Posts Tagged ‘Cheap Trick’

The hooky yet hard-edged, guitar-driven musical style known as power pop didn’t generate spontaneously. There were threads and uprisings—disconnected sounds that later combined into something like a movement—as early as the late ’60s, when some young rock-‘n’-roll fans were already starting to rebel against rock’s increasing pretensions and ponderousness. The impulse that led to power pop was already alive in the network of collectors of obscure ’60s garage-rock singles, and in the creators of the disreputable pop hits classified as “bubblegum.” Some key songs by Badfinger and The Move were power pop before the genre really existed, and once the sound became more viable and widely imitated, it was easier to trace the roots of the genre back to rockabilly, doo-wop, girl groups, and the early records of The Beatles, The Byrds, The Beach Boys and The Kinks, key influences came from British Invasion bands, particularly the Merseybeat sound first popularised by the Beatles and its “jangly guitars, pleasant melodies, immaculate vocal harmonies, and a general air of teenage innocence”.  Bomp! magazine, traced the origins of power pop to the Who and other mod bands such as the Small Facesthe Creation and the Easybeats. 

Pete Townshend, of the English rock band the Who, that coined the term “power pop” in a 1967 interview in which he said: “Power pop is what we play—what the Small Faces used to play, and the kind of pop the Beach Boys played in the days of ‘Fun, Fun, Fun’ which I preferred. The Who’s role in the creation of power pop has been cited by singer-songwriter Eric Carmen of the Raspberries, who has said:

Pete Townshend coined the phrase to define what the Who did. For some reason, it didn’t stick to the Who, but it did stick to these groups that came out in the ’70s that played kind of melodic songs with crunchy guitars and some wild drumming. It just kind of stuck to us like glue, and that was okay with us because the Who were among our highest role models.

“Power Pop” evolved throughout the ’70s and early ’80s, running parallel and sometimes absorbing other trends like glam rock, pub rock, punk, new wave, college rock, and neo-psychedelia. But for the core power-pop sound—the one that came closest to breaking through to the mainstream and challenging ’70s rock radio’s preference for grandiosity the best place to start is with The Raspberries. The Cleveland band’s 1972 single “Go All The Way” (written by lead singer Eric Carmen) is practically a template for everything the genre could be, from the heavy arena-rock hook to the cooing, teenybopper-friendly verses and chorus. The body of the song was The Who; the soul was The Beach Boys. The Raspberries only lasted five years, before breaking up in 1975; and they only recorded four albums, of which only the twin 1972 releases Raspberries and Fresh really fulfill the promise of “Go All The Way.” (The other two albums are good, but skew more to the “power” side of the equation.) Still, The Raspberries’ initial fusion of fist-pumping guitars and sugary melodicism—and the chart success they had at the start inspired young rockers across the Midwest.

While The Raspberries didn’t last long enough or stay true enough to popularize power-pop, the genre’s next big band have had a stronger impact. Cheap Trick, formed in Rockford, Illinois in 1973, were pegged by critics early as one of the great hopes for the survival of American rock ’n’ roll. Less cutesy and more muscular than The Raspberries, Cheap Trick really picked up the post-Beatles mantle of Badfinger, and gave it some middle-American blue-collar beef. The band’s earliest albums were packed with classic, catchy rock anthems like “Southern Girls,” “Come On, Come On,” and “I Want You To Want Me,” but Cheap Trick really started to catch on with 1978’s Heaven Tonight (and its polished almost-a-hit single “Surrender”) and the 1979 live album At Budokan. Cheap Trick spent the next decade as solid sellers, while scoring the occasional chart breakout, but the band warred with its own sound throughout the ’80s, sometimes embracing pop, and sometimes rebranding as a mainstream hard-rock group, complete with power ballads and glammy videos.

The reasons for Cheap Trick’s  crisis may have had something to do with the trouble power pop had catching on—not just with the public, but with the top rock critics of the era, who were frequently distrustful of the genre’s elements of sweetness and simplicity. Even the acts that the critics did embrace often languished in obscurity, as Cheap Trick did in the early going. One of those beloved bands that never could get a break: the Los Angeles trio The Nerves, who were the talk of the West Coast club circuit during their brief lifespan (1974-78), but only recorded one four-song EP in that time, and were eclipsed by the burgeoning L.A. punk scene. That 1976 EP did produce one enduring classic, though: the surging, sweaty pop song “Hanging On The Telephone,” later covered by Blondie.

The writer of “Hanging On The Telephone” was Jack Lee, who turned out to be the one member of The Nerves that didn’t stick long with power pop, or the music business in general. As a solo artist, Lee dabbled in punk and art pop, and wrote one more big song: “Come Back And Stay,” which became a hit for Paul Young. But it was the other band members of the Nerves Paul Collins and Peter Case—who’d leave a more lasting mark on the genre. After The Nerves ended, Collins and Case stuck together as The Breakaways, then split up, with Collins fronting The Beat and Case steering The Plimsouls. Initially, The Beat seemed more likely to break through, given Collins’ clean riffs and snappy rhythms, but instead The Beat became one of a legion of tersely named power-pop bands that landed major label deals in the late ’70s but could never do better than a few regional hits and a smattering of respectful but unenthusiastic three-star reviews. Today, away from the swarm of similar-sounding records.

