Bang Zoom Crazy Hello (2016)


 
1. Heart on the Line 2. No Direction Home 3. When I Wake Up Tomorrow 4. Do You Believe Me? 5. Blood Red Lips 6. Sing My Blues Away 7. Roll Me 8. The In Crowd 9. Long Time No See Ya 10.The Sun Never Sets 11.All Strung Out

 

2016 was probably the best year for Cheap Trick since 1979 when they took the world by storm with their live At Budokan album. Truth be told, they were never as popular as they were back in the late seventies, but to their credit, they never gave up and packed it in. They toured relentlessly, sometimes opening for bands like Aerosmith in front of 17,000 fans, other times, they were headlining half-filled clubs with 500 people. It was a bit surprising that they were elected to the Rock and Roll Hall Fame at the end of the prior year. Perhaps it was because every relevant act that came into existence since the early 90s considered these guys one of their biggest influences? So they were now enjoying a bit of the spotlight once more.

It was quite the coincidence that their first new album in seven years was also slated for release right around their Hall of Fame induction. What a better way to promote yourself during the hoopla, then have a brand new set of songs for the fans to enjoy? Well, let’s not kid ourselves – the record didn’t exactly shoot up to the top of the charts, but even with their rediscovered resurgence, such a feat would have been highly unexpected. Times had changed.

The good news is that this record is incredible. It’s their best set of songs in almost two decades. They team up with producer Julian Raymond (who produced 2009’s so-so The Latest) and he does an incredible job making the band sound clear, loud, heavy, and enjoyable. It seems as though he’s nailed down what a latter day Cheap Trick album should sound like. Never have Rick Neilsen’s guitars sounded so fresh and powerful. Unlike most of his contemporaries, Robin Zander still sounds incredible. How does he do it? (No, his voice isn’t doctored in the studio. Check them out live, if you have doubts). The only downside is Bun E. Carlos is gone. Legally, he’s “still in the band”, but he’s not recording nor touring, so for all intents and purposes, he’s really “not” in the band. In his place is Neilsen’s son Daxx, who’s actually been touring with the band since 2010. Now, there are those who are much more musical than I am that find such a replacement blasphemous. Personally, I can’t tell much of a difference. I’m especially impressed with the younger Neilsen’s solo on The Sun Never Sets. It didn’t help when fans discovered the split with Carlos was rather acrimonious. At least the guys played nice during the Hall of Fame ceremony.

Anyway, the album is tops – from start to finish. The album never sounds redundant, but they don’t jump all over the place either (something that definitely plagued The Latest). The music here ranges from heavy power-pop to straight ahead rock and roll. When they do experiment slightly, it works out quite well as with the Bowie influenced When I Wake Up Tomorrow or the Slade-ish Blood Red Lips. They include one cover, and, to be honest, it seems a bit of an odd inclusion – and old Dobie Grey song called In Crowd. It’s one of the most played songs from the new album when the band plays live, so I guess there’s something about it that the guys hold dear. It’s definitely not a bad song, but it seems a bit out of place.

Like all of the latter day records, I expect the band to play snippets from it on tour for the next year or so, but after that, it will probably be forgotten. I only mention this because it won’t surprise me to see these guys still touring for several years to come.

They should be proud of this one.

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