it goes one step further than straight biogs by getting a real record producer to run through the original masters, highlighting studio chat and outtakes and pinpointing excactly how the bands got THAT sound. previous triumphs have included one on Britain's very own Phil Spector: Roy Wood!
Anyhoo, listen as the band fluff Donna, use drums that were messed around with by Paul McCartney for a previous session in the studio or decide to invent the Fairlight years before digital technology was available, by using separate tape loops to recreate the chromatic scale and using the mixing desk as the instrument (I'm Not In Love).
Of course, your scribe can't stop there. Unable to stomach the post Godley and Creme years (despite Eric's awesome geetar) I'm drawn to the even-cleverer-cloggier sounds of the aforementioned duo. Be warned folks, it's strong stuff.
Obvious fans of Zappa, vast quantities of weed and Hollywood musicals (weirdly Godley describes 10cc's early hit, The Dean And I as Doris Day meets Frank Zappa), from their triple concept album (featuring Peter Cook AND Sarah Vaughan!), Consequences, to the pop genius of later hits like Cry and Wedding bells, these guys obviously loved to a) tell stories; b) multitrack voices like muthas; c) play with sequencers and d) tell jokes, albeit bleak, dark ones.
Ignoring the dubious joys of involving Andy Mackay etc. it's still an acquired taste. But never, ever boring.
We shall not see their like again.

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