Cheap Trick, The Latest

Published on July 30th, 2009 in: Current Faves, Issues, Music, Music Reviews, Reviews |

By Less Lee Moore

I haven’t bought a new Cheap Trick album since their 1997 self-titled release on the then soon-to-be-defunct Red Ant label. Now that I’ve copped to this embarrassing admission, the next one should be easier. I hate writing record reviews. That old chestnut comparing the ridiculousness of music writing to “dancing about architecture” worms its way into my brain and I start to panic. Panic turns to dread as deadlines quickly approach.

Look, it’s not that I don’t love the latest release from Cheap Trick (cleverly titled The Latest), it’s that I don’t know if I can properly convey how much I love it, or perhaps more succinctly, I don’t know if I can convince you to love it as much as I do.

cheap trick the latest

I’m not going to waste your time with pathetic clich├ęs like “return to form” in this review. Besides, as any half-decent Cheap Trick fan knows, that phrase is meaningless. What form of Cheap Trick are we talking about, anyway? The mid-’70s post-punky version? Perhaps the hook-heavy radio-friendly incarnation? What about the eighties power pop stuff?

The Latest
is definitely, definitively a Cheap Trick album, but more than that, it’s a love letter to all their influences: Elvis, The Move, ELO, and the biggest of all, The Beatles. The other Fab Four are name checked and frequently referenced in lyrical and musical form. “Times Of Our Lives” is transcendent in its beauty whilst mimicking John Lennon’s vocals from “She’s Leaving Home,” perhaps inspired by the band’s recent live performances of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band at the Hollywood Bowl. In fact, the entire album is infused with the dreamy psychedelia of that album.

And as any half-decent Cheap Trick fan also knows, the band specifically loves John Lennon, and has included covers of his “Working Class Hero” and “Cold Turkey” in their live sets for years. (Rick Nielsen and Bun E. Carlos even played on Lennon’s Double Fantasy album.) So it shouldn’t be a surprise that the gorgeous “Miracle” nicks a guitar riff from “Mind Games” or that in songs like “These Days” or “Everybody Knows” it might be difficult to discern where Cheap Trick ends and Lennon begins.

But of course, it wouldn’t be a Cheap Trick album without their own cheeky style of self-reflexivity, something they’ve been doing since (at least) Dream Police. There’s the slow, echoe-y fade in of “Sleep Forever,” which sounds like the swells at the beginning of All Shook Up‘s “Can’t Stop The Music” (and this could count as a double reference since that album was produced by George Martin). They even work bits from “Elo Kiddies” into their excellent cover of Slade’s “When The Lights Are Out,” which manages to out-glam the original. “Sick Man Of Europe” pays homage to the pre-Robin Zander incarnation of the band, one which employed Nazz vocalist Robert “Stewkey” Antoni (This ain’t the Nazz/it’s self preservation).

It also wouldn’t be a Cheap Trick album without killer riffs from perennial manchild and lead guitarist Nielsen. The sizzling “California Girl” (a reworked version of “Bad Little Girl” from 1997’s Scotty Moore tribute album), “Everyday You Make Me Crazy,” and “Sick Man Of Europe” are excellent examples of this, but my personal favorite is “Alive,” where Zander’s vocals absolutely gleam they are so freaking platinum. I am in love with the screaming chorus, the electronic violins, and the chord changes, and every time I hear it I think I just died and went to heaven tonight. I cannot get enough of it.

And there, amidst the clouds and angels, the miraculous, otherworldly “Closer, The Ballad of Burt and Linda” will be playing. It’s three gorgeous minutes of perfection, the kind that only Cheap Trick can create. (If anything, the song is too short, but that just gives me an excuse to listen to it a hundred more times.) True to their twisted hearts, the song was inspired by a real-life tale of obsession, i.e., the relationship between Burt and Linda Pugach. Here is where the album reaches its Cheap Trickiest apex, referencing the band’s own song “Ballad of TV Violence” (about Richard Speck) and pop culture depravity. I love this band so much I could just cry.

The next (and last) song, “Smile” is a ballad, but before you go rolling your eyes with memories of the cheesy, and non-Cheap Trick-penned “The Flame,” remember that Cheap Trick actually did write “World’s Greatest Lover,” “Voices,” and “If You Want My Love,” three of the most wonderful songs I’ve ever heard. “Smile” fits snugly next to those with its touching lyrics and beautiful vocals, not to mention a lovely and unique ending. So I guess writing record reviews isn’t all bad: it does give me the opportunity to gush about the ones I love.

