Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Cheap Trick

Released 1977 on CBS
Reviewed by Le Samourai, 15/11/2000ce

Cheap Trick’s lead guitarist Rick Nielsen is one sick puppy. His band cranks out some of the sweetest yet heaviest post Beatles pop rock (2nd only to maybe The Raspberries) known to man (and we are talkin’ POP Rock here not Hard Rock or Metal or any of their mutations) and what kind of lyrics does he write here?! Lyrics about Fathers cruising the high school looking for young girls (not their daughters if you know what I mean)(“Daddy
Should Stayed In High School”), guys talking to dead girls (“Oh Candy”), male prostitutes bragging about their latest (elderly?) catch (“He’s A Whore”) and a public endorsement to actually skip going to school and perhaps take up bank robbing (?) because of the threat of Nuclear War (“Elo Kiddies”.) All sung (con mucho gusto by Robin Zander) behind some of the best Beatlesque/Glam
Rock amalgam riffing you’re ever likely to hear.

Sounds like a sick, twisted cousin of Oasis don’t it? I think the Trick are more closer to Slade myself but I almost wouldn’t hold the Oasis comparision against ya. Hell, if Noel Gallagher was a little sicker (or at least intentionally funnier) in the lyrics department MAYBE they’d come close. Cheap Trick’s ‘77 debut was and still is a stunner. The opener “Elo Kiddies” pounds at you relentlessly just like a mutant half breed of “Rock N’ Roll Pt. 2” except the lyrics are waaaaaayyyyyyyy more clever and more
humorously black (always a good thing.) Rick Nielsen’s guitar playing through all the songs here is just demented. “Cry, Cry” is a great little glam strutter but the opening guitar sounds like it came from a Nebula from the other side of the universe marching towards you ready to grind you brains in. One wonders what the original “Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace” sounds like compared to the 10 ton Mack truck cover version Nielsen and
his fellow Tricksters display here. “He’s A Whore” is a slightly Punk-ish stop-start machine gun riff (and was made even more insane when fellow Illinois natives and Indie Rock upstarts Big Black covered it later.) And if that’s still not enough “Mandocello” is an absolutley beautiful ballad but Nielsen still maintains that heavy breathin’ Glam Rock rhythm behind it.

And just like Oasis one wonders what any of the Beatles would think if they heard it. Would they be embarrassed, proud or both? “Taxman, Mr. Thief” name checks their “Taxman” while bitchin’ even harder than the Fab 4 did about tax collection. Even more surreal, Zander gives one of the all-time great Lennon imitations on “The Ballad Of T.V. Violence (I’m Not The Only Boy.)”

And wouldn’t you know engineer supremo Jack Douglas (who also worked with Lennon) is behind the board for production duties on this one? Jack Douglas is a great and occasionally maligned engineer/producer. Most of the people I know who are Rock history buffs will usually only admit his greatness on 2 projects. 1. Engineering the New York Dolls debut and 2. producing and engineering classic Aerosmith discs like Toys In The Attic, Rocks and Draw The Line. Other than that they usually tell me he ruined Patti Smith’s Radio Ethiopia (I still say that’s not his fault) and gave Cheap Trick a “thin” sound on their debut (compared to the fatter, warmer production on future
classic Trick discs courtesy of Tom Werman.) However, I still say Douglas earned his keep here. I don’t know how Douglas could’ve made “Elo Kiddies” stomp any harder or the entire disc rock better. Sure, we all know that their 2nd album In Color is the TRUE classic in Cheap Trick’s canon (thanks partly to Tom Werman’s knob twiddling) but Douglas and the Trick here create a gem of uncanny and darkly comedic quality.

BEWARE! There are now 2 “self titled” records by Cheap Trick. One was made a few years back and features a guitar on the cover. The cover for the classic one from ‘77 features a Black & White “Police Line Up” type photo of the band, so get that one!

IMPORTANT NOTE:PLEASE buy the new CD re-issue of this debut recently released by Epic/Legacy. This version is even more of a juicy piece of head candy due to the quality remastering and the warped whimsy of the 5 bonus tracks included. One, an early demo of “I Want You
To Want Me” is the true link between Rockabilly and Glam.
Another, “I Dig Go-Go Girls” just might be the sickest yet
funniest thing they’ve ever recorded.

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