Hotlegs

Thinks: School Stinks

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The rudiments of history should be familiar to all. Fresh from the breakup of the Mindbenders, guitarist Eric Stewart and songwriter Graham Gouldman opened their own Strawberry Studios in Stockport, England. Joined by Lol Creme and Kevin Godley, but temporarily shedding Gouldman, who promptly relocated to New York, the gang were experimenting with drum sounds when a passing record company executive spotted a hit amongst the hitting -- "Neanderthal Man," the most distinctive smash of 1970, was born, and by year's end the trio was working on an entire album. The fact that only one other track, the tribal joke "Um Wah Um Woh," even glanced in the direction of "Neanderthal Man" lets you know just how seriously Hotlegs were taking their fame. Few people would care about Hotlegs today had the trio (plus the returning Gouldman) not subsequently reinvented themselves as 10cc, and it is reassuring to note that much of that band's instant charm and excitement is already present amid Thinks: School Stinks. The 12-minute "Suite F.A." actively fore- and overshadows Godley-Creme's next attempt at elongating their artform, The Original Soundtrack's similarly protracted "Une Nuit a Paris," while the aforementioned "Um Wah" packs a wildly panning guitar solo to die for. Similarly, the angelic ballads which Godley long continued prone to (the lovely "Fly Away," "Take Me Back"); the seering guitar leads which were Stewart's specialty; and the utterly skewed lyrical twists which Creme so relished are all present and correct. Unfortunately, few Hotlegs fans wanted angelic ballads, seering guitar leads, and lyrical twists, and Thinks ultimately became better regarded for its sleeve than its contents -- the school desk stuffed with an unsavory smorgasbord of cigarette butts, broken cookies, titillating pin-ups, a sneaker, odd socks, and an occupied gas mask would later be borrowed by Alice Cooper for School's Out, two years later. Hotlegs' masterpiece would be left to molder for another 24 years, until it finally reappeared on CD with adequate sound and an utterly truncated sleeve.

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