Wednesday, April 20, 2016

RECORD REVIEW: Cheap Trick - "Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello"

RECORD REVIEW
Cheap Trick
Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello
(Big Machine Records)
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In my world, the release
of a new Cheap Trick
record is always a big deal.
Even after nearly 40 years!
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I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Leonard Geezer, guitarist for the Miami-based super-crunk, power-pop / punk combo, Geezër. During our 30-minute session, the subject of Cheap Trick came up in the conversion, at which time I asked him what he thought about the band's latest record, Bang, Zoom, Crazy... Hello. "Well, it ain't Heaven Tonight," the veteran musician replied. "But, it's not a bad little rock record." And with that impromptu, 13-word analysis, he'd scripted a perfect, no-nonsense review. However, despite the accuracy of Geezer's concise commentary, this 17th studio offering from the iconic Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees does warrant a little closer examination. Let's swoop in and take a looksie!

An impressive body of work!
I first discovered Cheap Trick lurking in the pages of CREEM magazine, back in 1977. At the age of 14, my passion and imagination was captured completely by the band's melodic, guitar-driven ear worms, as well as by their unique rock star-meets-comic strip charisma. Simply put, Cheap Trick was my "Beatles." What I still find most impressive about the band is how they delivered non-stop catchy, crunchy classics consistently throughout each and every record, from their self-titled 1977 debut, through 1994's Woke Up with a Monster. Sadly, the seemingly once unstoppable freight train did finally come to a crashing halt in 1997 with the release of the disappointing Cheap Trick '97, and the dreadful follow-up, Special One in 2003. Argh! C'mon, guys — get happy again! Will ya?

Cheap Trick - 2016
Fortunately, as "they" say, "good things come to those who wait." And in recent years, the band has rebounded nicely with the delightful treasures, Rockford (2006) and The Latest (2009). However, it's Bang, Zoom, Crazy... Hello that has truly brought Cheap Trick back to their "A-Game."

Fresh and fun, snappy and happy, this 11-song collection represents the band's strongest work since Busted in 1990. Overall, the record dazzles from start-to-finish. The guitars and bass are gloriously blistering, straight-up and in your face — one of Rick Nielsen's and Tom Petersson's all-time crispiest audio snapshots — while Robin Zander once again channels the charming, yet pissed-off 20-something powerhouse that we've not seen much of since One on One. Now, is it a drag that Bun E. Carlos is missing from this little sonic soiree? Absolutely! After all, he d'king of the whole wide world. But, truth be told, Daxx Nielsen is an incredible bad ass, and his drum style complements Cheap Trick songs beautifully. And speaking of songs, most of the selections here are team efforts songwriting collaborations between Nielsen Sr., Petersson, Zander, Nielsen Jr., and producer, Julian Raymond.


Possessing a familiar-feeling "Auf Wiedersehen"-style opening riff, combined with a "Just Got Back"-type snare shuffle, "Heart on the Line" kicks off the record with rib-cracking gusto. In fact, many of the 11 tracks possess a familiar feel. The lead-off single, "No Direction Home," captures the general raw, pop spirit of Next Position Please, while "When I Wake Up Tomorrow" is a near carbon copy of "Say Goodbye" from Cheap Trick 97 and "Blood Red Lips" zings with the same vibe as "When The Lights Are Out" from The Latest. And with just the right added over-the-top, cheesy 80's-style electronic production, "Roll Me" could have easily fit right in on The Doctor  and yes, that is a (big) compliment.

Yes, Cheap Trick plays it safe on record #17. However, by sticking close to "home base," the band delivers a solid winner. In the words of Leonard Geezer, Bang, Zoom, Crazy... Hello certainly ain't Heaven Tonight. But thank goodness, it ain't Special One Pt.II either. Bravo!

-Christopher Long
(April 2016)
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Additional
Cheap Trick features
by Christopher Long:


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