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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Cheap Trick: Music For Hangovers


1) Oh Claire; 2) Surrender; 3) Hot Love; 4) I Can't Take It; 5) I Want You To Want Me; 6) Taxman, Mr. Thief; 7) Mandocello; 8) Oh Caroline; 9) How Are You?; 10) If You Want My Love; 11) Dream Police; 12) So Good To See You; 13) The Ballad Of T.V. Violence; 14) Gonna Raise Hell.

Nobody really needs more than one Cheap Trick live album in the collection, and I don't need to tell you what live album that should be — but it is also true that Cheap Trick hadn't released a follow-up to Budokan in twenty years (although they did release the previously unreleased second part of the concert separately in 1994 as Budokan II), and since we probably have to thank them for not doing this in the Eighties, it does make sense to give this one at least one spin to check how well they were faring in their «modest comeback» era.

Apparently, this is not a reflection of a fully typical show — these fourteen selections are culled from a special live extravaganza in Chicago, where they were giving themselves a huge 20th anniversary celebration, and marking the re-release of the early catalog on CD by playing each of the first four albums in its completeness on four consecutive nights. And since the prospect of putting together a huge 4-CD set seemed too terrifying at the time (although it is highly likely that at some time we might be getting a Music For Hangovers DeLuxe as a limited-time down­load offer, because we have so little music to listen to in our spare time), well, they just took a few selections from each show, shuffled them randomly, and released a «sampler» of sorts.

As a result, this is a highly nostalgic affair (the only two post-1979 songs are ʽIf You Want My Loveʼ and ʽI Can't Take Itʼ, which they probably played for their encores), and the only question worth asking is — does this kick any sort of ass that would be comparable to Budokan? Well, I have to admit that, agist bias aside, it does: on the whole, the band sounds every bit as invigorated and ready to blow the roof as it did twenty years ago. The biggest worry could probably be Zander, but no need to wonder, really — just throw on ʽGonna Raise Hellʼ and you will see that he is still not only capable of the rabid bull-roaring attack, but he is still capable to deliver it seemingly effortlessly. In fact, he does it so well that, as it seems to me, the engineers see to it that his voice is consis­tently driven a little bit higher in the mix than it was on Budokan — playing the old and the new live versions of ʽSurrenderʼ clearly shows the difference, and since Robin's pipes and enthusiasm show no signs of wearing down, this might be one small argument why at least some of the tracks here might even be more fun to listen to than the Budokan ones.

As for the musicians, there is no deterioration in quality in Nielsen's guitar pyrotechnics or Bun E. Carlos' steady drum support either (I guess Petersson is doing all right as well, but the bass in Cheap Trick was never anything special in the first place). There's only a tiny bit of guest support, with Billy Corgan playing extra guitar on ʽMandocelloʼ and then D'Arcy Wretzky singing backup vocals on ʽIf You Want My Loveʼ (I had no idea that Smashing Pumpkins were such big fans of the Trick, but apparently they are, as Corgan also wrote some gushing liner notes for the album), but perhaps the band sensed that they did need it, since their own fanbase had already dwindled, and they definitely needed some public support from the younger generation (the concept would be further advanced on Silver).

It is important to note that the band did consider the possibility that the album would be unfavo­rably compared to Budokan — and for that reason, there is as little overlap as possible, with worn-out hits and classics largely ignored (on record) in favor of less overplayed tunes: the only three tracks that do overlap are ʽSurrenderʼ (because what's a live Cheap Trick album without ʽSurrenderʼ?), ʽI Want You To Want Meʼ (repeat question with substituted object), and ʽOh Caro­lineʼ, the latter quite legit because they do it in a revised acoustic arrangement. The good news is that we get to hear the mad live jamming on ʽGonna Raise Hellʼ, and a guitar-based rather than synth-based version of ʽDream Policeʼ (but why didn't they include ʽThe House Is Rockingʼ? That was, like, the most stage-ready number on the Dream Police album!). The bad news is that, for some reason, each performance fades in and fades out, giving that nasty «greatest hits live» scent — I guess they were honestly letting us know that these were cut-and-paste performances, but it's no great fun to endure moments of absolute silence when sitting through a live album.

Aside from that, though, it makes no sense to have anything but very minor quibbles with the record (such as its title — I mean, is a decibel-heavy, guitar-crunch-choked power pop album really the appropriate kind of music to treat a hangover? Shouldn't they have at least gone all MTV Unplugged on us to validate that title?). It can even provide a minor companion piece to Budokan, due to that minimal overlap; but it certainly played a bigger role in 1999 (proving the world that the Trick «still got it») than it does now.


  1. Solid review but I have to disagree about your assessment of Petersson's role. Seeing them live you realize that it is he who holds down all the riffs with his 12 string bass. Neilsen spends most of his time accenting with flourishes and bursts and the rest of the time clowning. Without that part of the sound it would sound unbelievable thin.
    They always shined as a live band ( I have been fortunate enough to see them several times) being much more intense and rocking than their studio albums show.

    1. Well, yes, but it is not at all uncommon for bass players to hold down the riffs in hard rock bands. I agree that he does that job very well, just nothing particularly exceptional.

  2. Minor point of clarification: the fourth album (i.e. fourth night) featured the tracks from "At Budokan", NOT the fourth studio album ("Dream Police"). So all the Dream Police tunes here are "extras". I don't believe they played "The House is Rockin'" on any of these nights.