Cheap Trick

Cheap Trick

Epic Records, 1977

http://www.cheaptrick.com

REVIEW BY: Denise Henderson

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/11/1997

Back in the mid 1970's, a quartet formed in Rockford, Illinois, spurning on one of the great power pop groups of all time. Cheap Trick has often seen the downside of success more often than not over the past 10 years. It wasn't uncommon to see them playing as warm-ups for lots of outdoor "revival" shows with bands like Foghat. But a recent resurgence of interest in their music by such hipsters as the Smashing Pumpkins on a tribute album of Trick songs has helped keep the band alive. Never say dead with Cheap Trick.

It all began with the self-titled 1977 release Cheap Trick. Self-consciously a parody, the band had its quintessential pretty boys (bassist Tom Petersson and vocalist/guitarist Robin Zander) and two goofy neighbor-like guys in lead guitarist Rick Nielsen and drummer Bun E. Carlos. There is somebody for everybody to love in this band whether it be the wild-eyed, hyperkinetic guitar playing of Nielsen, Zander's sultry looks and vocals, or the ever chain-smoking Carlos banging away at the drums.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Starting out side one with a blast and a not so thinly disguised love of all '60s bands, Cheap Trick openly pays homage to all their heroes from the Beatles to the Who to the Kinks. They tweak teenage angst and lust with their spirited songwriting and solid musicianship, all the while having a blast and hoping to hit it big (and boy did they in 1979 with Live at Budokan). Plagiarism and blatant homage aside, this album rocks.

Who can resist "He's A Whore" with Zander sneering that he'd do anything for money even if "she's got a face that could stop a clock"? The joyous rebelliousness and all out fun this band has makes everything beside the point. "Ballad Of Teenage Violence" may make a tongue in cheek point somewhere, but it's the whine of Nielsen's guitars that seems to be the real point, not some overblown philosophy. Remember when it was okay not to be politically correct and want to have fun? Jeez, but for the good old days!

Two other great pop gems include "Elo Kiddies" and "Taxman, Mr. Thief" (can you spell Beatles???). These songs combine the great rhythm section of Petersson's booming bass and Carlos's thunderous drumming as Zander's vocals weave around the jar and whirl of Nielsen's Strat. Petersson has always been one of my favorite bass players, later having custom Hamer 8- and 12-string basses serve as the non-relenting punch throughout Cheap Trick's later hits. Here, the point on a mere 4-string is to keep things pounding from the album's opener "Hot Love" to "Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace."

The pretty ballad "Mandocello" is a beautiful song showcasing the best of Zander's vocal range from falsetto to sweeter tenor tones and some of Nielsen's finer fingering. Its melancholy and sadness are probably the one serious musical/ emotional moment on this fine debut from the Tricksters. "Oh Candy" which rounds out side two affords another showcase for Zander's vocals while he laments the spiral of a woman's heroin addiction.

All in all, Cheap Trick shows why the band's longevity has remained and their influence is still strong throughout the pop and alternative scene today. It may not be highbrow or the most original, but it sure rocks.

Rating: A

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© 1997 Denise Henderson and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.