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The Beat’s first two albums sound a lot fresher and brighter two of the best of their era and genre. As for The Plimsouls, they picked up where The Nerves left off and became one of the hottest bands in L.A., though they couldn’t convert that into record sales until they appeared in the movie Valley Girl in 1983, and subsequently had a small but significant hit with the song “A Million Miles Away.” Peter Case then went solo, abandoning power pop for an early form of alt-country, on a string of critically acclaimed albums.

The Zion, Illinois brother act Shoes followed a different path to commercial oblivion. John and Jeff Murphy—with their friend Gary Klebe and a rotating cast of drummers—barely roused the big-time rock press with their self-recorded, self-pressed 1977 album Black Vinyl Shoes, but they wowed the likes of music press mags Trouser Press and Bomp!, two publications that spoke for the growing number of music fans who weren’t interested in what was on mainstream radio. Black Vinyl Shoes is a special record, at once shabby and stunningly confident, and in 1977 it must’ve seemed to those few who heard it like they’d found a love letter by Wordsworth buried in the county dump. Soon, The Shoes were at the crest of a diffuse wave of Midwestern DIYers, all trading their tinny, lo-fi EPs and 45s through the mail, anyone who already likes Shoes should immediately pursue The Toms, the home-recording project of commercial songwriter/producer Tommy Marolda; his 1979 LP The Toms rivals Black Vinyl Shoes as the most accomplished basement power-pop album of the ’70s.)

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Unlike their contemporaries, Shoes actually signed with a major label, Elektra, and released three albums and an EP that, while slicker than Black Vinyl Shoes, retained that record’s shimmering riffs and dreamy harmonies. But the band lacked the punchy sound and big anthems that could’ve made them the next Cheap Trick, and it didn’t have the performing experience that carried the various members of The Nerves. Beyond their legacy of great music, Shoes’ greatest contribution to power pop was the studio they built, Short Order Recorder, where they’d record some of the next great wave of power poppers, including Material Issue.

Ironically, power pop’s greatest success may have also been the genre’s downfall, commercially and critically. As Cheap Trick was starting to break through, and labels were signing seemingly every clean-cut quartet with a “The” in front of its name, one of the most talked-about bands in Los Angeles was The Knack, led by industry veteran Doug Fieger. The Knack’s energetic live shows were the West Coast equivalent to Studio 54 in New York—everybody who was anybody stopped by to see The Knack if they were in L.A.—and the band’s 1979 debut album Get The Knack was hyped to the skies, and became an instant bestseller on the strength of its insidiously catchy hit single “My Sharona.” But it all started to go sour for The Knack fairly quickly. Critics were annoyed by Capitol Records’ hard sell—exacerbated by the decision to forbid the band from doing interviews—and suddenly some of what had been seen as the virtues of power pop (simple songs, adolescent lyrics about girls) were blasted as moronic and misogynistic. Plus, The Knack’s success on the charts seemed to come at the expense of more worthy punk and new wave acts like The Clash and Elvis Costello. Truth be told, Get The Knack isn’t that great of an album, but it’s likable enough on its own terms, Nevertheless, the damage was done. The Knack waned in popularity quickly, taking the hopes of a power pop ascendancy with it. (The 2004 documentary Getting The Knack is highly recommended for further insights into the band’s rapid rise and fall.)

During that Cheap Trick/Knack heyday, though, a bunch of new bands popped up from the underground, nosing at the charts with some of the era’s best rock singles. Examples include: Detroit’s The Romantics, whose “What I Like About You” remains a clap-along crowd-pleaser, and should’ve been the hit that “My Sharona” was; Berkeley’s The Rubinoos, who followed up their 1977 cover of “I Think We’re Alone Now” with the giddy 1979 song “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” (later famous for being ripped off by Avril Lavigne for her hit “Girlfriend”).

A band from Charlotte’s The Spongetones, whose 1981 single “She Goes Out With Everybody” is the best Merseybeat song ever written and recorded by an American band; and Los Angeles’ Great Buildings, which sprung from the ashes of the artier L.A. band The Quick and should’ve had a monster smash with 1981’s power-pop classic “Hold On To Something.” (This band found some chart justice later when its main members re-formed as The Rembrandts and recorded the theme song to Friends).

Any one of the aforementioned songs could stake a claim as the quintessential power-pop single (as could “Go All The Way,” “A Million Miles Away,” “Southern Girls,”) , but they’d all have to make their case against The Records’ 1978 masterpiece “Starry Eyes,” which has just about everything a power-pop song needs: a brisk beat, a rising lead-guitar lick, punchy chords, tight harmonies, an evocative chorus, and the feeling of being young, in love, and in a speeding convertible. More than most power-pop bands though, the UK-born Records suffered from being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the late ’70s, Great Britain was teeming with musicians making daring, original music, and in that context, The Records seemed practically reactionary, with their old-fashioned hooks and booming sound. Most of The Records’ UK contemporaries found ways to tweak their sound to fit more comfortably with punk and new wave.

