Let’s see if I get this right. Two albums earlier with ‘Busted’, Cheap Trick leaves their label Epic Records. They then get signed with Warner Brothers and release “Woke Up With A Monster” and then the label drops them. The band finds an indie label called Red Ant Records to release their new album on April 29, 1997, the self titled, ‘Cheap Trick’, only to be label-less again after Red Ant goes bankrupt a mere 3 weeks after the release causing it to only go to #99 with the lack of promotion. The poor guys are having some major issues.
Now, that doesn’t mean the new album is not any good. It just didn’t get the full promotion it deserved from a financially strapped label. The album, ‘Cheap Trick’, was a fresh start. A starting over. A time to re-introduce the band to a brand new generation of kids, thus having the album self-titled like they did with their debut album. This was a band getting back to their roots and remembering who Cheap Trick were. This was the beginning all over again.
What I love about the cover is a play on what the band had done with most of their covers over the years. Their older albums always had Robin Zander and Tom Petersson on the front and Rick Nielsen and Bun E. Carlos would be relegated to the back cover. This time around, Rick & Bun are on the front and Robin and Tom are on the back. However, to switch up, it is the instruments. Well done boys, well done.
And if that wasn’t cool enough, I’ll bet you didn’t know this. When the first song on the CD starts, if you hit pause and then scan backwards, you will get outtakes from the first song. That is freaking cool. If you just push play, song one will start. You have to pause and have an older CD player to be able to scan backwards. Love shit like this!! Already this album is scoring points and we haven’t even gone through the songs yet. Let’s get to it!
The album opens with “Anytime” with some cool drumming from the underrated Bun E. Carlos. Robin’s vocals bring in that first verse and there is a serious, down-to-business tone. When the full band jumps in there is a sound that resonated out of the speakers that let you know The Trick was back. They found their sound…it was rough, raw and harkened back to the old glory days, but a little darker because well this is 1997 and dark is king. It might the heaviest song they’ve done in years and I love it.
“Hard To Tell” is up next and brings back the catchy power pop sound. Tom lays down a cool bass line that is the driving force behind the song. It isn’t layered with that 80’s shitty keyboard and is just the four guys rocking like they used to do so well. It is a fun song full of that old Cheap Trick life and I love Rick’s riffs he sounds he throws in throughout. The song should’ve been a hit.
Then we get “Carnival Game” which makes me think of ELO as it is layered with piano, harmonies and just goes all over the place. It also has that heavy Beatles influence in the old Lennon/McCartney way. This is nothing new for the band as the Beatles have influenced so much of their sound over the years. Rick’s fingers fly on the solo and the band has seemed to find their groove. I am a little warm and cold with this one depending on my mood, but overall it is a keeper.
Then we get a ballad with “Shelter”. It is slowed down and there is no power with this ballad it is the same monotonous rhythm throughout. Robin sounds great, but he is singing softly and the same tone throughout. No build up, no change of any kind. There are elements that this song could be great if they would have changed things up a little. A little boring overall.
Then we get to what might be my favorite song on the album, “You Let A Lotta People Down”. The band is on fire with this as they completely rock out with this one borderline metal with a really dark tone to it. Robin’s vocals aren’t silky smooth, they have an edge like the song itself. The chorus is classic 70’s Cheap Trick and catchy as hell. There is a point with some heavy bass, drums and guitar slam a riff and Robin screaming and it is freaking awesome!!! Might be the best song they’ve done in 15 years.
“Baby No More” is a fast paced, electric, punkish jaunt that has Bun E. slamming the snare and cymbals at 100mph. It will leave you catching your breath as they go at break-neck speed through-out. Rick lays down his most 80’s glam guitar solo as it is killer. The song is short and sweet and leaves you wanting more.
And to keep the party going “Yeah Yeah” is another rocking track. They bring the darker edge to it and Rick lays down a cool riff throughout. Robin’s vocals are heavy and haunting at the same time. I love how it is the 70’s meets the 90’s sounds and it fits. This finds the band refreshed and ready to go.
The very first single off the album, “Say Goodbye”, and it reminds of me of the Beatles (again no surprise there). They even quote the Beatles and Dylan in the lyrics so we know the influences behind this one. It is melodic and Robin sounds fantastic. Not a bad song at all.
Bun E. kicks off followed with some country licks from Rick on “Wrong All Along”. It is another fast-paced track that borders punk, rock and will get you out of your chair and moving on the floor. A complete ball-buster of a track especially when Rick lays down a sweet, sweet guitar solo. And then bam…it is over too quick!!
And we are 10 songs in and they show no signs of slowing down. “Eight Miles Low” is a scorcher and Robin is in rare form as he nails the delivery and the “Scream, dream, scream, dream” pre-chorus is incredible. Their playing is more like a V8 roaring to life with a turbo boost that races through the night roaring down the road. Now, is this my favorite, there are so many good ones.
Then finally we get “It All Comes Back To You” which eases in to another ballad and after a slew of rockers, it is probably needed. Robin sings the verses like it comes out of a radio and the chorus is melodic and silky smooth. It isn’t their best ballad, but it is better than the other one the album. I like the old school vibe to it and it plays nicely and memorable.
- Anytime – Keeper
- Hard to Tell – Keeper
- Carnival Game – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- Shelter – Delete
- You Let A Lotta People Down – Keeper
- Baby No More – Keeper
- Yeah Yeah – Keeper
- Say Goodbye – Keeper
- Wrong All Along – Keeper
- Eight Miles Low – Keeper
- It All Comes Back To You – Keeper
The Track Listing Score is 9.5 out of 11 Tracks or 86% and yes, it is that good. The band has found their way again. They hoped this would be a return to the public eye and a fresh start with a new generation, but the label going bankrupt three weeks after the release of the album didn’t help things at all. As a result, one of their best albums in 15 years went completely unnoticed. Which is a shame because the band sounded rejuvenated, refreshed, excited, focused, determined, hungry and everything you want a band to be. The album had some darker edges and rocked really hard but still has that Beatles influence and that 70’s Cheap Trick vibe when it needed it. This is not a good album for the time, it is one of their best in my humble opinion. I would give it a 4.5 out of 5.0 Stars as Cheap Trick is back!!!
UP NEXT: ‘AT BUDOKAN: THE COMPLETE CONCERT’ (1998)
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)
- Sex, America, Cheap Trick (1996) – Box Set
- “I Want You To Want Me” (Alternate Version) (1996) – 7″ Single (Bonus Edition)
- Cheap Trick (1997)