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Music Review: Cheap Trick – The Latest

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While it’s never all-too-fascinating to watch musicians age physically, it’s always interesting to hear them age musically. A good example would be Cheap Trick, the Midwestern rock group that struck it big with a very Grease-like ditty called “I Want You To Want Me.”

It may come as a bit of surprise to some of you, but Cheap Trick actually did have other hits as well. But, with its catchy blend of oldies rock (then known as classic rock) fused with modern rock (which is now known as classic rock), “I Want You To Want Me” wound up becoming a staple with every easy-going FM radio station across America (and a few other countries as well) – and the band has been collecting royalties from it for over thirty years.

So anyway, here we are in the year 2009 and Cheap Trick are still at it with The Latest. Despite their share of setbacks in the past (i.e. the entire duration of the 1980s, during which time the band seemed to have an identity crisis), it’s fairly obvious, even at first listen, that Cheap Trick’s members (Robin Zander, Tom Petersson, Rick Nielsen and Bun E. Carlos) have aged…musically. That’s a good thing, by the way. Well, at least it is in my eyes.

The album begins with a rather lymphatic vocal tune, entitled “Sleep Forever.” This 1 ½-minute snoozer is more-or-less the lead-in for a much livelier track, “When The Lights Are Out,” a delightful cover of the Slade song first released in 1974. Slade, incidentally, was the inspiration for Cheap Trick’s name: When Petersson and Co. went to see the UK band live, he commented that they used “every cheap trick in the book” as part of their act. And, so, I guess it’s only fitting that a Slade track adorns The Latest.

While most of the album has that familiar “Rock Ballad” feel about it (which is a common thing among aging rockers), The Latest still manages to combine the simplistic sounds of oldies rock-n-roll with the resonating styles of today. In the end, The Latest manages to make a mark. Granted, it’s not the same kind of mark they would have left in the ‘70s, but it’s certainly better than the mark they left us with in the ‘80s. They at least know who they are now.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.