Cheap Trick’s first studio album in seven years opens with feedback and static that is offensive enough to announce that they play on their own terms—but it doesn’t last too long that it alienates fans of their brand.
The noise sets the tone nicely for the songs that follow, as the band miraculously manage to stay raw and relevant nearly four decades after their legendary Budokan live album.
While Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello features a number of lyrical and musical phrases that might be derided as inexcusable clichés in the hands of others, the immediacy with which they are delivered emphasizes the fact that Cheap Trick are their originators. Lead singer Robin Zander even samples some of his own lyrics from 40 years past; but rather than coming across as lazy, the self-sampling confirms their legacy, while serving as an aural couch on which long-term fans may take a momentary respite from a lot of more modern music which sometimes seems tired in comparison.
The track listing on Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello represents some of Cheap Trick’s most consistent work of the past three decades. The strongest tracks on this record are “Heart on the Line,” “When I Wake Up Tomorrow,” “Do You Believe Me?,” “Blood Red Lips,” “Long Time No See Ya,” “The Sun Never Sets,” and the album closer, “I’d Give it Up.”
In brief, approximately half of the songs on this album shine brightly as standout tracks. “Heart on the Line” starts like the Stone Temple Pilots, then develops into a chorus that hints at The Beatles, before seamlessly bringing it all back to a classic Cheap Trick vibe. “I’d Give it All Up” rocks with a swinging dirty sexiness this band invented decades ago, while delivering it with increased efficiency. The only hint at slightly straying from the purity of their essence may be found in track three, the single “When I Wake Up Tomorrow,” which some critics have likened to latter-day David Bowie.
In terms of musicianship, Zander has lost none of the strength and finesse in his voice, and Rick Nielsen’s guitar playing is as delightfully raunchy as it ever has been. Bassist Tom Petersson’s phrasing and rhythm are as reliable as ever. The one possible bone of contention for long-term fans may be that this is the first studio album to not feature founding drummer Bun E. Carlos. Replacing him behind the kit is guitarist Rick Nielsen’s son Daxx, who, while holding true to the original drummer’s feel, also adds the slightest spice of modernity and youth to this veteran rock band.
With an album like this, Cheap Trick prove to be one of the best hopes that a ’70s band can remain true to themselves while staying fresh enough to be relevant.
Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello out now.