The same was true in Australia and New Zealand, which each had thriving scenes built around poppy, guitar-driven music that couldn’t precisely be classified as power pop. That region did produce some bands that recorded some awfully power pop-like songs though, including Melbourne’s The Sports, who sounded like a mix of The Raspberries and Joe Jackson, and Brisbane’s The Riptides, who brought a bright and beachy take on punk. And Sydney’s twang-happy Hoodoo Gurus were responsible for some of the best power-pop songs from a non-power pop band, including the mighty “I Want You Back.”

The reason most rock scholars date the beginning of power-pop to 1972 is because of three album’s  released that year: The Raspberries’ Raspberries; Big Star’s #1 Record, and Todd Rundgren’s, Something/Anything? Emerging from the ’60s Philadelphia band Nazz  either the last of the first wave of American garage-rock acts or the first of the revivalists, depending on where the line gets drawn—Rundgren’s first two solo albums eschewed the Who-like muscle of his old group in favor of the quirkily soulful singer-songwriter music of Laura Nyro. But with Something/Anything?, Rundgren started bringing elements of his rockier sound back, both in uptempo pop songs like “I Saw The Light” and proto-power poppers like “Couldn’t I Just Tell You.” Neither this album nor Rundgren’s discography as a whole is easily pigeonholed as belonging to any one genre. Todd Rundgren experimented with prog, art rock and new wave in the ’70s both on his own and with his band Utopia—and he may be better known for his ballads than his rockers, generally speaking. But Rundgren has remained a fellow traveler to power pop throughout his career, both as a producer for bands like Cheap Trick and XTC, and as a writer/performer of punchy, catchy songs. With Utopia in particular during the first half of the ’80s, Rundgren embraced the genre with a fervor he’d never shown before, and recorded some of his most accessible records. If nothing else, Rundgren set a precedent for the smart singer-songwriter as a viable power-pop offshoot. The acts in the “101” section represent power pop (for the most part) as aggressive and obvious in the best possible way; but there were also artists who were attracted to the jangle and sparkling choruses of power pop, but didn’t necessarily need the bluster.

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The prime example: Dwight Twilley, a Tulsa-born rockabilly fan who moved to Los Angeles, scored a surprise Top 20 hit with The Dwight Twilley Band’s first single, 1975’s “I’m On Fire,” and then spent the rest of the decade trying (and failing) to capitalize. Twilley was hampered by problems with his label, and by his reverb-heavy style, which was a little more pillowy and halting than the rock getting radio play in the late ’70s. But that was radio’s loss. Dwight Twilley is mostly remembered these days, especially in the US, for his hits, Girls and I’m On Fire, They’re fine, but what you really need to hear are his gorgeous first three albums – Sincerely (1976), Twilley Don’t Mind (1977) and Twilley (1978) are all sterling work, with a spacious sound and Beatles-esque hum, anchored by a deep, rootsy beat, and one memorable song after another – because they are jam-packed with wayward pop goodness, with askew productions and hard-to-categorise (but “ethereal rockabilly” comes close) compositions such as Sincerely, TV, Looking for the Magic, Out of My Hands and the dazed, dazzling Baby Let’s Cruise, on which he does an impression of a deranged teen heartthrob. On Spotify you can check out his re-creation of most of the Beatles’ White Album and another collection of Beatles covers in a Magical Mystery Tour-aping sleeve.

But as with Eric Carmen, there is more to him than an ability to faithfully re-create the music of his heroes. He was almost a 50s/60s über-hybrid for the 70s and beyond: he had an uncanny melodic sense, his voice was a Presleyish quaver, and the sonics were often heavy on the Sun Records reverb. Plus, he looked like Jim Morrison (he was rumoured to have been on the shortlist for the main role in Oliver Stone’s the Doors). Twilley could have been a contender, all right.

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Also coming out from Oklahoma Phil Seymour, who was a major contributor to the first two Dwight Twilley Band albums as a vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, and cheerleader. When Seymour went solo, he recorded two self-titled albums that sounded a lot like Twilley’s records, only livelier and more boyish. Phil Seymour also worked with another Tulsa band, 20/20, that arrived in L.A. to try its hand at big-time rock ’n’ roll, and recorded two albums—1979’s 20/20 and 1981’s Look Out! that are favorites of power-pop fans, nicely splitting the difference between Cheap Trick’s chugging blue-collar sound and The Beat’s cleaner-burning version. Twilley and Seymour were also friends and occasional collaborators with Tom Petty, who wasn’t a power-pop guy per se, but who recorded some songs early in his career, like “American Girl,” “Listen To Her Heart,” and “I Need To Know,” that would fit comfortably on any power-pop compilation. (Seymour, recorded the Petty rarity “Surrender” on his second album, and seamlessly so.)

