Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Cheap Trick

  • Cheap Trick [Epic, 1977] B
  • In Color [Epic, 1977] B+
  • Heaven Tonight [Epic, 1978] B+
  • Cheap Trick at Budokan [Epic, 1979] B-
  • Dream Police [Epic, 1979] B-
  • One on One [Epic, 1982] B
  • Lap of Luxury [Epic, 1988] C
  • Busted [Epic, 1990] Dud

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Cheap Trick [Epic, 1977]
I like their looks--two pretty-boys balanced off by two ugly-guys--and have no objection to their sound, which recalls the Aerosmith of Rocks. Nor am I shocked that they're not as powerful as the Aerosmith of Rocks, Jack Douglas or no Jack Douglas. But given their harmony singing you think they'd try and be more melodic. Sign of smarts: the way the phrase "any time at all" hooks "He's a Whore." B

In Color [Epic, 1977]
Nowadays, punk makes it possible to resist hard rock so slickly textured, but with these guys why bother? They don't waste a cut, and permit none of the stupidity or showiness or sentimentality of postheavy and/or postboogie professionalism, either. If only they seemed interested in their well-crafted say-nothing lyrics. B+

Heaven Tonight [Epic, 1978]
When I gave the weak side a final spin, I was quite surprised to recognize four hooks with pleasure. The strong side begins with a wonderfully funny parents song and includes a sarcastic ditty about suicide. Am I to conclude that I'm once again seduced by this power-tooled hard rock product? Guess so. B+

Cheap Trick at Budokan [Epic, 1979]
The second side almost works as a best-of, but I'd wait for the studio job--despite the Japanese applause track, this was obviously recorded in the Big Room at Carlsbad Caverns. Arrangements are gratifyingly tight--ten titles on a single disc--but six of them are also available (even tighter) on In Color. Also: "Ain't That a Shame," the intro of which ought to give pause to those who consider Rick Nielsen an innovative guitar player as opposed to showman; a throwaway collaboration with Tom Petersson; a nice Move ripoff; and "Surrender." B-

Dream Police [Epic, 1979]
What's always saved this band for me was the jokes, but this time they're just not in the grooves, and there's only so much you can do with funny hats on the cover. A good heavy metal band, sure--be thankful for the fast tempos. But probably not a great heavy metal band. And you know what happens to good heavy metal bands long about the fifth album. B-

One on One [Epic, 1982]
Yeah, I'd written them off too--until I heard "If You Want My Love" once and immediately made it twice, after which it went on automatic replay in my head for forty-eight hours. The most eloquently eclectic Beatle tribute ever recorded, it sets the tone of this one-of-a-kind arena-rock band's raw, ersatz tug of war, and though Rick Nielsen's Lennonesque tunes and Robin Zander's McCartneyesque screams do grate (and not against each other), I'll take it cut for cut over Paul's sweet, authentic one. Inspirational Sex Rant: "I wanna live in your body." B

Lap of Luxury [Epic, 1988]
Having floundered imitating themselves, they come back imitating Journey. Or is that Richard Marx? Billy Squier? C

Busted [Epic, 1990] Dud

Further Notes:

Everything Rocks and Nothing Ever Dies [1990s]