After the disappointing sales of ‘Busted’, Cheap Trick left Epic Records and later signed a multi-album deal with Warner Brothers. The were under contract for 10 albums. Warner Brothers had high hopes for the band. Those hopes got the band a massive producer with the great Ted Templeman. Thanks to Ted, the album had a much heavier sound with way more guitar and way less keyboards. I couldn’t be happier with that idea.
The album was released on March 4, 1994 but didn’t sell like the label would’ve liked. The biggest reason was lack of promotion as the two reps that signed Cheap Trick had both been fired prior to release and as a result, the lack of promotion. Well duh, how can the label blame the band. I guess it doesn’t matter whose fault because the label dropped the band after one album. I guess that 10 album deal wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. The boys must have been very disheartened after that. Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen, Tom Peterrson and Bun E. Carlos were now 12 albums in to their career and now no label.
The band used a lot of outside writers again and some really big names like Jim Peterik, Michael Mcdonald, Mark Spiro, Terry Reid, Todd Cerney and Julian Raymond. The album also featured something different on the cover, the Cheap Trick logo was changed and the normal font was no more. The cover was also scary as hell as it had some clown molesting a woman or whatever he was about to do to her. Not the most flattering and I am missing the normal Robin & Tom on the front and Rick and Bun E. on the back.
The album kicks off with “My Gang” which is one of the most rocking songs to kick off their albums in years. Based on this alone, I am already thinking that Cheap Trick has found their footing again. This is a pure power pop throwback to earlier Trick, but maybe even heavier. The guitar work on this one is incredible and one of Nielsen’s best performances in years. The energy of the band sounds fresh and revitalized.
The title track, “Woke Up With a Monster” started as a jam session during sound check that turned in to this incredible song. Who hasn’t gone to bed with an angel only to wake up with a monster. Booze will do that to you!! Tom’s bass is the driving groove on this one. I love the slowed down feel in the vocal deliver to rock out in the chorus. Bun E.’s drums a grooving and Rick’s guitar is soaring throughout with Robin just laying down those lyrics so effortlessly. This is a fun track.
“You’re All I Wanna Do” is written by Nielsen, Zander and Petersson as expected but they added the great Jim Peterik, Julian Raymond and Terry Reid. With that many hands in the pot, it has to be good…right? This is a perfect little radio-friendly track and was the second single, but with no promotion from the label, it died on the vine. Which is a shame as it is a great power-pop song like from the old days (even if it doesn’t have a guitar solo). It reminds of Trick of old and after the last set of albums, I’ll take that any day.
Next is “Never Run Out of Love” written by Nielsen and Peterik. It is a slower tempo-ed track, almost ballad level. It is a little dull and doesn’t really seem to find its footings. After the superb first three tracks, it is a tough trio to follow.
“Didn’t Know I Had It” takes is right back to the punch and the good times feel of the first three tracks. It is a song that has the power pop elements, a little Beatles influence and carries you through bobbing your head and singing along. The song is about a guy that lost his girl and regrets it. Bun E.’s drumming is really good here, especially on the bridge and Robin sounds as great as ever. A great little track.
Next up is “Ride the Pony” which is the strangest track on the album. It is like nothing else on the album. It has a dance groove/beat and Robin doesn’t sing so much as speak evil-like. There is a lot of electronica on the song as well. I am not sure what they were thinking, but I loved it. There is an almost INXS vibe. This was supposed to be on Robin’s solo album, but the producer didn’t like it. Ted Templeman, however, loved it and had them record it. Sometimes, strange is good.
“Girlfriends” takes us back to the rocking sound we are used to hearing. It is a welcoming sound after that short detour. This was another soundcheck song that Ted liked and had them explore it more. Nielsen’s guitar work to open it up is great and a highlight of the song. Bun E. and Tom are laying down a great little groove and Robin is showcasing those ever perfect vocals. It’s lyrics are a little humorous which makes it fun, but it is that Rick guitar solo that seals the deal. He has had a couple great ones on this album and I am glad to hear that.
The next track, “Let Her Go” has an interesting thing written in the writer box, it says “Publishers still pending” next to Nielsen and Nick Graham’s names as there was a dispute with Procol Harum’s Keith Reid on who helped write the song. The song was for Robin’s solo album as well and never used. It is an okay track, but doesn’t feel like a Cheap Trick song either. Rick’s guitar work is the saving grace for me.
“Tell Me Everything” everything slows things back down with an almost “Can’t Stop Falling In Love” vibe to it if you had to compare it to anything. It is the better of the slower, ballad like songs on the album. Robin sings it with some great emotion and you can feel the lyrics. This is a great radio song, but it is 1994 and the ballad is dead (or at least on life support) so it was never promoted.
Up next is a dirty little blues song “Cry Baby” with a Jimmie Wood on harmonica. It is not what you’d expect from Cheap Trick and not sure I am in to it as Trick isn’t a blues rock band…they are power pop. I don’t mean they can’t try new things, but it just doesn’t fit with anything else on the album. Plus, Robin’s vocals don’t lend itself to a blues sound…they are too clean and awesome.
The album ends with “Love Me For A Minute”…man, I wish all women felt that way (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). But seriously, the song is a rocking track with some heavy bass and a ton of percussion and not just drums. More great guitar work by Nielsen and Zander attacks the song vocally. It is another unusual track, but I like the change on this one. There is a lot going on and makes for an interesting listen.
- My Gang – Keeper
- Woke Up With A Monster – Keeper
- You’re All I Wanna Do – Keeper
- Never Run Out of Love – Delete
- Didn’t Know I Had It – Keeper
- Ride the Pony – Keeper
- Girlfriends – Keeper
- Let Her Go – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- Tell Me Everything – Keeper
- Cry Baby – Delete
- Love Me For A Minute – Keeper
The Track Score is 9.5 out of 11 Tracks or 86%. This is the first album in a while that I have thoroughly enjoyed and only a few missteps. Being 1994, you would have thought they would’ve gone darker like the grunge era was defined, but they didn’t. They might have had a harder edge at time, but underneath it all, it is still Cheap Trick. Ted helped pull out of them some great songs like only Ted can do. He kept them focused and brought a little life back to the band despite the overall disappointing sales that is no thanks to the label as it definitely wasn’t the music. My Overall Score is a 4.0 out of 5.0 Stars. If you missed this one, go back and check it out as you are missing some solid Cheap Trick here.
UP NEXT: “SEX, AMERICA, CHEAPT TRICK” (1994) – BOX SET
The Cheap Trick Collection Series:
- Cheap Trick (1977)
- In Color (1977)
- Heaven Tonight (1978)
- Cheap Trick at Budokan (1978)
- Dream Police (1979)
- Found All The Parts (1980)
- All Shook Up (1980)
- One On One (1982)
- Next Position Please (1983)
- Standing on the Edge (1985)
- “Tonight It’s You” (1985) – 7″ Single (Bonus Edition)
- “Mighty Wings” (1986) – 7″ Single (Bonus Edition)
- The Doctor (1986)
- Lap Of Luxury (1988)
- “The Flame” (1988) – 7″ Single (Bonus Edition)
- “Ghost Town” (1988) – CD Single Promo (Bonus Edition)
- Busted (1990)
- Woke Up With A Monster (1994)