The Paley Brothers are one of the lesser-known acts from this softer, jangly side of power-pop. They recorded one self-titled album, and collaborated with the Ramones on a track for the Rock ’N’ Roll High School soundtrack; then Andy Paley went on to a successful career as a producer and TV- and movie-soundtrack composer.

The singer-songwriter who best melded The Beatles and Buddy Holly was Marshall Crenshaw, whose eponymous 1982 debut is a revelation even 30 years after its original release: a flawless pop album with rich, tuneful songs that could’ve been written by mid-’60s Brill Building veterans, and with a sound that’s shiny, springy, and modern. Marshall Crenshaw wasn’t a big hit, but it did fine, made a slew of critics’ best-of lists, and even landed one song in the Top 40: the peppy rockabilly-informed number “Someday, Someway.” Crenshaw and his label Warner Bros. tried to build on the momentum of the debut with 1983’s Field Day, produced by British wunderkind Steve Lillywhite, who’d previously found sonic depths in guitar-driven acts like U2 and XTC. But Lillywhite’s big sound overwhelmed Crenshaw’s lighter touch, and though Field Day has worn well over time—thanks largely to a set of songs as good as Crenshaw’s first batch—Crenshaw lost a lot of the support he’d gotten just one year earlier. By the time of his third album, 1985’s still-wonderful Downtown, Crenshaw was playing up the twang more, shifting more towards straightforward roots-rock, which is where he’s primarily continued to dwell (though he’s never completely lost his pop sensibility).

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Tommy Keene’s career followed a similar arc to Crenshaw’s. Critics were fairly giddy over Keene’s self-released 1982 LP, Strange Alliance, and his 1984 EP Places That Are Gone, both of which sport yearning lyrics, kicky backbeats, and big jangle. Keene then signed with Geffen Records, which in 1986 released the EP Run Now and the LP Songs From The Film, two records that tightened and boosted Keene’s sound, to remarkable effect. Keene’s songs have a lot in common with the pounding heartland rock that became popular in the age of Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp, but Keene brought more of a ’60s Sunset Strip glimmer to his version. What he couldn’t bring were record sales. Songs From The Film was beloved by those who heard it, but it stalled on the charts, and Keene retreated back to cult-act status

At least Keene got a chance to go national. Nashville’s Bill Lloyd spent the first half of the ’80s trying to make a go of it as a rocker, with his band The December Boys (a nod to Big Star’s power-pop classic “September Gurls”). When he couldn’t break out beyond the regional college-rock scene, Lloyd teamed up with Radney Foster—whom he’d met in the Music City songwriter mills—and as a country duo, Foster And Lloyd had a string of hits on the country charts in the second half of the ’80s. Lloyd then returned to guitar-pop as a solo act, recording several bright, likable records. But it’s too bad that the songs compiled on Lloyd’s solo debut LP, 1987’s Feeling The Elephant, didn’t garner more attention at the time. Lloyd’s “This Very Second,” “It’ll Never Get Better Than This,” “Lisa Anne,” and “Nothing Comes Close” are all the equal of anything by Twilley, Crenshaw, and Keene, and while these songs probably had no better shot at becoming hits than the records of his contemporaries.

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New Jersey’s The Smithereens, whose 1983 EP, Beauty And Sadness, and 1986 LP, Especially For You, took a lot of the ’60s fetishism of power-pop, added a post-punk moodiness, then set the whole shebang to a beat even more walloping than what Lillywhite did to Crenshaw’s Field Day. The difference is that Pat DiNizio’s ’60s-to-’80s pastiches were built for big rooms, and sounded even better when producer Don Dixon who upped the oomph. For that matter, Don Dixon’s own 1985 delightfully poppy solo LP Most Of The Girls Like To Dance But Only Some Of The Boys Like To deserves to be included it’s an eclectic collection of demos that only occasionally draws on the traditional power-pop sound.

In retrospect, the 1972 release of Big Star’s first album—the cheekily titled #1 Record—is one of the major events in rock ’n’ roll history. Former Box Tops singer Alex Chilton joined with Chris Bell, Jody Stephens, and Andy Hummel in Memphis to record an album that was like a ragged shadow to The Raspberries’ polished power-pop debut: a mix of The Kinks and The Velvet Underground instead of The Who and The Beach Boys. While #1 Record drew strong reviews, label woes kept it from reaching a wide audience, and by the end of the ’70s, Big Star had been so marginalized by rock history it’s become emblematic of the cultish, regional side of the genre: bands, scenes, and records that suffered bad luck, even by the standards of a musical style that was rarely widely popular. In the Big Star albums that followed (and in Bell’s posthumously released solo album I Am The Cosmos), Chilton and company delivered some of the most beautiful and transcendent songs in power-pop history, including “September Gurls” and “Thank You Friends.” But they also experimented with dissonance and decay, setting a standard for the artsy, non-commercial side of their chosen sound.

