Cheap Trick • We’re All Alright
The Cheap Trick you see above is the Cheap Trick I know like the back of my hand. It’s the Cheap Trick I have loved ever since the day I formed my first band and my co-conspirator — Steve, who could play guitar while I only talked about it — announced the first song we would be adding to our repetoire was going to be Dream Police. For all my love of music back in 1984, Cheap Trick were largely a band sitting on the ‘to be read’ pile and Dream Police is a tough song to get your head around if you’re not in love with it already. In hindsight, there are many easier songs in Cheap Trick’s early catalogue we could have chosen. Maybe he was testing me. If so, it was a good test because that was the day I became a singer (for real) instead of (fake) guitarist.
That brush with Dream Police could have set me back forever. It would have been so very simple to walk away and denounce Cheap Trick as null and void in my book but I went the other way. I took away his complete eight album collection — for Steve was nothing if not a serious collector — and studied them hard.
They were peculiar looking to say the least. Two cool looking guys up front was a given, however, they were accompanied by a guitarist with a strange array of toys and a drummer who looked like he would be more comfortable behind a desk writing up a police report detailing a bear attack somewhere in North Dakota. It seemed like a joke and yet… these guys could play. Not just play their instruments, but were in serious command of them. This was my first lesson in rock n roll:
Cheap Trick were dangerous because I had underestimated what they were capable of. Their back catalogue wiped the floor with my face.
A few years later, I was knee deep in more music than I knew was possible and Cheap Trick delivered their most commercial and accessible album to date: Lap Of Luxury. It’s an album that doesn’t put a foot wrong and I still grind it out as one of my favourite driving albums. Robin Zander is flawless up front on the mic. Rick Nielsen is absolutely in charge of his guitars. Nothing is getting past Bun E. Carlos at the back there and most importantly for me were the talents of Tom Petersson. I’m not much of a bass-afficiando unless we’re talking funk but Tom is different. Without Tom (and as is perhaps torchlit by the few albums he didn’t appear on), Cheap Trick lose their groove.
Having established my love of the band, let’s fast forward to more recent memory. Any new album is a good album when in comes to Cheap Trick but last year they released Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello and it was fucking wonderful. This week, they released We’re All Alright and that’s fucking wonderful too.
What’s pretty much unreported in the world of rock, is that Cheap Trick are seeing something of a creative rebirth. Maybe they’re too uncool to write about with gusto. Maybe they’re old news. Maybe nobody is listening anyway. Maybe it’s cooler to point a finger at the quirky antics of Fall Out Boy than at the father figures. Who knows.
I know. If you’re consuming music via what you’re fed via viral adverts instead of making some time to listen with those things that stick out on the side of your head, you may as well stick yourself back in front of MTV twenty years after it became irrelevant.
Unlike many bands a few years down the line, Cheap Trick appear to have wanted to make this album because they still have something to contribute. I’m a huge Kiss fan (to the core) but Kiss haven’t put a Kiss album out since 1977. There’s a lot of songs and albums I can buy into as a fan but actual Kiss albums as we wanted them? 1977. I can say the same of Aerosmith. The last great Aerosmith album for me was Draw The Line — which also happened to be 1977. Such is not the case with Cheap Trick.
Cheap Trick have consistently released Albums Of Value and never failed me with their enthusiasm for The Song. As I sit here today (with nobody really knowing why Bun E. Carlos is not in the band at the moment, but he is really) this is one fantastic sounding group. We’re All Alright sounds like Cheap Trick mean serious business. Hell, they’re starting to sound like they did in the 70s again and are coming out swinging with Big Gloves Loaded With Horseshoes to remind those who may have forgotten. Coming so soon on the back of last years Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello, the future looks full of gift horses strapped to a sleigh.
Time has taken its toll on Zander’s voice for the better. It rasps a little where it used to soar but the range is intact and it’s given the band a rougher edge that I really like because I’ve grown older with them. You can hear it on Like A Fly. And Tom? He’s still doing the thing I need him to do. He’s the stage that Rick stands on throughout Radio Lover and the cover of Roy Wood’s Blackberry Way. But I’m not going to spend a whole review sectioning the band into their component parts when this is one group of guys who are anything but.
Cheap Trick. Perhaps the only rock n roll band left in the world who matter — and we’re all alright with that.