Credit to Cheap Trick for sticking to first principles. Sure, they’ve shifted an impressive 20 million albums since dropping their debut in 1977, and come a long way from Elo Kiddies, the power pop masterpiece In Color and fruity songs about serial killers, paedophiles and swinging parents, but their cult status remains intact. It doesn’t seem feasible that they’re now operating in their sixth decade and yet still retain all their enthusiasm for Slade, The MC5, AC/DC and Aerosmith. Rock is their DNA.
Their 18th studio affair picks up where 2016’s Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello left off. The opening You Got It Going On indicates they know their core following. It’s a raucous ‘let’s get this party started’ thrash with a metal attack not unlike Rival Sons. But whereas the Sons legitimately dig for buried treasure, the Trick drew the map in the first place.
The disc is full of knowing references to past heroes: the single Long Time Coming kicks into gear on a Kinks riff before laying down the manifesto: put me on the tour bus, get me on the plane. The rampant desire to get out and make a tasty racket is no bad thing and they top it up with Nowhere, a piece that recalls The Move when they ditched the light and went into darker places.
Radio Lover, a homage to David Bowie, enhances that mood, though it predates his death. Like everything here, it bears the hallmark of a rock’n’roll education. But that doesn’t make them dinosaurs: they know what PledgeMusic is.
The energy levels are astounding too, with producer Julian Raymond extracting a sonic attack that makes Rick Nielsen, Robin Zander, Tom Petersson and Daxx Nielsen sound like they’ve been locked in an industrial hangar with a bunch of AK-47s. In that regard, Brand New Name is an exhausting listen. Once they’ve given you back your ears, Floating Down is almost pastoral, structured on highstrung acoustics and a folky backdrop. The Bob Dylan-inspired She’s Alright is also relatively tranquil, its jolly hoedown filtered through a Tom Petty mesh.
The title aside, a nod to classic Surrender, the Trick still wear their art on their sleeve. The Beatlesy The Rest Of My Life is a trip into the subconscious and it’s the one time things get weird, thanks to creepy backwards SFX and slivers of strings dotting a disjointed bass line. As for Listen To Me, that’s been their mantra since way back when Hello There raised the roof.
For old time’s sake they even cover Roy Wood’s Blackberry Way and give it the full psych-freak treatment, before dusting down a few Who tropes on Like A Fly and making for the exit via the grown-up rock of If You Still Want My Love.
Play it loud and bugger the neighbours.