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Bringing back home

Cheap Trick - Rockford
(Big3 Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: June 6, 2006
Cheap Trick

Review by Tony Bonyata

Three decades after their inception, and a good number of spotty albums since, Cheap Trick have returned to the high-energy power-pop that originally made them stars back in the late '70s with their latest album aptly titled Rockford (after the Illinois town where they first formed back in 1973). Their albums from that period (the 1977 self-titled debut and In Color from the same year, along with 1978's Heaven Tonight and Dream Police from the following year) were textbooks of Midwestern pop rock that would go onto influence a wealth of other bands, most notably '90s alt-rockers The Smashing Pumpkins.
Rockford features all four original bandmembers - Robin Zander (vocal / guitar), Rick Nielson (guitar), Tom Peterson (bass) and Bun E. Carlos (drums) - who, instead of revisiting the middle-of-the-road rock and sappy power ballads that dominated the majority of their '80s efforts, successfully incorporate the whip-smart pop hooks,  Beatle-esque harmonies and unbridled energy that made their earliest efforts so exciting.
Musically the band is back in fine form once again and firing on all cylinders - from Neilson's buzz-saw guitar ("Deaf") to Zander's commanding pipes (on the hard-rocking "Come On Come On Come On" and catchy first single from the album "Perfect Stranger") to the sugar-buzzed power-pop anthems ("Give It Away," "If It Takes A Lifetime" and the opening track "Welcome To The World"). Even when the threat of the dreaded power ballad threatens to rear its ugly head, as on "Every Night and Every Day," the band has thankfully upped the ante with melodic Beatle sensibilities and a cocky urgent rhythm section from the backline of Peterson and Carlos. Even the lo-fi simplicity of "O Claire" sounds as if could have come straight from Paul McCartney's 1970 self-titled solo album.
What makes Cheap Trick's latest album so appealing is that instead of merely mimicking the sound that made them stars, they've taken all the key ingredients and have created a record that continues where some of their strongest work left off. I guess you can go home, after all.

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