BLUES OR ILLUSION – Have Cheap Trick Still Got The Magic?

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Neatly timed to coincide with their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Bang Zoom Crazy…. Hello? is the Illinois veterans’ 17th album.

Described by songwriter Rick Nielsen as an attempt to get back to their roots, it bears all the hallmarks of a classic Cheap Trick recording.

It’s loud, fast, slick and shot through with Nielsen’s trademark guitar pyrotechnics – the sound of a band firmly in their comfort zone and having a good time with each other.

And therein lies the problem – this album feels like it came too easily – a jam session rather than a finely tuned masterpiece.

Opening songs Heart On The LineNo Direction and When I wake Up Tomorrow come and go pleasantly enough, but are instantly forgettable.

Do You Believe Me is better, big meaty chords and a squalling squiggly solo that’s enough to have indie purists running screaming from the room.

As the album develops it’s clear that Cheap Track are not so much hearkening back to their ’70s heyday, as teleporting back wholeheartedly to the Glam Rock era.

Blood Red Lips is a ballroom stomper that sounds like Sweet by way of Marc Bolan and their cover of Dobie Gray‘s In Crowd bears more than a passing resemblance to Bryan Ferry’s 1974 version.

There’s another rollicking guitar solo on Roll Me, but as with so much of the album, Robin Zander‘s full-throated vocals can’t disguise the borderline embarrassing lyrics.

Lines like ‘I got some trouble tonight/Got a woman to squeeze me tight’ are not what you’d call Academy of American Poets material.

It seems churlish to chide musicians with a 40-year career for not trying to reinvent the wheel, but the overwhelming impression you get from this album is of a band on cruise control.

That’s not to say it’s a disaster, there’s plenty for fans to enjoy here, and the album finishes strongly with The Who-like psychedelia of The Sun Never Sets and grungy All Strung Out, perhaps the only song to namecheck both Patsy Cline and Courtney Love.

All in all this album is like going a bar to see a band that sound a lot like Cheap Trick,  you just wish they’d tried a bit harder to get the real thing.

* Bang Zoom Crazy… Hello? is out now through Big Machine Records from iTunes on this link and Amazon.com here

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