Any survey of the small-time but often-amazing bands that followed Big Star’s example should start in Memphis, the home of two acts that ran in Big Star’s circle. Van Duren was a friend of Chris Bell’s, and recorded the little-heard 1977 album Are You Serious?, which is a remarkable fusion of Big Star, The Raspberries, and Todd Rundgren, relying on piano, synthesizer, and snaky guitar to create a power-pop sound that doesn’t sound quite like anyone else’s. And The Scruffs bridged the gap between Big Star/Raspberries-esque pop boogie and the nascent punk sound that was coming out of New York around the time of their snotty 1977 debut Wanna Meet The Scruffs?.

In the ’70s, just about every American city of any significant size had a power-pop band that seemed poised to be the next Raspberries or Cheap Trick. In Fairfax, Virginia, that band was Artful Dodger, who recorded three albums for Columbia between 1975 and 1977, combining toe-tapping tunes with the earthy grit of The Rolling Stones.

In Youngstown, Ohio, it was Blue Ash, a band that deserves a spot in the pantheon just for the 1973 single “Abracadabra (Have You Seen Her?),” which is just the kind of down-to-the-last-nerve, riff-heavy stomper that makes power-pop such a joy.  And in Oak Park, IllinoisOff Broadway tried to draft off of the rocket trail of fellow Illinoisans Cheap Trick, though Off Broadway’s excellent debut album On was less forceful and more slyly new wave-ish than anything by Rockford’s favorite sons.

Other regional favorites: Milwaukee’s The Shivvers were one of the few female-fronted power-pop acts, with singer-songwriter Jill Kossoris bringing the girl-group elements of the genre to the surface in songs like the glorious 1980 single “Teen Line.” And Atlanta’s The Producers landed several videos on MTV in the channel’s new-wave heavy early days (when Shoes also got a lot of airtime), and nearly made it to the singles chart with the breezy “What She Does To Me.”

Over the past decade, the archival label Numero Group has done a fine job of collecting obscurities from regional scenes on compilations like the recent Buttons: From Champaign To Chicago, which pulls from the fertile Illinois territory, and Yellow Pills: Prefill, which has great tracks from bands like ColorsLuxuryThe Treble Boys, and The Tweeds. (The lattermost band’s “I Need That Record” doubles as a statement of purpose for crate-diggers everywhere.) But the most essential of the Numero Group power-pop anthologies is Titan: It’s All Pop!, which spotlights the output of the Kansas City indie Titan Records, home of such solid-to-superior acts as Gary Charlson (who played up his similarities to Dwight Twilley and Phil Seymour by covering The Dwight Twilley Band’s unreleased single “Shark (In The Dark)”) and The Boys (who suffered from sharing a name with a British punk band, but whose singles and demos for the cash-scrapped Titan were as good as any that the major labels were pushing at the time).

Meanwhile, in the not-so-small regional scene of Los Angeles—home of the American pop-music industry—the half-hearted efforts to break acts like The Beat, The Plimsouls, and The Dwight Twilley Band were matched by the push for bands that came together a little less organically. The Pop recorded two albums for Arista in the late ’70s, but could never shake the impression that they were little more than an attempt to build the ideal power-pop band from scratch; and Candy emerged from the Sunset Strip in the mid-’80s as a calculated, poppier alternative to metal, with future Guns N’ Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke providing the livewire riffs to never-quite-hits like the contrived but catchy “Whatever Happened To Fun?”

But the regional power-pop band that, for a time, seemed closest to becoming the next Big Star (for better or worse, given that band’s sputtering career trajectory) was Sneakers, a group of North Carolinians who moved to New York and became critics’ darlings for their blend of garage-rock and southern twang. They just arrived a little too early, in a mid-’70s NYC that had too many innovative and unusual punk and art rock bands for Sneakers to stand out. The members of Sneakers had better luck in the ’80s when they formed new bands. Chris Stamey and Will Rigby became The dB’s (with Peter Holsapple), and transitioned from power-pop in the early ’80s to the more eclectic kind of jangly southern pop that dominated college radio; while Mitch Easter formed Let’s Active, whose production brought more psych pop and new wave elements to their sound. Related image

Miscellany: punk, pub, paisley, mod, new wave, glam, garage, and other fellow travelers
One of power pop’s biggest impediments to mainstream success was that there were so many other genres in the ’70s and ’80s that relied on brisk tempos and big guitar hooks, often delivered by bands that had more of a sonic edge or a distinctive look. In the U.S., for example, the first wave of neo-garage bands, led by New York’s The Fleshtones, were as active in reviving ’60s rock simplicity as any of the feather-haired Midwesterners were; ditto the Ramones, who could get fists pumping with the best of them. This overlap was even trickier in the UK, where pub-rockers like Bram Tchaikovsky skirted the edges of power pop occasionally, and where a revival of the short-lived ’60s mod movement produced even more music than the original wave, with bands like The Chords and The Lambrettas aping The Who better than The Raspberries ever did. The UK punk scene also produced several bands with strong pop sensibilities, most notably Rich Kids and Buzzcocks, who could easily have been more like 20/20 if they’d grown up in Oklahoma instead of on the other side of the Atlantic.

