Sunday, January 22, 2017

Meta-pop: 10cc's Art For Art's Sake

Having started out on familiar ground, it's time to strike out and see what else 1976 has to offer.

I'm not really familiar with 10cc bar a few tracks, like the deathless I'm Not In Love and the enduring reggae pastiche Dreadlock Holiday. So I'm pleased to report that their January '76 Top Ten hit Art For Art's Sake, previously unknown to me, is five-minutes-plus of gloriously psychedelic pop: a little bit late Beatles, a little bit glam and a little bit alternative comedy revue besides.

Self-produced by the technical wizards of 10cc themselves, it also sounds fabulous, with a recurring clockwork Franz Ferdinand-y guitar riff and smatterings of wooshy synth.

You can hear it alongside this animated video from the 10cc Fan Club here.

The great thing about Art For Art's Sake is, like Bohemian Rhapsody, that it feels like it it's extending the boundaries of what's possible in pop. Lyrically, it's an early sign of it entering a mature, self-referential stage, providing ironic commentary on itself and the industry that surrounds it while delivering a cracking tune at the same time.

I mean, the whole song revolves around the chorus/punchline 'Art for art's sake / Money for God's sake' - suitably so for a band that started out as songwriters-for-hire. A band as accomplished and clever as 10cc couldn't be blind to commerical imperatives, even if they couldn't be seen to be following them too overtly and also maintain their credibility at the same time.

Ironically, the art versus cash question was shortly to divide 10cc, with Kevin Godley and Lol Creme leaving the band later in 1976 to concentrate on a triple album promoting their guitar effect tool, the Gizmotron, while Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman continued to take the band in a less ambiguously pop direction.

Art For Art's Sake though, shows a band with eyebrows fully raised, making pop music about pop music (meta-pop?) long before it was fashionable. And it's an absolute banger with it.

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