I can’t believe we are already on the band’s 8th studio album. We are slap dab in the middle of the 80’s and Cheap Trick were still going, but I wouldn’t say they were still going strong. I say that because for this album, the band did something that hand’t done much of prior. They had a song doctor come in and help with the songwriting process. This was becoming very common back in the day. The song doctor was Mark Radice and he has 8 co-writes on the album which I feel is a little disappointing. Has the band lost its edge?
The line-up was consistent as we still have Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen, Bun E. Carlos and Jon Brant who is the newest member and he has some writing credits on this album as well. That part I like as it is great to see him now contributing to the creative aspect of the band. The band brought back a familiar face to produce the album, Jack Douglas. If you follow this site at all recently that name will sound familiar as not only has he produced prior Cheap Trick albums, he has also produced many of Aerosmith’s best albums which we have reviewed in the Aerosmith Collection Series we are also doing here at 2 Loud 2 Old. Big connection between the bands.
The band worked on the album during 1984 and 1985 and it finally saw its release on July 19, 1985. The album ended up not sounding like the album intended by Jack Douglas because he was unable to mix the album. Due to some legal complications he was having with another artist (Yoko Ono), he couldn’t mix it so Tony Platt was brought in. Tony didn’t have Jack’s vision of a harder, rawer sounding album, but instead went with the sound of the 80’s and added some keyboards and drum machines much to the dislike of Bun E. As a result, I think we get an album that doesn’t have the edge, the pizazz that we needed from Cheap Trick. The band ended up only releasing one single off the album and it didn’t even crack the Top 40. Cheap Trick were starting to be forgotten.
It had gotten so bad, Cheap Trick was having to open for bands rather than be headliners. They opened for acts such as REO Speedwagon and Heart. They were being outsold and left behind by bands that were no where near the level of Cheap Trick once was. It was a tough time for the band. I wonder with a title like “Standing on the Edge”, is that how they felt. Things were going well and they were on the edge getting ready to either fall over the cliff or make it back to the top. We know now it wasn’t back to the top.
But what about the music? Let’s go through track by track to see what Cheap Trick brought to the table and see why they weren’t out in front anymore.
The album opens with an old school rocker that harkens back to early Cheap Trick. “Little Sister” was penned by Nielsen and is a fun, fast paced and frenzied power pop track that gets you moving and excited about what was to come. It seems almost like it was out of control and it gets a little repetitive towards the end, but still a great opening track.
Then they go in to the only single and hit on the album, “Tonight It’s You”. There is no doubt this is the best song on the album. It is a little jangly and very heavily Beatles influenced. It might be Robin’s best vocal performance on the album as well. The minute you hear it, you know it is heads & shoulders above anything else on the album. The keyboards on here are used to perfection and not overblown with noises. The song is part power ballad and part power pop and full on magic.
“She’s Got Motion” and I’m not sure what we have here It is full on 80’s with the synths and not in a good way. It has a catchy chorus and a lot of energy and sounds like it should be fun, but it is dated and not the Cheap Trick we know and love. I blame this on the mix because the extra keyboards and fake horns and electronic drum sounds are over-the-top. I am not sure the band is even on this song.
Then we get a really awful attempt at a ballad, “Love Comes”. What the fuck is with the keyboards. Those keys are played by the song doctor Mark Radice and he isn’t helping things. The song isn’t really that bad…ok, yeah it is. It is plain awful. Robin sounds like a sick puppy crying out for help. There is nothing memorable about it at all. I’m sorry, what song were we talking about. This song was re-recorded by Robin for his solo album and it is so, so much better there.
After two duds, we get a nice return to form with “How About You”. It is another fun, uptempo pop song that might even lean towards rock. It brings me back to a good mood after the last two tracks. The chorus is catchy and Nielsen has some nice guitar moments plus a great guitar solo that helps make the song a little better. Brant’s bass is prevalent in this one as well and in fact everyone is good on this because I can hear the band. Finally Bun E. gets some real drumming in.
Side 2 kicks off with the title track, “Standing on the Edge”. It opens with Robin doing more spoken vocals before the song kicks in with a lot of keyboards which are a little annoying, but only a little. The chorus is the highlight as it is bombastic and memorable. The verses are a little sluggish and I am not sure I care for Robin’s vocal deliver as it isn’t much singing. Okay, I started out liking this but I think I’ve talked myself out of it. It became annoying quick.
“This Time Around” has that classic Cheap Trick sound with the heavy Beatles influence. There are a lot of “aahs aahs” at the beginning and the Robin starts singing. The chorus is the saving grace with this one. Robin sounds really good and he is back to full on sining. The song is a little cheesy, but sometimes I like cheesy. It has an atmospheric vibe to it as well which feels a little like you are flying through the song. One of the shinier moments on the back half of the album.
An ode to Spinal Tap is up next with “Rock All Night”. And yes, it is full on Spinal Tap full of rock cliches and has the band going all metal on us. This change in direction is needed. It isn’t a great song by any means, but it is a good time had by all type of song and it is needed for this album. It is a great chance for Rick to flex some of his guitar chops which I don’t think they do enough of with him.
“Cover Girl” brings them back to the world that is really Cheap Trick. It is a very poppy song and has a very catchy chorus. However, it is a little generic and derivative of their earlier work and it is really 80’s sounding. Nothing really special, but not terrible either. There is a little fun to it and I don’t think I’d skip it.
The album ends, not soon enough, with “Wild Wild Women”. It is another rocker and I swear that guitar riff is from “Slow Ride” by Foghat. It sounds very familiar. And so does the song, familiar like every other band out there is doing. Nothing special about this one either. An album that started with a roar has ended with a whimper.
- Little Sister – Keeper
- Tonight It’s You – Keeper
- She’s Got Motion – Delete
- Love Comes – Delete
- How About You – Keeper
- Standing On the Edge – Delete
- This Time Around – Keeper
- Rock All Night – Keeper
- Cover Girl – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- Wild Wild Women – Delete
The Track Score is 5.5 out of 10 or 55%. Yes, I think it is that bad. There is no heart in this album at all. Yes, it does have one of their best songs with “Tonight It’s You”, but outside of that there is nothing up to the level of previous albums. Jack Douglas might have had a vision of a much rawer and edgier Cheap Trick, but Tony Platt’s mix and Mark Radice’s song writing and keyboards really wimped it out and lost any passion or even Cheap Trick out of it. It sounds a little dated and it sounds like an album that won’t get pulled out very ofter. My Overall Score is a wimpy 2.5 out of 5.0 Stars. Cheap Trick is better than this.