In fact, there were plenty of bands and singer-songwriters in the ’70s and ’80s who recorded power-pop songs without exactly fitting into the genre. The most notable is The Flamin’ Groovies, a bluesy San Francisco bar band that was active in the late ’60s, then spent some time in England in the ’70s and recorded one of the Top 10 power-pop singles of all time, “Shake Some Action,” with producer Dave Edmunds. And Edmunds himself approached power pop at times from the rockabilly side, both solo and with his band Rockpile, a collaboration with former Brinsley Schwartz pub-rock icon Nick Lowe. For Lowe’s part, as the flagship artist for Stiff Records, he tried out just about any style he thought would sell, and that included writing songs like “So It Goes” and “Cruel To Be Kind,” which could’ve been the anchor of any regional American power-popper’s repertoire. One of Stiff’s lesser-known bands, Any Trouble, also had a lot in common with power-pop, especially on its tuneful 1980 debut Where Are All The Nice Girls. And new wave’s angry young men—Graham ParkerElvis Costello, and Joe Jackson—all dabbled in the backbeats and big riffs of power-pop from time to time during the late ’70s.

In fact, a lot of British new-wave bands played a version of power pop, skewed by their own eccentricities. XTC’s music was too anxious and arty on the whole to belong in the genre, but songs like “Life Begins At The Hop” and “Generals And Majors” have a power-pop kick (and the band did work with Todd Rundgren on 1986’s Skylarking, which contains the pure power pop wonder that is “Earn Enough For Us”). The similarly psych-pop-influenced The Soft Boys were too straight-up weird to be called power pop, though the band’s two main creative forces—Robyn Hitchcock and Kimberley Rew—played with the genre more openly in the ’80s. Rew in particular is a hero to many power pop fans for playing guitar and writing the best songs for Katrina And The Waves, who initially had a rockier guitar-pop sound before their American label cleaned them up and made them one-hit wonders.

One of those Rew-written Waves classics is “Going Down To Liverpool,” which was later recorded by The Bangles, a band that was associated with the West Coast’s “paisley underground” of the early ’80s. The paisley groups were generally more interested in the trippy, rootsy, cosmic Americana qualities of ’60s rock, though some bands—like The Three O’Clock and Game Theory—also sported the unmistakable influence of The Raspberries and Big Star in their more straightforward pop-rock songs.

The ’70s and ’80s also saw the emergence of a few FM album-rock staples with power pop roots and/or leanings. The Cars have always been somewhat unclassifiable, with their clean major-label production and arty new-wave touches, but with just a few sonic tweaks, songs like “My Best Friend’s Girl” and “Let’s Go” could’ve easily been by The Beat. And before he became a Led Zeppelin-aping arena-rocker, Billy Squier fronted the hard-rock band Piper, whose 1976 single “Who’s Your Boyfriend?” (later reprised on Squier’s 1980 solo debut) belongs in the power-pop canon alongside “Shake Some Action” and “September Gurls.”

While power-pop fans who prefer forgotten 45s from Nebraska bar bands may bristle at this comparison, two of the biggest hits of the mid-’80s —The Outfield’s “Your Love” and The Hooters“And We Danced”—are both essentially power pop, just given more contemporary, radio-friendly production. Those bands’ other songs are less on-point, but they still merit a mention for being part of an ’80s return to middle-of-the-road rock bands who got by on songs more than personality, which is what the big power-pop wave of the late ’70s seemed to promise.

The Essentials
Marshall Crenshaw, Marshall Crenshaw
Steeped in reverb and cooing background harmonies, Marshall Crenshaw is a throwback to doo-wop and mid-’60s West Coast pop, though songs like “Cynical Girl” and “I’ll Do Anything” have enough new-wave edge to make Crenshaw sound vital and modern—not just a throwback.

Big Star, Radio City

Though #1 Record is the purer power-pop record, 1974’s Radio City is one of the all-time best rock albums—full stop. No longer just trying to recreate and reinterpret their ’60s rock fantasies, Big Star broke those sounds apart, re-contextualizing adolescent heartbreak songs as something heavier and more genuinely tragic.

Shoes, Black Vinyl Shoes
The Murphy brothers’ major-label albums are more polished and easier to like, but the living-room recording Black Vinyl Shoes has a lo-fi charm that makes it stand out from the power-pop pack even now. Through the tinny murk—sounding like it was “produced by elves,” according to critic Robert Christgau—the songs’ chiming guitars and fluid melodies remain unshakable, yet that homemade sound also makes Black Vinyl Shoes feel more personal.

Cheap Trick, At Budokan
Recorded when Cheap Trick was still a weak-selling critics’ darling—albeit huge in Japan—At Budokan is like every power-pop fan’s fantasy version of the genre, where their favorite bands play magnificent rock songs in front of 12,000 screaming fans. Perhaps the audacity of that was all that was needed to break Cheap Trick wide, since the album went Top 10 and triple-platinum.

