Credibility That Lasts

by Mike Pelusi

You'd be forgiven for being for more than a little skeptical regarding Cheap Trick's recent comeback. After all, isn't this resurgence due more to the band's PR people realizing the debt '90s rock from Nirvana on down owes to the long-running Rockford, Ill. quartet? And doesn't it seem a little odd that the band has in due course returned to its vintage power-pop sound as if it was second nature after spending most of the time since then in arena-rock hell?

Personally, I would be able to focus on such cynicisms a lot better if Cheap Trick hadn't gone ahead and made a killer new album. The self-titled release on Red Ant Entertainment is the kind of record you thought people didn't make anymore. It rocks, it believes in itself but has fun, it sounds great on the headphones, and it's catchy as hell.

The songwriting here is top-notch. "Hard to Tell" and "You Let a Lotta People Down" contain perfect balances of well-crafted melody and guitar firepower that Matthew Sweet and Dave Grohl would sacrifice various limbs for, while "Carnival Game" and "Say Goodbye" have a sexy kind of yearning you'd think couldn't come from white-boy Beatlesque pop. The album revels in suburban freakouts ("Anytime," "Eight Miles Low") and wild fuzzed-out punkabilly ravers ("Baby No More," "Wrong All Along") alike. And the closing ballad "It All Comes Back to You" contains an airy "If I could fly..." bridge that's as transcendent as anything, invigorating the listeners' senses with longing and glorious reverb.


The self-titled release on Red Ant Entertainment is the kind of record you thought people didn't make anymore. It rocks, it believes in itself but has fun, it sounds great on the headphones, and it's catchy as hell.

With all due respect, though, songwriting this strong has been on the upswing lately, from Liz Phair to Ben Folds Five. Perhaps the most revelatory aspect of Cheap Trick is in the band's performance. You know that lunkheaded, ham-fisted, plodding style that's come to define hard-rock for the past God knows how many years? You won't find it here. Cheap Trick rock smartly and have the kind of effortless chemistry that can only come after years of playing together. Rather than overeagerly pounce on the rhythm, bassist Tom Petersson and drummer Bun E. Carlos prefer to patiently let the groove sink in and become as natural as breathing. This allows lead guitar geek Rick Nielsen to fire off the dead-cool riffs and searing solos one after another, and singer Robin Zander to smolder, soar and scream with a resolve that puts pretenders to shame.

While those fucking annoying obsoletists Aerosmith pollute the air with their cliché-ridden, immature twaddle, Cheap Trick have made an album that acts its age, and yet remains a rock album. Of course, Aerosmith are filling up cavernous sheds, while Cheap Trick contend themselves largely with mid-sized clubs (and opening for Motely Crue -- ick!). But maybe that's part of the point.


P.S.- Limited edition copies of Cheap Trick come with the band's recent Sub Pop single "Baby Talk" b/w "Brontosaurus," produced by Steve Albini. Albini's low-fi sound-styling doesn't really suit the band, but you'll be hard pressed to find a more adrenilized 8 minutes out these days. Consider it the icing on the cake.


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