Friday, January 09, 2009

Cheap Trick - Cheap Trick

During the mid-70’s I was picking up as many records as I could by bands that looked different and interesting and these cats looked about as different as they come! There were two good looking rocker dudes, one cat that looked like an accountant and one guy that appeared to be the archetypal nerd. But as soon as the needle hit the vinyl I knew that I had found something special! I was thrilled to be able to see the band live about this time, as well, and they were unbelievable visually, with guitarist Rick Nielson never standing still for a second! Amazing!

This first record is their rawest and they were uncategorizable to many people – too hard for popsters, too weird for rockers and too polished for the punks partially due to the great 70’s rock production from legendary Jack Douglas. They were initially thrown in with the new wavers mostly because of their image until they hit with “Surrender” and “I Want You to Want Me” and became know as power-poppers.

This begins with one of Rick’s clever titles, “’Elo Kiddies”, introduced by Bun E. Carlos’ martial drums and Nielson’s harmonic yet heavy guitar. Singer Robin Zander was known as the man of a thousand voices due to his range and the variety of feels and personalities that he adds to the songs. Energetic and rockin’ and a helluva an opener!

Tom Petersson’s unique 8 string bass opens up the demented “Daddy Should Have Stayed in High School” with a metallic edge and this becomes a pounding, heavy tale of a dirty old man with excellent lines like “I’m 30 but I feel like 16, I might even know your daddy. I’m dirty but I feel like I’m clean, I might even be your daddy”! Robin sounds like the sicko that Rick creates in this tune, but I’m sure that many girls would have consented to this pretty boy’s madness, anyway!

A dark guitar line creates the evil feel their “Taxman, Mr. Thief” (nothing to do with George Harrison’s “Taxman”, though Rick references the Beatles in the lyrics). The chorus comes in much more upbeat and poppy and overall this is an amazingly crafted tune. A head banging beat propels “Cry, Cry”, a song of rejection filled with power chords and melody, showcasing Zander’s range once again.

One reason that this record might not have resonated with the record buying public is its violent subject matter. “Oh, Candy” is a song about depression, drug abuse and suicide. Not exactly top forty fodder in the 70’s! Damn good song, though!

A frantic rocker, “Hot Love” is one of their most upbeat tunes ever and is a wild ride that never skimps on the tune! Great playing by Rick throughout, including a intricate bridge where he follows the singer while maintaining the song’s rhythm. Cool stuff!

Petersson again leads into “Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace” with his rhythm bass playing that sounds almost as full as a guitar and is integral to the Cheap Trick sound. Nielson plays an interesting counterpoint piece and Robin still manages to maintain the melody on top of the different musical lines underneath. Engaging writing and when they hit the key change, they power up a bit and end with a cool harmonic bit.

This moves directly into one of their best, the oft-covered and hilarious “He’s a Whote”. Propulsive drums introduce this and the staccato guitar rhythms make this a mover and a shaker! Intense in a fun rockin’ way! They mellow out considerably for the ballad “Mandocello”, named after the acoustic instrument that Rick uses for this number. This still has a steady drum beat and Rick & Tom’s interplay adds to the beauty of Robin’s voice. Lovely!

The finish with another piece of Rick’s twisted mind, “The Ballad of TV Violence”. The slicing rhythm of the guitars competing with the drums make this irresistible in a sick way! Strange little progression with minor chords give it a spooky feel, while constantly moving. Rick was a master of rhythm and even his leads were rhythmic and didn’t always reveal just how good he was/is at his instrument. Robin shouts and growls out the ending as the band implodes on the song! Fantastic!

The CD release has a batch of superb bonus tracks, as well. Supremely heavy guitars and an incessant beat highlights “Lovin’ Money”. Their early take on “I Want You to Want Me” has no piano and is pure guitar rock! Great and too bad that this wasn’t the final version (though it is closer to the hit Budokan version). Speaking of that chart-breaking live album, this has a studio version of “Lookout” which was previously only released as the live version from that record. There is also an earlier take of the great, manic “You’re All Talk” that appeared in a different version on In Color.

The highlight of the bonuses though is the totally demented and almost indescribable “I Dig Go-Go Girls”! This sounds like it was influenced by Sparks, with operatic trills and ever-changing parts. Brilliant and insane!

This record is truly one of the highlights of 70’s rock! Get it if you don’t have it!