This year is poised to be a banner one for Cheap Trick—or at least, that’s how it’s been planned. The arena-ready power-pop pioneers from Rockford, Illinois are very deservedly being inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame on April 8, ideally alongside estranged drummer Bun E. Carlos, who has been feuding with—and suing—his former bandmates since his kinda-sorta departure in 2010 (though Carlos is still listed as a member of Cheap Trick, guitarist Rick Nielsen’s son Daxx now plays drums). Inner turmoil aside, the band’s 2016 also includes the release of its first full-length since 2009’s The Latest.
A ceremonious introduction to the band’s induction, Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello—a schlocky title that’s so wholeheartedly Cheap Trick it eventually turns brilliant—features swings at the kind of big-riff, mutant-guitar rock and near-falsetto, multi-layered vocal melodies that have long been a part of the band’s 40-year repertoire. In fact, frontman Robin Zander has been trumpeting the record as a return to the vintage ’70s-era sound of the first four Cheap Trick albums (Cheap Trick; In Color; Heaven Tonight; Dream Police). A ballsy comparison, really, seeing that those canonical albums represent the band at its most spirited and bold—with the first three in particular paving a path to Budokan. Still, on a track like opener “Heart On The Line,” which is girded by a classic, power-pop-flavored chorus and complemented by a jagged, punched-in Nielsen lick, Cheap Trick shows more than a glimmer of its unique tough-but-playful swagger (which has long been epitomized by the members’ self-aware caricatures).
And so goes the rest of Bang. Tucked behind, in front, and on the side of a watered-down, overwrought alt-rock track like “When I Wake Up Tomorrow”—come on, no one wants to see Rick Nielsen brood—are flashes of sharp power-pop songwriting. Sure, that comes more in spurts than in fully realized songs, but it’s refreshing that a band now on its 17th album (and one that still road-dogs like its members are in their 20s) can summon a glammy swing from decades past (“Blood Red Lips”), as well as orchestrate stadium-seating anthems without making them sound for a second like they’re paint-by-numbers (“No Direction Home,” “Strung Out”).
If you’re a fan of guitar rock, loving Cheap Trick is very important, and though today the band occasionally sounds a little too calculated and studio-glamorous, as opposed to high-voltage and live—and though there’s currently no Bun E., an important note—its staunch resolve about living the rock-and-roll life (album, tour, album, tour, repeat) and parlaying a mega sound into a decades-spanning career should provide reason enough to bow down.