It has been seven years since Cheap Trick’s last studio album. A lot has happened. They did release a live album here or there and the three volume set of The Epic Archives, but the biggest change was with the line-up. Bun E. Carlos decided to stop recording and touring and as a result, the band pushed him to the side or moved on without him, however you want to look at it. There were lawsuits back and forth and in the end all was settled. Bun E. Carlos wasn’t in the band anymore, but he was still a part of it. In 2015, he helped write the liner notes for all three of The Epic Archive albums. But when it came to the 17th studio album, ‘Bang, Zoom, Crazy…Hello!’, Bun E. Carlos was not to be found.
Instead new drummer, Daxx Nielsen, was part of the band. Hmm…that last name sounds familiar. Oh, that’s right, he is the son of guitarists Rick Nielsen. It was the first studio album of their career without Bun E. Carlos and it was the first studio album for the band with a major label in 20 years and that label was Big Machine. When the album was released on April 1, 2016 the album went to #31 on the Billboard Charts and was their highest charting album since 1988’s ‘Lap of Luxury’. Don’t worry that it dropped of the chart in a couple weeks…oh well.
Several days after the release of the album on April 8, 2016, Cheap Trick was inducted in to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. A massive honor and so not unexpected as they definitely deserve o be there.
My version of the record is on vinyl. It is the U.S. pressing, single LP and a gatefold. The lyrics and credits were on the inner gatefold and the album sleeves were basic white paper with nothing on them. Pretty cheap. But it does sound fantastic and that is all that really matters. And speaking of sound, let us get to the music since that is what you are here for anyway, right!
The album opens with the fist pumping “Heart On The Line” which takes you back to the Cheap Trick power pop sound of old. It sounds fresh with some great Nielsen riffs and drum beats as well as Zander sings as youthful as he sounded when he was youthful. It makes a statement that Cheap Trick has still got it.
Then with “No Direction Home” we see they have found a formula that works, but the only difference is some modern elements are brought in to make them relevant still today. The Rick Riff and guitar on this one is so familiar and comforting like a warm blanket. It makes it instantly a favorite.
“When I Wake Up Tomorrow” brings a darker, more moody styled song and Zander does some of his best Bowie vibes he can muster. The rhythm section on this one is also a standout as Tom and Daxx seem to have found the groove. Easy to see why this was a single as it is fresh sounding and one of the best things they’ve done in years. Pure brilliance.
Next up is an old-school rocker with “Do You Believe Me?” as song they could play in their sleep and would actually fit nicely next to songs like “She’s Tight”. Rick lays down a wicked solo at the end of the song and it is not like one he’s done before. He really digs deep for this one. Cheap Trick has no use reinventing the wheel, they just play what they do best.
And the final track on Side 1 sees the band shake things up a bit with “Blood Red Lips” which is really a T-Rex, glam styled track full of hand claps, intoxicating energy and simple plain fun. You will be singing right along by the end of the song and then most likely continue to at least hum when it is over and you’ve moved on.
Side Two kicks off with “Sing My Blues Away” is toned down a little and is more of Robin highlight as he is more prominent here and seems to be the focus. It is a decent track, more paint-by-numbers than anything earth shattering new.
The band takes it up a notch with “Roll Me” which is a pure rocker and maybe heaviest song on the album. There is an urgency with the tempo, there is that old punk attitude and while it feels like old Cheap Trick it is still new at the same time. The highlight is more of that Rick guitar playing and Daxx does have some great drum fills on this one as well.
Like almost all Cheap Trick albums, we get a cover and this time around it is the Dobie Gray song “The In Crowd” and they turn it in to a rocker, but there is a droning beat that doesn’t take it to the levels it could reach. There is more fine guitar riffing by Rick and Robin brings soulful vocal performance, however, there is something missing even if ever so slightly.
“Long Time No See Ya” is a high energy rocker that puts the power in power pop. After coming off the prior song, it is a welcome slap in the face and even brings back the synths, but you know what, they are a perfectly welcomed addition. This song is hooky, contagious, sort of disco and everything you want in a good time had by all song.
The band brings some New Wave elements in to “The Sun Never Sets” and this time we get a shining performance from Mr. Petersson as the bass is strong on this one. Even though there is some new wave elements, it still could pass for a more modern song in the same vein as the Foo Fighters…yeah, you heard me right!
The final track is “All Strung Out” and they go out with a bang. It is full of harmonies and Daxx is pounding away at the skins. It is like a lot of this album, a fun-filled rocking flavored treat! You can’t ask for more!
- Heart on the Line – Keeper
- No Direction Home – Keeper
- When I Wake Up Tomorrow – Keeper
- Do You Believe Me? – Keeper
- Blood Red Lips – Keeper
- Sing My Blues Away – Keeper (1/2 Point)
- Roll Me – Keeper
- The In Crowd – Delete
- Long Time No See Ya – Keeper
- The Sun Never Sets – Keeper
- All Strung Out – Keeper
The Track Score is 9.5 out of 11 Tracks or 86%. The album is a blast, a fun-filled rocking set of songs that take you back to the good ol’ days of Cheap Trick. The band seems to have found their groove again and stuck to a formula that is welcome and now expected to keep the old fans interested. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it kind of thing. However, as much as I enjoy the album, and I do enjoy it, it still doesn’t have all the heart and soul of the early band albums. It could be Bun E. being gone, but I think it is that stuff was just so good. Either way, this is great as well on its own. My Overall Score is a 4.0 out of 5.0 Stars and if you haven’t found your way back to listening to Cheap Trick again, this is one you should pick up to fall in love with them all over again.
UP NEXT: ‘WE’RE ALL ALRIGHT!’ (2017)
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)
- The Epic Archive, Vol. 1 (1975-1979) (2015)
- The Epic Archive, Vol. 2 (1980-1983) (2015)
- The Epic Archive, Vol. 3 (1984-1990) (2015)
- Bang, Zoom, Crazy…Hello (2016)