Cheap Trick: Bang Zoom Crazy … Hello

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Cheap Trick
Bang Zoom Crazy … Hello
(Big Machine)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Occasionally there is critical blowback regarding acts chosen — or even nominated — to enter the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It’s safe to say though that is nearly impossible concerning Cheap Trick’s 2016 induction. The original Rockford, Illinois quartet has been consistently grinding out their hardnosed rock, power pop and punky psychedelia since around 1975. And even if founding drummer Bun E. Carlos isn’t aboard for the first time on this, the band’s 17th release (replaced by guitarist Rick Nielsen’s son Daxx), Bang Zoom Crazy … Hello is another solid entry into a catalog that began with their somewhat inauspicious 1977 debut. 

Over four decades into a career that boasts more than 20 million record sales and 40 international gold and platinum discs, not to mention a ton of merch (try to count the different T-shirt designs at a typical Cheap Trick show), the foursome unleash a rugged, uncompromising platter that will satisfy existing fans and might find new ones to add to their cultish following.

Sure, there have been mistakes along the way (“The Flame” anyone?), but Trick has never stopped touring and delivering terrific, hard rocking shows. And they can proudly put any of these eleven new tracks into their existing set list without worrying about losing the crowd’s attention to bathroom songs. Opener “Heart on the Line” is a raucous rocker that’s as sexed up and driving as anything they have done, with a chorus that, like the best CT tunes, hooks you right away. And so it goes for the next ten swaggering selections, any one of which could have come off albums recorded decades ago in their prime. It’s especially exciting to hear a return to glammy The Move roots on “The Sun Never Sets,” a nod to Brit rock influences that reverberates like classic Cheap Trick. Ditto for the Bowie-ish first single “When I Wake Up Tomorrow,” a mid-tempo pumped up ballad that captures a retro feel without feeling labored or contrived.

A few keyboardists are called in to flesh out the groove, but they don’t distract from the core attack. And even if the disc’s only cover of “The In Crowd” isn’t particularly necessary, that’s only a slight misstep considering the overall strength of the material. Better still, the sound crackles and jumps out of the speakers with as much energy, confidence and enthusiasm as Cheap Trick’s initial four archetypal studio albums from 1977-’79.

The releases don’t come as quickly these days (this is the first in five years), and you can’t call this a comeback since the band has never left. But Bang Zoom … is everything anyone would want from the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers at this late stage, and likely far more than even their staunchest fans expected.

Here’s to another 40 years.