"Life is a cold lasagne, suspended in deep freeze"
By early 1975, 10cc had extricated themselves from an unfavourable recording contract under which their first two albums had been released. This resulted in The Original Soundtrack being a confluence of the experimental pop of their first two albums, with a boost of confidence and a sense of freedom.
10cc were always group that were willing to play with listeners perceptions. Opening with a near nine minute epic like “One Night in Paris” is certainly a statement, especially given that the song itself is somewhat more playful than the standard heavyweight rock epics that often kicked off albums in the early to mid 70s. That’s what 10cc were all about though, challenging perceptions, while simultaneously making great pop music.
Nowhere is this pop mastery better demonstrated than the one song that 10cc will always be remembered for. While “I’m not in Love” is almost obsolete through familiarity, when you consider the minute of the song itself, it’s so much more than the lovelorn ballad we’ve all heard time and time again. With its delicately layered synthesised sound, carefully multi-tracked vocals that rise like skyscrapers, it’s icy piano sound, and even it’s so-subtle-it-almost-isn’t-there drum pulse, it’s as beguiling a piece of sonic experimentation than any that has topped the charts here in the UK. It certainly raised the bar in terms of what could be achieved on a pop single, and you can’t help but get the feeling hat somewhere out in the 70s rock firmament Freddie Mercury was listening and started to plan “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
The last song on the first side of the old vinyl is “Blackmail”, a fine tune laden with very Supertramp-esque fender rhodes and an almost disco beat that still slightly struggles to make an impact after the lengthy opener and “I’m Not in Love”. Then again, there’s not many songs that wouldn’t struggle to follow “I’m Not in Love”.
Side two is chock full of the type of clever-clever tunes that 10cc could do in their sleep, but no one else seemed capable of managing to master. “The Second Sitting for the Last Supper” is so much more than it’s smart-arse title, and gets the second half of the album off to a flying start and is the closest The Original Soundtrack gets to a rock and roll rave up. After this though, the album starts to lose focus. “Brand New Day”, while a pretty and perfectly serviceable song, seems to flounder a little, and “Flying Junk” also struggles to make much of an impression, despite every effort being made. It’s not a drop-off in quality as such, it’s just you’d already been impressed with the first half of the album, and the second half struggles by comparison.
The highlight of the second half of The Original Soundtrack is “Life is a Minestrone”, which on the surface of it is a silly and utterly disposable pop song with seemingly nonsense lyrics, but is still undeniably joyous. It boasts the only singalong chorus on the album, and is a gloriously fun contrast to the album’s other big hit single, underlining just how diverse 10cc were when it came to their hit singles. Sometimes it’s a good idea for a band to remind their fans that they shouldn’t take themselves too seriously, and “Life is a Minestrone” is 10cc’s finest example of this.
The Original Soundtrack closes with “The Film of My Love”, a disappointing ending when you consider that “Life is a Minestrone” had pulled the album out of a dip in quality. With it’s title tying so tightly into the album title, it really couldn’t have been anything than the closing track though. This actually highlights one of the primary problems with The Original Soundtrack. The sequencing of its songs means it ends up tripping over itself, with the most obvious issue being that it’s two big party pieces are delivered straight away, leaving the rest of the album trying desperately to make the same impression, with only “Life is a Minestrone” really standing much of a chance, and every other track relying on the listener returning to the album time and time again.
The Original Soundtrack is certainly not a bad album, just one that struggles to escape the long shadow cast by 10cc’s best known song. Much like the preceding Sheet Music, you can hear the effort and care that has gone into The Original Soundtrack, and it’s hand drawn and gorgeously spot-varnished artwork is the most instantly recognisable of the band’s career indicates that it was intended as a celebration of everything great about the Creme / Stewart / Goldman / Godley creative alliance. If nothing else, it’s enduring proof that no one has sounded quite like 10cc, before or since.