Bill Lloyd, Feeling The Elephant

Technically, Lloyd’s debut album was released in 1987, which puts it outside the 1972 to 1986 range of the original power-pop wave, but the songs on Feeling The Elephant were all recorded in the first half of the decade and were intended to launch Lloyd’s career as the next Marshall Crenshaw. It’s too bad that plan didn’t come to fruition. For the most part, power-pop was a singles medium, but track-for-track, Feeling The Elephant is as impressive as any LP the genre ever produced.

Todd Rundgren –  Couldn’t I Just Tell You, 

Todd Rundgren could easily feature in a top 10 of the best list on glitter rock, just as he could be on a list of piano ballads, blue-eyed soul, proto-electronica, even prog. But he staked his claim to powerpop immortality with this track, which set the whole ball rolling (look out for 1972-73 and 1977-78, because they’re key periods within the overall powerpop time frame). If Something/Anything?, its parent double album, featured multiple styles, then Couldn’t I Just Tell You was a masterclass in compression, from the deceptively sweet acoustic intro and opening salvo – “Keep your head and everything will be cool/ You didn’t have to make me feel like a fool” – to the incandescent 15-second guitar solo, the breathtaking “drop” at 2min 36sec and the climactic eruption of guitars, bass and drums, of which Rundgren played and produced every last note.

The Raspberries – Go All the Way

Most lists of the greatest-ever powerpop tunes feature this at or near the top, usually duking it out with Couldn’t I Just Tell You or Big Star’s September Gurls. It’s got it all: Beach Boys harmonies, Beatles melody, Who power with a dash of Stones raunch . A US top five hit in July 1972, Go All the Way was also one of the few powerpop success stories. The Raspberries are why many think of powerpop as a simple, sustained act of homage to a bygone era, probably because, unlike their peers, they wore matching suits, at least when they started.

But their music offered more than Fabs fetishism. It helped that they had at the helm the bouffant boy wonder, Eric Carmen, one of several powerpop dreamboats who looked like David Cassidy’s fucked-up older brothers

Stories –  Darling

Powerpop is full of characters you will see described as geniuses: Rundgren, Carmen, Alex Chilton, Dwight Twilley. Michael Brown should be another. He made his name as the songwriter with the Left Banke, the late-60s group who had hits with Walk Away Renee and Pretty Ballerina, both prime examples of baroque pop (a genre that shared many elements with powerpop). After a brief dalliance with a band called Montage he formed Stories, featuring the vocals of Ian Lloyd, whose lightly rasping voice posited him as an American Rod Stewart. Their two albums – Stories (1972) and About Us (1973) – were showcases for Brown’s idiosyncratic songcraft, which was florid and dramatic, as well as Eddie Kramer’s complex, quasi-prog production.

 The Records – Starry Eyes

Powerpop was essentially an American response to the British Invasion, made by Anglophiles a couple of years too young to have been in bands the first time round. Which makes the Records an oddity – English kids in love with the US Brit fetishists. They were more likely to name drop Big Star and the Raspberries in interviews than the names of their 60s forebears. They were formed out of the ashes of the Kursaal Flyers, a pub rock group featuring drummer Will Birch, and emerged in 1978, around the same time as the Pleasers, the Knack et al. Their 1979 debut album Shades in Bed was produced by Robert John “Mutt” Lange and Tim Friese-Greene, but it didn’t quite do the business back home for Virgin. The single Starry Eyes, ironically, fared better in the US, where it reached No 56. No wonder: it had the charm, and the chime, of Petty’s American Girl, with an ascending guitar line, tight harmonies, a swooning chorus, and lyrics that seemed to evoke an infatuation with the love song itself.

check out the book “Shake Some Action”The Ultimate Guide to Power Pop by John M. Borack

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I’ve always admired Cheap Trick. First of all, they didn’t look like any other band. They had two bonafide looking rock stars in lead singer Robin Zander and bassist Tom Peterson. Their great guitar player Rick Nielsen looked like a Leo Gorcey from the old Bowery Boys films and the drummer Bun E Carlos looked like an old uncle you would have somewhere.

They were a hard-working band from Rockford Illinois in the mid-70s. None of their first three albums made it in the top 40 but they did have a single to chart…a single off their third album “Heaven Tonight” was the first to chart in America…“Surrender” (Studio Version) peaked at #61 in 1978. They were not getting any traction in America but in Japan, they were getting huge.

They toured Japan in 1978 with a Beatlemania atmosphere and played at Budakon and recorded a live album there. “Cheap Trick at Budakon” is what finally broke them in America in 1979.

They never had that milestone studio album that really marked their career like some bands but they made enough good music to be remembered. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016.

Cheap Trick have never stopped. Since 1974, those familiar faces — drummer Bun E. Carlos, guitarist Rick Nielsen, bassist Tom Petersson and singer Robin Zander — have become part of rock ‘n’ roll’s fabric and a pop-culture staple.

Unlike so many other bands that have broken up, reunited, cashed in, traded up, fell apart and reunited again, Cheap Trick have just always been there — whether they sell millions of albums or struggle to dent the charts, and delivering great live shows all the while. Few, if any, other bands have that kind of track record, and its most dedicated fans have stuck by the group though its massive arena gigs and even the small club shows.

