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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Cheap Trick: Bang, Zoom, Crazy... Hello


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.

And the story goes on. In one of the most crass acts of nepotism in rock history, Zander and Niel­sen kicked Bun E. Carlos, the one and only «Bookkeeper-Drummer» of all time, out of the band, replacing him with Rick's son, Daxx Nielsen. Allegedly, this might be part of a far-reaching plan to ensure the immortality of the band (Ian and Holland Zander should probably be getting ready, too, once their father's vocal cords finally give way), but in the short term, this was a rather nasty story, rife with lawsuits and shattered friendships... and what for?

Honestly, Cheap Trick's latest record (more precisely, the one that replaces The Latest as, well, the latest) is not all that drum-dependent, as they return once again to the overproduced style of Rockford. It seems as if they have developed this alternating pattern, late in their lives — one album Beatles-style, one album Stones-style — and this, once again, puts us into non-stop head­banging mode, just to assure the population that no energy has been dissipated since Rockford brutally kicked our asses exactly ten years back. No more psychedelic excursions, no more or­chestration, just bombastic, glam-tinged rock'n'roll and power pop all the way.

Consequently, everything grumbly that I have said in reference to Rockford applies to this album as well. It is one half fun and one half an attempt to prove to the world that they still got it, and every once in a while the second half obscures the first half with its obnoxiousness — but if you get it out of your mind and trample on the context, then it's just another set of big, brassy, brawny rock'n'roll for those who can't get enough of it. They can still play, Robin can still sing (although I sure wish they gave him a little breathing space every now and then without clogging all the frequencies with fat, distorted guitar overdubs), the new drummer can keep time — what else do you need for happiness? Psychological depth? That was last year's model.

As a little bit of nostalgic surprise, another veteran hero, Wayne Kramer of the MC5, joins the band on ʽDo You Believe Me?ʼ for some hystrionic guitar pyrotechnics — just in case 2016 came along and erased your last memories of what it used to be a «guitar hero» — and, as an even odder nostalgic surprise, they do a hard rock version of ʽThe In Crowdʼ, a song originally per­formed by Dobie Gray but possibly even better known to audiences through the Mamas & Papas cover. No idea whatsoever about the motivation — but the song's sarcastic tone and ridiculing of trends and fashions agrees perfectly fine with Cheap Trick's conservative ideology, and Zander gives a spirited, tongue-in-cheek performance. He can still sound cocky and smart at the same time — too bad this here album usually puts cocky first and smart last.

Everything else basically sounds like a mix of... well, I'd say AC/DC (ʽLong Time No See Yaʼ), Slade (ʽBlood Red Lipsʼ), T. Rex (the album closing ʽAll Strung Outʼ is a dead ringer for Bolan's ʽ20th Century Boyʼ), and even Bowie — ʽWhen I Wake Up Tomorrowʼ has a tinge of that old Ziggy melancholia lurking in the back of Zander's voice. Once or twice, we still get psychedelic vocal harmony overdubs (ʽThe Sun Never Setsʼ), almost like a leftover from the previous album, but this does not upset the prevalent party spirit. If you do not set your expectations too high, Bang, Zoom, Crazy, just like Rockford before it, will be perfectly enjoyable and one more proof that you can still produce «authentic» 1970s style glam-rock in 2016 (well, you can pretty much produce anything in 2016), but I couldn't swear that the record made that much of an impression on me as a whole, and somehow I hope that they still have it in them to come up with a less slight swan song for their career, unless they really plan on gradually passing on the banner to succes­sive generations of Zanders and Nielsens.


  1. I find the choice to oust Carlos extremely depressing. It puts Cheap Trick on the same level as Kiss, with two original members forcing out another original -- and I hate seeing the Tricksters down in the muck with Simmons and Stanley.

    I admire your choice to stick with just reviewing the music, but for me the nasty back story taints everything Cheap Trick does now.

  2. It's a fun record, but on a whole I think I enjoyed Bun E Carlos' first solo album Greetings from Bunezuela more. It's a shame that Cheap Trick and Bun parted on a sour note. He might have helped Bang Zoom Crazy a little bit more.