Cheap Trick: The Latest

A new offering from the Trick, one of America’s most venerable rock ‘n’ roll institutions, is always something to be celebrated – and I’m pleased to report that The Latest is no exception. From the moment that dreamy, elegiac prelude ‘Sleep Forever’ gives way to the catchy talk-box riff of ‘Miss Tomorrow’, an energetic and eclectic melange of quickfire classics, bearing all the hallmarks of this unique rock ‘n’ roll phenomenon, is unleashed upon the ears of the grateful listener.

Hearing the opening tracks for the first time, I was struck afresh by what a sensational singer Robin Zander is (and always has been); the wonderful clarity of his voice, and his unerring gift for imparting a kind of urgent emotional vitality to his audience – whether in concert or on record – are as powerfully in evidence as ever. ‘Miss Tomorrow’, dating back to the early nineties, is a perfect slice of power pop which will embed itself in your consciousness by the second chorus, and it is followed by a positively punky romp entitled ‘Sick Man of Europe’, on which Tom Petersson’s bass snarls like the ghost of John Entwistle in a particularly foul mood. The band’s sixties roots come further to the fore on the late Beatles-esque ballad ‘Miracle’, and the psychedelic, Procul Harum-inspired ‘Everybody Knows’. Another ballad, ‘These Days’, meanwhile, has an affinity with mature Bon Jovi that reaches far beyond the title – indeed, it’s not hard to picture Jon Bon sitting at home cursing the fact that someone else wrote and recorded a gem that would feverishly have been lapped up by his own fans. Closing cut ‘Smile’ is even better – uplifting in the best sense of the word, and surely destined to remain a fan favourite for a long time.

If the album poses one concern, it is the extent to which the plethora of synths, swirling strings and hi-tech effects might tend to overwhelm the band’s hard rock roots; The Latest is certainly light, for instance, on guitar solos (a notable exception being the inspired, characteristically idiosyncratic break that Rick Nielsen provides on ‘Times of Our Lives’). Fortunately, the band’s songwriting instincts are so impeccable, and the pacing of the set so astute, that this is never really an issue. Cheap Trick’s melodic sensibilities invariably shine through, and the pomp-laden ballads are shrewdly balanced with blistering infusions of high-octane rock ‘n’ roll like the aforementioned ‘Sick Man’. Best of all, in this regard, is the utterly joyous, purely guitar-driven, twelve bar workout ‘California Girl’, a three minute wonder that would surely serve as a spectacular final encore on special nights.

All in all, then, another triumph for the boys from Illinois. Believe it, people – Cheap Trick are back. And they want you to want them.

NB. This review was of the Classic Rock edition of the album, which omitted When the Lights are Out, the second track on the full release. Kinda funny, in that, as stated above, I thought the transition from Sleep Forever to Miss Tomorrow was wonderfully effective!

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