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Godley & Creme - L CD (album) cover


Godley & Creme


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3.87 | 38 ratings

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4 stars Godley and Creme scaled back their ambition somewhat, after releasing the glorious mess of "Consequences" (which I still gave 4 stars despite the "mess", just for being so out-there), concentrating their energies instead on putting as many of their ideas as possible onto a single LP. The result was "L", probably the closest they've come to making a true progressive rock album. Yet, it's still likely to divide opinion as to its value, even among prog fans. Eclectic genius, or overly clever tunelessness?

Well frankly, I think it depends a lot on how much you like Frank Zappa. His pieces often lay out a theme in a recognizable, usually stylized manner (e.g. lounge music, reggae, hard rock, whatever), and then scatter little sonic banana peels all over the place, causing the listener to slip and slide around, never really sure what will happen next. That's what happens on this album a lot, and if that kind of thing bothers you, you probably won't like this. It says to the listener, "Ha Ha! Caught you getting in the groove there - here, have some 32nd note trills in 7/8 time!" If you hate that, stop reading right now.

Still here? Good, so am I.

If the Zappa comparison holds, then the 7 minute opening track "The Sporting Life" is their equivalent of "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" -- it begins and ends with a slow, jazzy lament, and the middle of the song is a long procession of quick changes in volume, tempo, and style, giving the impression of someone going to sleep, having a weird chaotic dream, and then waking up again. It's actually very well put together, but the herky jerkiness of it might be off putting at first. Next, "Sandwiches of You", ostensibly the "single" off the album, is just as strange lyrically and instrumentally - jarring little guitar bursts peek through the spare, brisk drum-centered arrangement, though it features a catchy/annoying refrain and a fairly normal song structure overall. "Art School Canteen" leads us into mellow territory, with gentle crooning by Kevin Godley (he has such a lovely voice, doesn't he?), poking fun at art school students. They name-drop Zappa in this song too. "Group Life" sounds more like what Godley and Creme would do on future albums -- artsy, experimental dance-oriented music. Not my favorite track, but it's welcome as a breather after the last three quirky tracks.

Side Two opens with one of the more shocking songs here, "Punchbag", a wildly unpredictable batch of constantly changing rhythms and themes, with only the abrasive refrain of "Fourth Form! Punchbag!" holding it together. The lyrics are sung from the point of view of a bullied school kid (perhaps making this a sequel to 10cc's "I Wanna Rule the World"?). For the non-sympathetic listener, this song is the most likely to annoy. For the sympathetic listener, though, it's pretty impressive. Next comes possibly my favorite tune on here, the completely bizarre "Foreign Accents". I guess it's their take on "T'Mershi Duween" (an early 70s complex Zappa instrumental). The backing track throughout is a light shuffle featuring handclaps and an inviting saxophone lick. Over this, at seemingly random intervals, a harsh series of unison Zappa-like rhythmic puzzles enter and exit at will. The effect is pretty hilarious, and somewhat disturbing (what were these guys on?). The last track is a 2 song medley of "Hit Factory/Business is Business" - a relative weak spot on the album, trying to conjure up the image of an actual factory (complete with industrial noises) "making hits", before leading into the weird quasi blues of "Business is Business" - again, fun idea, but just a little too self-consciously weird for its own good.

I'm extremely glad that Godley and Creme had the guts to leave the "sure thing" of 10cc and strike out on their own experimental path. They really are fantastic musicians with talent to spare, and here they made one of the more eclectic prog albums from 1978 you're likely to hear (at a time when many of the big-name prog bands were either on hiatus or streamlining their sound). But like a lot of Zappa's more silly works, sometimes you can have a little too much of a good thing - "too clever for their own good" has probably been writ in many reviews of this album. I'm wavering between a 3 and a 4 here. I'll round up to a 4, because I'm in the "weird is good" camp.

HolyMoly | 4/5 |


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