'Bang, Zoom, Crazy... Hello'
(Big Machine Records)
Release Date: 1st April 2016
American rock band Cheap Trick may be at the power/pop end of hard rock but have found a lot of success since their formation in the early 70s, dubbed by the Japanese press as the American Beatles.
Formed in 1973 by guitarist Rick Nielson, renowned for his large collection of rare and odd guitars (250, with over 2000 having passed through over the years), the band have found success with hits including 'I Want You To Want Me', 'I Surrender', 'Dream Police' and a cover of The Motors' 'Dancing The Night Away', and the triple platinum live album 'Cheap Trick At The Budokan'.
This is their 17th studio album and is the first not to feature original drummer Bum E Carlos (legal issues still pending); alongside guitarist and founder Nielson and longtime singer Robin Zander and bassist Tom Petersson is drummer Daxx Nielson.
And from the first listen it's a damn fine album.
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Playing in local bands in the Rockford, Illinois area, the formation of Cheap Trick was centred around Nielson and drummer Bun E Carlos, later joined by Zander and Petersson. Signing to Epic, their 1977 debut was produced by Jack Douglas and quite a hard rock affair compared to later albums.
Released later the same year, 'In Color' is considered one of their classic and one of the best rock/pop albums. Label issues led to the band rerecording the album on their own terms some 20 years later, but this was never officially released. 1978s 'Heaven Tonight' is definitely the band's highlight, exploring both angles of the first two albums. Popular in Japan, the following live album '...At Budokan' followed.
Petersson left to record a solo album, while the band recorded 'One On One' and 'Next Position Please', also to much acclaim. He returned for 1988s 'Lap Of Luxury', and the four piece continued to tour regularly, recording throughout the 90s and 00s.
A number of live albums, compilations and contribution to soundtracks along the way, Cheap Trick now release their 17th album, and with legal issues leading to the ambiguity of Carlos' involvement with the band, the drum stool is currently filled by Daxx Nielson.
'Heart On The Line' is a mid to uptempo opener with a catchy rhythm and some more than decent bursts of guitar. Singer Robin Zander (who also adds some rhythm guitar) sounds as good and smooth as ever, but when he throws in something more throaty, a scream or two, there's a hint of Brian Johnson in there.
'No Direction Home' is classic Cheap Trick, it's commercial and a good melody while still rocking. The harmonies in the backing vocals stand out too. Things are tuned down for 'When I Wake Up'; it's an edge darker but that's one great guitar solo in there. 'Do You Believe' isn't quite so dark but it is a chunky number, more solid than you'd normally expect. Some good shred mid-song adds to the metal credentials. 'Blood Red Lips', on the other hand, really lifts things, it's got that Cheap Trick catchy pop back in the mix and some 50s throwback in the vocal harmonies.
'Sing My Blues Away' is a good mix of new and old.
There's a hint of rock n' roll in 'Roll Me', the guitar and rhythms working well together.
'The In Crowd' is another track that adds a hint of blues and rock n' roll.
This solid mix completes the album, with closer 'All Strung Out' modern and polished and equally a little darker than the band's earlier albums. There is some neat guitar and the structure is good, one to get you nodding.
The vocals are a little deeper than earlier albums which adds to a heavier and more mature feel. While there's a hint of The Cult in places, and classic elements of Cheap Trick's catchy pop/rock are still strong.
It feels and sound like they’re making a comeback and they're still sounding good. I just wish they'd sort things out with Bun E Carlos as, good though Daxx Nielson is, Carlos fits the direction and original sound better.