In my world, Cheap Trick is one of the greatest bands of all time, but in my world there is no Lady GaGa, so I’m not exactly in tune with the zeitgeist. (Although I think the ascent of the Cheap Trick zeitgeist is long overdue.) Whatever the case, I cannot stress enough how much I love Robin Zander’s sexy, flexible vocals, Rick Nielsen’s genius guitar work, Bun E. Carlos’s laconic yet powerful drumming, and of course, Tom Petersson’s singular, muscular bass playing. In fact, Cheap Trick is frequently referred to as a band comprised of two hotties and two dorks, but which two are the hotties and which two are the dorks. . . and why can’t they be both? Think on that for a while, but not too long; The Latest is waiting for you to love it.

The Latest is available directly from the band’s website. Cheap Trick is also currently touring with Def Leppard; their next show is on August 7 in Raleigh, NC. For all the latest tour dates and loads of information about America’s hardest working band, please check the Official Cheap Trick website.

18 Responses to “Cheap Trick, The Latest

  1. Popshifter » Turn On The Video: Cheap Trick On YouTube:
    July 30th, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    […] Popshifter » Cheap Trick, The Latest Says: July 30th, 2009 at 10:22 pm […]

  2. Laura Faeth:
    July 31st, 2009 at 12:48 am

    Awesome review! This is a CD which many people will probably never hear, but fans know how incredible it is. Thanks for writing such a great synopsis, and gushing about Cheap Trick and their music.

  3. Mike Hayes:
    July 31st, 2009 at 2:54 am

    Excellent review of an excellent album. A commendation too for the great production, courtesy of Julian Raymond.

  4. Popshifter:
    July 31st, 2009 at 8:31 am

    Laura: Thanks and you’re welcome. I can gush about Cheap Trick anytime!

    Mike: Glad you like it. And I agree about the great production! Julian Raymond was in a band I loved as a teen and I never imagined he’d work with CT one day. Good stuff!


  5. Flowerchild:
    July 31st, 2009 at 11:35 am

    This has been the best review of “The Latest” so far. Les Lee Moore “gets it”…she (making an assumption here) understands Cheap Trick down to their musical nuances. This is just one of the reasons why I love Cheap Trick so much. They are brilliant.

  6. Popshifter:
    July 31st, 2009 at 11:38 am

    Thank you so much!


  7. Diana Forsea:
    July 31st, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    Really enjoyed reading your review. Liked that you wrote it as a fan.

  8. Hoodoo Man:
    July 31st, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    LLM, very nice review. I’ve followed CT for so long that they are like my family. I get mad when they are criticized and come to their defense. So it’s hard for me to be objective, but I really try. Your review echoes a lot of my feelings. I would recommend that you check out Special One and Rockford (albums between CT ’97 and The Latest). They are very good as well. This will heal your guilty conscience!

  9. Rev. Syung Myung Me:
    August 1st, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    I’m kinda in the same interesting boat; I’m much more at home reviewing books/comics than music — which is odd, but I guess makes sense, as books are in the same FORM as the review. Music is so much more… somethin’.

  10. Jade Alexandrea:
    August 2nd, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    Great review. You definately speak truth!

  11. Michael W:
    August 3rd, 2009 at 8:07 am

    Excellent look at CT’s best album since Dream Police. I know how you feel about having too much love to express it in a regular review … but you manage to convey the love, and a wise examination of the record.

  12. Popshifter:
    August 3rd, 2009 at 10:53 am

    Thanks for the compliments everyone!


  13. Shaggy:
    August 3rd, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    Outstanding review…couldn’t agree more!! Thank you.

  14. Brad West:
    August 9th, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    What a great review. Nothing else to say. Well done–

  15. Popshifter » Tinted Windows, S/T:
    November 23rd, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    […] Popshifter » Cheap Trick, The Latest Says: November 23rd, 2009 at 1:38 pm […]

  16. Danny R. Phillips:
    January 8th, 2010 at 9:53 am

    great review. for someone that hates writing record reviews (I personally love it. Cutting egos down to size, giving love to lesser known bands that deserve it) this review is topnotch. If I see Rick or Bun E. in the men’s room at the Ameristar Casino (I’m writing up their KC stop on March 5th… JOY!) I’ll try to get you an autograph. I’ll let them wash their hands first though.

  17. Popshifter:
    January 8th, 2010 at 9:54 am

    HAHA! Thanks, Danny!


  18. Popshifter » Accept No Substitutes: Cheap Trick In Toronto:
    February 5th, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    […] band played several songs from their excellent new album, The Latest; the hits we all know, love, and expect; and a few surprises, like the underrated […]

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