Many years ago, Paul McNulty - of podcast fame - submitted this to Mojo magazine in a valiant attempt to get Consequences recognised as one of the best 100 albums ever made - which it obviously is.
If it is remembered at all, Consequences by Kevin Godley and Lol Creme is regarded as a dismal failure. It was the project that Peter Cook chose to contribute to rather than The Great Rock and Roll Swindle (and as such, it has never been forgiven). It embodied the bloated values that the punk revolution set out to destroy. It was a hopelessly overwrought concept album. A triple album for God's sake?
It also retailed at a then record price. The public stayed away in droves, or defected to the half of 10cc that was still making hits. The beautifully bound, lavishly packaged artefacts were left to moulder. Passing from store to second-hand record emporiums, they remained on back shelves, hiding their secrets like Russian dolls...
Well, that's how I discovered Consequences - more or less. To me, it remains one of most compelling records ever made - a unique blend of music and brilliantly conceived dialogue. Most 'concept' albums tend to fall apart when scrutinised. In contrast, Consequences not only bears repeated listening but consistently reveals new layers of meaning. The attention to detail is staggering, yet each exquisite set-piece is at the service of the thematic whole. Not only that, it's funny, superbly performed and immaculately recorded.
The record grew out of G & C's desire to demonstrate the possibilities of the 'gizmo', their guitar/synthesiser hybrid. The 'flood' sequence was recorded first, innocently intended as a 10cc b-side. However, the authors couldn't leave their new project alone. Eventually, it engulfed them, forcing them out of their own band and back into Strawberry Studios, where they slowly chipped away at their masterpiece. Working through the night, they completed, on average, one minute's worth of finished material each session. (By day they slept at Manchester's Piccadilly Hotel.)
The 'plot' consists of an outlandish sci-fi yarn brought to sublime heights by Peter Cook's superb comic playlet, which is slowly intertwined with evocations of mother nature on the rampage. If you imagine the original, radio version of The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy (a near contemporary work by the way), then you are somewhere close to the atmosphere evoked by Consequences. Compared to the former work, the dialogue here is less funny and anecdotal, but possessed of a greater depth. Cook's morbid obsession with human wretchedness mines a seam of cold, black humour.
Still, for all Cook's comic genius, he doesn't end up walking off with the album. It's a measure of just how sharply focused G & C were around this time that they prevent him doing so. Delaying the entrance of dialogue until a third of the way through is a smart move of course - if reportedly an accidental one. (Apparently the instrumental sections were conceived - indeed partly recorded - before the idea of dialogue came about.)
There could be as many as a thousand brilliant ideas, packed inside these first thirty minutes. Some of my favourites: ...the raging hurricane dissolving into a weatherman's voice - like a genie disappearing back into a bottle... a man who had idly hummed when swatting a bee getting his comeuppance - when the revenging swarm take up the theme... the rock fan who drowns with his ears still ringing from the noise of a gig...
Consequences isn't to everybody's taste of course but, it certainly need never answer to the charge of pretension - the one most commonly levelled at concept albums. It's far too well thought out; always keeping one step ahead with its own implied criticism of lofty ideals. Any or all of these are meticulously deflated or disassembled. (Even the front cover is in on the joke - look closely, the lettering is spaced to read 'Con Sequences'?). It is true that although the album contains heaps of great music, all but one or two of the strongest songs perish outside of their original context. Still that, presumably, was the point.
On its release in 1977, elaborate plans were drawn up to turn it into a live performance and/or a film. They amounted to nothing. Perhaps G & C knew that the definitive version of Consequences already existed - in the heads of its listeners - where the world created by their evocative soundscapes could never disappoint. Lol Creme summed up their towering achievement best. He called it 'a movie for the blind.'