Review Summary: A classic album that demands more attention.
Many – both critics and audience – shared the opinion that rock music, which started its rapid and uninhibited development in the second half of the 1960s and exploded with a galaxy of now revered names in the first half of the 70s, began to lose its nerve and energy that made it a part of the counterculture. Due to various reasons, the songs were getting more and more unwieldy and complex inflated by the talents of the creators as well as their egos. Pretentious concepts challenged perception, with the themes drifting into fantastic and ethereal. The king was losing touch with reality and the revolution was inevitable.
It all took shape of a movement with opposite musical values known as punk rock. Topical lyrics and rebellious attitude accompanied with intentionally simple – primitive even – melodies attracted many. New stars appeared in the sky outshining heroes of the past. Sex Pistols
, The Clash
, The Ramones
and others threw away everything they deemed unnecessary, practically going back to the DIY philosophy, and gave teeth back to the toothless bite.
The eponymous debut by Cheap Trick was released in 1977 among the ongoing musical percussions is notable for many of the traits the new generation was trying to return. Although it should be noted the band never attempted to fully follow the evolving ideology, they were driven by similar impulses. Still they were not a part of the young movement despite certain similarities. To tell the truth it is difficult to classify the band’s sound and put them in the correct genre box. The critics label them as part of the thinly populated style of power pop, but what they are is a classic hard rock distilled to the very essence. No more there are protracted and epic solo sections, complex arrangements and fantastic concepts. That place is taken by strong melodies, sparing arrangements and pop hooks.
is a prime example of efficient effectiveness. Just listen to the work of guitarist Rick Nielsen who sounds purposefully simple but there is no doubt in his guitar playing skills. The intro to Daddy Should Have Stayed in High School
reveals his insights into the understanding of “just enough”. A few chords and a couple of notes played using tapping provide enough volume and simple effectiveness but avoiding primitivism. His solos employ the same principle. The rhythm section represented by drummer Bun E. Carlos and bassist Tom Petersson follow that philosophy supporting his partner-in-crime. Vocalist Robin Zander is there with his bandmates displaying his vocal arsenal. He balances between more traditional singing and a kind of snarl on ELO Kiddies
, strains on the edge of a scream on Hot Love
and He’s a Whore
, soulfully croons on Mandocello
(the track is also driven by a great bass riff). All the bandmembers show their professionalism and maturity, realizing that nothing should distract from a song, however it should have enough variety not to get lost. And they do a bang-up job.
That rebellious attitude typical for the time is present in some of the lyrics. How about the abovementioned Daddy Should Have Stayed in High School
, a rocking number sung from a perspective of a pedophile? Or Oh, Candy
which sounds like a love song about a lost partner but is actually about the band’s photographer who ended his own life? Or maybe The Ballad of TV Violence
about serial killer Richard Speck? Still regardless of these more extreme topics one thing you cannot deny – the album has no weak songs. Even the band was confident in its own material and jokingly designated one side of the LP as ‘Side 1’ and the other – as ‘Side A’. And, to be honest, there is no desire to argue with this, because what’s presented on the album is top-grade pop music deserving its place among the classics. It is a pity, though, that this classic is known to a much smaller audience than it deserves.