We are now to the band’s 16th Studio album. The album was released on June 23, 2009 and only went to #78 on the Billboard Charts and sadly sales only reached 24,000 records as of 2016 which is an absolute shame as this is a hidden gem. The Latest is the last studio album to feature all four members of the original band of Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen, Tom Petersson and Bun E. Carlos. In 2010, Bun E. Carlos stopped touring with the band and it led to him not recording with the band. There were lawsuits back and forth and it was ugly. But that is another discussion for another day.
Cheap Trick really lost their way in the mid to late 80’s and early 90’s. But with ‘Woke Up With a Monster’ up to ‘Rockford’, Cheap Trick was slowly remembering who they were. With ‘The Latest’, the band was back in full form and putting out their best album in years. Cheap Trick was back baby, but sadly, no one knew it. This was the Cheap Trick sound I loved. They band sounded refreshed, rejuvenated and reborn. ‘The Latest’ is the best we’ve seen from them in a very long time.
The version of the album I have is a digipak CD with a fold out cover (as seen below). There was no booklet inside as everything was printed on the reverse sides of the flaps below. One thing cool the band did for this release is they released a version of the album on 8-Track. This was 2009 and 8-Tracks were not a blip on anyone’s radar (except maybe Tim Durling).
The album kicks off with “Sleep Forever” which was written for a friend who had recently died. It is a haunting, mesmerizing piece that is only 1:37 in length yet it shows that Robin Zander’s voice hasn’t aged a bit, only aged like fine wine. The song goes straight in to a Slade cover of the song “When the Lights Are Out” which sees all the members go back to their younger days as this is a glam, power-pop master class on how to have fun. It is bubbly, bouncy and a good time sing-along song that is full of youthful energy.
“Miss Tomorrow” is another cover except it is a cover of a Robin Zander B-Side from his 1993 solo album so is it really a cover…hmmm. This hook-laden song grabs hold and will have that chorus stuck in your head for a long time. The bass on this one is strong and a driving force behind it. Robin delivers a stellar vocal performance backed by a great string arrangement and a band that is throwing no punches. There are some Beatles and Stones references in the lyrics that shout out some of their heroes. Great stuff.
The next track, “Sick Man of Europe”, is named after the band name Rick and Tom had for their band while they were in Europe in the early 70’s, pre-Cheap Trick. If the bass was strong in the prior song, it is king here. Tom goes ballistic on this track as he is balls-to-walls amazing. The song is has all the punk attitude and force you remember from early Trick. It is short and sweet and will get you on your feet!
“These Days” slows the tempo down and brings us a beautiful, graceful ballad. A perfect time to change things up. Robin’s vocals soar as there are some great harmonies and the vocals float around in your head in a spacey, light airy form. So far, the band can do no wrong no matter what style they play or what they throw at us, it is all magical.
Next up is a Beatles style track where Robin does his best Lennon on vocals. It is a little more upbeat than a ballad but on the slower side of rocker. We know the Beatles were a huge influence on them and I love when they go with that style. “Miracle” is a tender and lovely track that finds a place in your heart and takes up residence.
“Everyday You Make Me Crazy” is barely over a minute but what a wallop in packs in that short time. It is a fireball of energy and pounding drums, thumping bass, driving riffs and soaring vocals. It is wam, bam, thank you mam. Fun fact, this song was originally written for a 1995 Pepsi Jingle which is why it is so short, but turned in to a cool track.
The energy bleeds straight in to the sunny, happy “California Girls”, but no the Beach Boys tune. Instead of the surf sound of the Beach Boys this one is drenched in Rockabilly but still feels like Summer. The band hasn’t missed a beat and keep on delivering the goods.
“Everybody Knows” sees Zander pull out one of his best vocal performances as his vocals are lush and symphonic as they soar across the notes. The song has great harmonies and the melodies will get stuck in your head. A deep cut that is worth the wait as it is one of my favorites as it also has the Beatles influences dripping from it.
“Alive” is up next and was taken from a leftover track from ‘Rockford’ called “What’s In It For You” and re-worked here. It has that power pop, punk attitude of early Cheap Trick that we know and love. When the chorus hits you are in it hook, line and sinker. Highlights are the pairing of Carlos on drums and Rick on guitar. They keep the song driving forward and full of energy. A good time is had by all.
If the song had one weak song, I’m not sure I found it yet. “Times of Our Lives” is another glorious pop song with Robin’s every youthful vocals dancing over the lyrics and propelled by Tom’s propulsive bass line. As you’d expect, there is more Beatles influence and I’m still okay with it. Rick even lays down a pretty cool, slide guitar type solo. More good time fun.
The song gently bleeds in to this luscious and glorious ballad, “Closer, The Ballad of Burt And Linda”. Robin’s vocals are angelic with an airy feel that soars full of harmonies against a backdrop of music that is played to perfection by the boys. A ballad that sweeps you up and wraps its arms around you.
The final track oddly is another ballad called “Smile”. It is piano based and showcases Robin’s vocals yet again. It is full of string arrangements, a great bass line and drum beat rhythm section. You would think that ending on two ballads might be bad thing, but somehow it works as it is another glorious song as that chorus is to die for.
- Sleep Forever – Keeper
- When The Lights Are Out (Slade Cover) – Keeper
- Miss Tomorrow – Keeper
- Sick Man of Europe – Keeper
- These Days – Keeper
- Miracle – Keeper
- Everyday You Make Me Crazy – Keeper
- California Girl – Keeper
- Everybody Knows –Keeper
- Alive – Keeper
- Times of Our Lives – Keeper
- Closer, The Ballad of Burt and Linda – Keeper
- Smile – Keeper
The Track Score is 13 out of 13 Tracks or 100%. The moment I put this on and played it the first time, I had a smile on my face from beginning to end. I threw it on for my drive to work and the next I knew I was at the office and didn’t remember the drive, only this album playing gloriously in my ear. The band sounds like they were teenagers with a unmeasured maturity beyond their years. The songs flow so perfectly together and have the perfect track placements regardless of the two ballads at the end. It is all magical and just works. It is by far the best album in years, but is it their best album? We will have to see come the album rankings. However, My Overall Score is easily a 5.0 out of 5.0 Stars as I wouldn’t skip anything and just let it play over and over. I loved it from the first note to the last.
UP NEXT: ‘THE EPIC ARCHIVE VOL. 1 (1975-1979)’ (2015)
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)
- Cheap Trick at Budokan: The Complete Concert (1998)
- Music For Hangovers (1999)
- Special One (2003)
- Rockford (2006)
- The Latest (2009)