"If all the entertainers in the world lost their music, What would they play, what could they say, To pacify the crowd, to justify themselves."
Having cornered the intelligent pop market with a brace of hit singles and a quartet of albums which made the most of each individual band member’s top-draw songwriting and cutting-edge production techniques, by 1976 10CC had very little to prove. The arty / techy duo Godley & Creme were getting increasingly enamoured with the types of musical gadgets they were inventing (the gizmotron anyone?), while also losing interest in the more straight-forward pop songs that their bandmates Graham Gouldman and Eric Stewart were penning. With half the band wanting to get more experimental, and the other feeling that they should delve deeper into pure pop, a split was inevitable, and Godley and Crème departed to concentrate on their sprawling Consequences project.
Gouldman and Stewart regrouped with touring drummer Paul Burgess and soldiered on, determined to prove that they weren’t just 5CC. Deceptive Bends was the first album recorded by the new line up, and it had a lot riding on it at the time. While the singles revelled in pure pop, they were a mixed bunch. “The Things We Do for Love” is a song that could be considered pure cheese, however such is the skill of Stewart and Gouldman as songwriters, you can only marvel at the level of pop perfection on display. “Good Morning Judge” is a slightly more bouncy and riff-laden number, which proved that it wasn’t all going to be well-crafted ballads going forward. “People in Love” was a modest hit in the USA, however in retrospect, this one was pure cheese, and simply lacks the charm of “The Things We Do for Love”.
Beyond the hits Deceptive Bends is almost 10CC by numbers, in that it’s good stuff, but nothing that they hadn’t done before to better effect. You can almost hear Stewart and Gouldman strain to write the experimental art-pop style numbers that their now departed bandmates had specialised in, and they did a fair job too, though on balance you have to admit that they were missing Godley and Crème. As brilliant as Gouldman and Stewart, and Godley and Crème, were as both individual songwriters and creative partnerships, the truth is, they were better as a quartet, bouncing ideas between them and acting as each other’s sounding board. Deceptive Bends, despite being a slightly lesser album than those crafted by the original foursome, is a solid attempt at maintaining a similar feel, but you can’t escape the feeling that something is missing.
Deceptive Bends closes with Gouldman and Stewart’s best realised experimental art-rock number. “Feel the Benefit” is a lengthy song with multiple changes in pace and tone, in much the same way that “Une Nuight in Paris” was on The Original Soundtrack. It is by turns, pretty, epic, melodic and just a bit clumsy. Where it works, it’s utterly thrilling, and demonstrates everything great about 10CC, however it also has the odd moment where they attempt Carribean patois (pre-dating the opinion-splitting “Dreadlock Holiday” by a year), which prevents it from being the outright classic it had the potential to be. In many ways “Feel the Benefit” is the last hurrah for 10CC as ambitious art rockers, so the fact that it’s a bit of a mixed bag is fitting, as it gives a feeling of closure to the era.
After Deceptive Bends 10CC’s line up would expand, however their quality control would dip, and frankly, they never really recaptured the magic of their early days. The future would include the threat of punk, the aforementioned “Dreadlock Holiday”, a life-threatening accident for Stewart that would put him out of commission for months, and a general decline in sales and critical interest, despite the enduring songwriting skills of Stewart and Gouldman. In retrospect Deceptive Bends was a brave attempt by the remaining members of 10CC to keep the ball rolling despite the departure of Godley and Crème, and to Gouldman and Stewart’s credit, it resulted in their highest charting album and showed that there was still life in the band.