“Mama never told me there’d be days like this / It all started out with a little kiss.”
The first lines off of Cheap Trick’s latest album, Bang, Zoom, Crazy…Hello, much like the title, speak to the nature of the album as a whole. Cruising on the basslines, with a kiss of its past, Cheap Trick starts with a bang on “Heart On The Line,” which dusts off the boots of the aged pop-guitar champions. Zooming about, creating new sounds foreign to Cheap Trick, the album leads to an end that sees listeners right to the door. As the band prepares to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, this album seems to say, “Hello, Cheap Trick is here.”
Bang, Zoom, Crazy…Hello is the first album in the history of the band without iconic cigarette-smoking drummer Bun E. Carlos. After a lawsuit stipulating his removal, the band replaced him with Daxx Nielsen, son of guitarist Rick Nielsen. Though Carlos is still officially a member of the band, he is not allowed to contribute to the recording process or play on tour. His absence had caused some fans to wonder if the album would lose some of the quintessential Cheap Trick flavor it garnered with Carlos behind the kit. Bang, Zoom, Crazy…Hello would suggest Cheap Trick can make do without him, and delve into new musical territory.
After the bumping beats and guitar shredding of “Heart On The Line” fade away, “No Direction Home” offers up a decidedly different feel. The uppity track is a simple and unchallenging piece, but it leaves a lasting impression of fun and mounting excitement. It seems a very inoffensive radio song that encapsulates catchy movement and flow.
“When I Wake Up Tomorrow” is a song unlike any other Cheap Trick song. As many of the older bands enter into their later years, it is interesting to see it adopt similar elements and strike resoundingly similar tones. “When I Wake Up Tomorrow” is tonally similar to much of David Bowie’s final album, Blackstar. Its darker lyrics—“Please be here when I wake up tomorrow”—and equally somber, simple chord progression make this song stand out on the album as such.
“Long Time No See Ya” and “The Sun Never Sets” have upbeat rhythms that exude a more fast-paced feel, erring on the side of rock rather than pop. “The Sun Never Sets” feels like the album’s rock ballad, as its catchy chorus and elevated harmonies bring the song into a full and gripping sound. These kinds of differences see Cheap Trick showing more signs of speeding up its music rather than slowing down.
These kinds of fast pieces use Robin Zander’s more aged and worn vocals in a more nuanced and sleek way. This creates music that fits the style of the voice, effectively elevating its strengths and hiding its weaknesses.
Songs that show more variety and distinction from the rest of Cheap Trick’s discography are “Do You Believe Me?” and “All Strung Out.” Each brandishes its own types of guitar rips and riffs courtesy of Rick Nielsen. “Blood Red Lips” offers up another fun and safe chord progression and infectious chorus, again sounding markedly different from the rest of Cheap Trick’s repertoire.
On a slower note, “Sing My Blues Away” showcases Zander’s vocals more heavily and offers up, arguably, the most interesting lyrics of the album (“It’s a long way home in the dark”). It is an emphatic bluesy rock melody that will demand multiple listens as it washes over listeners. The backing lyrics are a high point and perfectly complement Zander’s drawling voice.
Bang, Zoom, Crazy…Hello is a safe album, but this does not detract at all from its overall effect, because it’s masterfully executed at the hands of a band whose work spans over four decades. As Cheap Trick looks to the future, it looks not like an aged, dying group, but a continually evolving one. This album, as testament, proves Cheap Trick will not become stale, but will rather pump freshness and variety into the air waves. For fans of the band, the changes may seem strange. But hey, Cheap Trick has always seemed a little weird.
Featured Image By Big Machine Records