Friday, August 28, 2009

Cheap Trick Getting Better All the Time

Cheap Trick playing the Beatles playing Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band“This next one is from our new album. It just came out this week, and the song is called ‘Surrender.’”

Recognize that, don’t ya?

I like all sorts of music, tending most often to listen to jazz (from Birth of the Cool through ’70s fusion), funk/R&B, so-called “classic” rock, prog rock (with a special affection for German “Krautrock” of the 70s), various ambient/electronic stuff, and what might be called Beatlesque pop.

Regarding the latter, I chose that adjective “Beatlesque” to distinguish a certain kind of popular music -- that kind with connections to Vaudeville/Tin Pan Alley in which the goal is to create those little three-minute pleasure-producers that often combine sweet melodies and singalong lyrics -- from other chart-topping (i.e., also “popular”) varieties.

The Beatles as Sgt. PepperThe Beatles (about whom I’ve written here more than once) transcended genres, sure, but they are their own genre, too. And I have a soft spot for those bands whose ethos tends toward the “Beatlesque.” Which would include acts like XTC/Dukes of Stratosphear, Robyn Hitchcock, Todd Rundgren/Utopia, Klaatu, Belle and Sebastian, Tears for Fears, the Smithereens, Electric Light Orchestra, and others I’m not remembering at the moment. Even Radiohead or Coldplay could be said to fall into the category now and then. In fact, given the extent of the Beatles’ influence, you could probably take just about any popular act from the ’70s onward and find at least one tune that lands them at least temporarily in the category.

The ’70s, of course, is where that quote from above comes from. 1979, specifically, from the Beatlesque band Cheap Trick’s Live at Budokan.

A couple of years ago I wrote a post here about Cheap Trick praising their early career. I still think their first four studio albums, plus the endlessly fun Live at Budokan, are about as good as it gets when it comes to power pop drawing from both the early (“red album”) and late (“blue album”) Beatles modes.

The irony of Cheap Trick’s career, I suppose, is that when they finally fully acknowledged their “Beatlesque” identity and recruited George Martin -- the Beatles’ producer -- to take the helm on an album (1980’s All Shook Up), they kind of lost their way a bit. Still managed to churn out a few modest pop gems here and there, but never (to me) managed to produce anything quite like the consistently enthralling (and rocking) pop suites of their early records. The rock critic Ira Robbins feels similarly, and has written eloquently in many places (including Cheap Trick liner notes) about the band. Here’s his overview of their career.

Now, thirty-plus years after those early days, Cheap Trick is still kicking. And they’ve returned to acknowledging unashamedly their Beatle-ness. In that post from a couple of years ago, I mentioned how the band had performed in its entirety Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band a few times that year in order to mark the 40th anniversary of the LP. At the end of the post I mentioned how cool it would be to hear the performance. I did end up seeing some YouTube clips of it with so-so sound, but hadn’t really come across a decent audio recording out there.

Now there is one. It just came out this week.

Cheap Trick, 'Sgt. Pepper Live' (2009)A new CD and a DVD of the show have been released, featuring the entire Pepper album, plus a track from the show’s first act when they played non-Pepper Beatles stuff. And it rocks. If you like Cheap Trick and/or the Beatles, pick it up. You won’t be disappointed.

The releases come in time for Cheap Trick’s revival of the Pepper show next month -- in Las Vegas, in fact. I remember all summer hearing the ads for the new performances. There will be nine shows (Sept. 13-15, 17-19 and 21-23) at the Las Vegas Hilton. (More info here.) Wish I could go, but there’s no chance I can escape the “real” life (again) and get over there.

Now that I think about it, the Beatles were pretending to be another band, too, when they did Sgt. Pepper, putting on the costumes and making like they were someone else. Maybe it is this “role-playing” idea that further fascinates me here, since I, too, am so frequently playing a role (as the poker player and reporter, Shamus)? Maybe that’s why I’m digging this new release so much?

Cheap Trick performing 'Sgt. Pepper'Nah. No need for psychological self-scrutiny here. I know why I like Cheap Trick’s Sgt. Pepper Live. Same reason why I like their early records so much.

It kicks ass!

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Blogger Alex said...

I started reading that first sentence and my mind just mentally filled in that little guitar riff that plays when he says it. Takes me back.

8/28/2009 9:48 AM  
Anonymous Laura Faeth said...

I'll be seeing three Sgt. Pepper's shows in Vegas, and happen to have front row seats I need to sell for the 9/21-9/23 shows if anyone is interested. But if you like the Sgt. Pepper's CD/DVD, you must check out Trick's new CD, "The Latest." Lots of strings, and a very "Beatlesque" sound, especially on the song "Miracle." The compilation of songs are quite incredible.

8/28/2009 1:36 PM  
Blogger Short-Stacked Shamus said...

Haha, Alex... reading that again, I hear it, too.

Hey, Laura... I finally got around to picking up The Latest just a week ago -- great stuff! Lots of great hooks in there, and I dig the pull-all-the-stops-power-pop on many of the tracks.

Thanks for the suggestion -- hope you had fun at those shows. (Had a friend in LV with an extra ticket to one, but I couldn't fly out on a day's notice.)

3/16/2010 5:34 PM  

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