“The Latest” Cheap Trick

(Barefoot) Justine's review of Cheap Trick's "The Latest"

(Barefoot) Justine’s review of Cheap Trick’s “The Latest”

Above… that’s pretty much my review of “The Latest” from Cheap Trick, their 2009 album.

Like opening your window for the first time in the spring, “The Latest” is a breezy blessing. With “The Latest,” Cheap Trick really lets their Beatle flag fly… though at half mast. The album is peppered with subtle evocations of George Harrison. It seems the lads were reeling from his loss. Of course, Lennon’s spirit pops up more than once, and I am hoping they catch up and recognize McCartney’s influence and brilliance before they have to do it posthumously–though McCartney’s immortal… right?

“Breezy” I say? Yep, breezy (but never shallow). The stuff has a sweeping Wilbury sound at moments, full of life, more than a hint of loss, and a lot of fun. Nope, this isn’t growling metallic Pop peppered with Punk, not by a long shot, but if you don’t need to impose the limitation of your expectations on Cheap Trick, and if you are willing to take the band on their own terms… and if you simply love heartfelt and sincere songs… then this album won’t disappoint.

There’s a distinctly modern freshness to the production. It’s a big and lively sound, and full of enchanting melodies, classic harmonies and sweet punchy riffs, like the very best of ultra-modern retro pop. In fact, upon second listening, it might be one of the very best examples of ultra-modern retro-pop I’ve ever heard. No, it doesn’t sound like classic Cheap Trick… thank God. Oh… don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Cheap Trick’s old stuff, but I’m just as excited to hear them spread their wings and fly into this territory as well. It’s nice to watch artists age and maintain their energy as well as maintain their playfulness. “The Latest” is an album that is not only looking for something fresh… but has ultimately managed to find it.

Face it, they’re older, which doesn’t mean the guys can’t still tear it up (I just saw them live at Silver Springs… heavy and loud as ever), but this album reflects a very mature in-the-NOW attitude that I found easy to embrace.

I’ve only made it through the album twice so far, so my commentary is rather more a first impression than an in-depth analysis, but so far the songs that grabbed me right away have been, “Miss Tomorrow,” “California Girl, and “Everybody Knows.” The third track, “Miss Tomorrow” delighted me immediately, it was love at first sight, and the best part was that as I listened to the rest of the album… the promises made by “Miss Tomorrow” were paid off in full.

As I finished listening to this album I realized how much I’d love to be invited to the next band picnic. I don’t know if Cheap Trick have picnics (ever been to a band picnic? I have, they’re a blast!), but if they did, I can imagine the cloudless Florida sky, plenty of shade, and the food and laughs would be warm and lovely. And what a blast it would be to toss a frisbee while this album blared away from the picnic shelter… and I don’t know why… but I have this strange feeling Robin Zander might just be one helluva softball player. Alas (sigh), until the band invites me to their next picnic… I guess I’ll just have to open my windows, let the breeze in, and let some of this music out while I daydream.

All in all the album is life affirming and joyful. I am so delighted these guys haven’t sunk to going “darker,” because, frankly, right now, the last thing I or anyone needs is more of that shit. I’d just like to say, good job, guys, you made it for me, right there under the reigning Gods, the Beatles, Wings and Badfinger, I’m gonna save a place for Cheap Trick!

“The Latest” won’t take you back to 1977… but it sure as heck takes the sting out of 2014 (and took the sting out of 2009 as well).

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