Cheap Trick’s recorded legacy is full of genius-level highs and somewhat embarrassing lows. Thankfully, the ups outweigh the downs for Rockford, Ill.’s most famous export. From that first album in 1977, right up through 2009’s The Latest, the band has continued to deliver high-energy rock ‘n’ roll songs stocked full of melody, anger, sweetness, absurdity, cleverness and, most of all, great hooks.

As we look through the highlights of their recorded works, Cheap Trick’s the albums uncover a long and fruitful legacy. sticking to just their studio albums for the moment discounting their best selling album, 1979’s “Live At Budokhan”. So many gems from their vast catalog.

At Budokan

‘The Doctor’ (1986)

‘The Doctor’ is the sound of a rock ‘n’ roll band completely lost in the maze of mid-’80s production (courtesy of Tony Platt). Synth-driven rhythms, castrated guitars and dated gimmickry make this the band’s nadir. It’s not even so much that the songs are terrible, but it still sounds more like a bad Cars record than Cheap Trick. After a few poor-selling albums, the band was under pressure to deliver a hit, but despite efforts, it backfired.

The Doctor

In Color

Cheap Trick‘s self-titled debut album, which came out in February 1977, showed the band was capable of playing tough rock ‘n’ roll with the best of the era. But it was their second LP, In Color, released just seven months later, that proved they had a pop side to them too. This album is considered a classic of the power pop genre as well as one of the best rock albums ever recorded.

Unlike the first album, which was produced by Jack Douglas (the man responsible for making those early Aerosmith records sound so good), In Color was guided by Tom Werman, an A&R man who signed Cheap Trick to Epic Records and had previously worked on Ted Nugent‘s albums.

With Cheap Trick, he softened some of their rougher edges and brought out the melodies that were lurking just below the surface of so many of their songs. It also helped that the songwriting was tighter and more focused the second time around. (Guitarist Rick Nielsen wrote all 10 of the LP’s tracks, two of them with bassist Tom Petersson.) It all added up to the band’s first classic album … though they didn’t necessarily feel that way.

Werman spotted the pop hooks that were inherently attached to the group’s music. He even noted that they were on the debut too, they just happened to get lost in the rock ‘n’ roll guitars. With his A&R radar ringing loudly, Werman wanted to make Cheap Trick a Top 40 band. He heard the potential in their songs, which could be just as radio-friendly as the Beatles‘ at times.

So he turned down the noise, turned up the pop and polished off the edge, a complaint lodged at Werman by Cheap Trick and other clients over the years.

But Tom Werman hit a sweet spot with Cheap Trick. Despite their problems with his production, they worked with him on their next two studio albums, 1978’s Heaven Tonight and 1979’s Dream Police, their only Top 10 studio LP. (In between those two records was Cheap Trick at Budokan, the landmark live album that made Cheap Trick stars.) And why not? In Color is a great power pop album, a classic of the genre and a creative breakthrough for the band.

Half of its songs make up half of At Budokan (which was recorded in Tokyo around the time of Heaven Tonight‘s release): album opener “Hello There,” “Big Eyes,” “Clock Strikes Ten,” “Come On, Come On” and “I Want You to Want Me,” which, when released as a live version two years later, became Cheap Trick’s breakthrough single.

And they’re just as electrifying on In Color, bouncing off the walls and sticking their landings — especially the hand-clap-powered “Southern Girls,” maybe its most enduring song. Almost every piece seems in place. Next to the justly celebrated At Budokan, In Color is the band’s most defining record, even if they have misgivings about Werman’s studio gloss. Truth be told, the production showcases a side of them that may never have come out otherwise.

(In the late ’90s, the band reportedly re-recorded the entire album with producer Steve Albini, an engineer known for his press-“record”-and-let-the-band-go-wild style, The re-recorded In Color never came out, but the sessions have surfaced online.) The big commercial push for the band didn’t really pay off at home. Cheap Trick had to wait another couple of years before one of their albums broke into the Top 40 (Budokan, again), but just one year until Heaven Tonight‘s “Surrender” nudged its way to No. 62. In Color managed to climb to No. 73 — a huge achievement seeing that Cheap Trick didn’t even crack the Top 200.

But the album was huge in Japan. Those screaming kids, and their eardrum-splitting enthusiasm, you hear on Budokan are real. A couple singles, and the LP, rocketed to the top of the charts there, setting in motion one of rock’s greatest fairy tales. No matter how Cheap Trick feel about In Color these days, it’s the album that put them on their path to stardom. Without it, and the power-pop sheen Werman gave the record, they may not have ended up eventually making that mainstream breakthrough they were hoping for.

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Ride  – Weather Diaries

Ride release their first album in over twenty years, ‘Weather Diaries’ on June 16th via Wichita Recordings.

Produced by legendary DJ, producer and remixer Erol Alkan, ‘Weather Diaries’ is packed with all the classic elements that made Ride one of the defining bands of the early ‘90s. Trembling distortion, beautiful harmonies, pounding rhythms, shimmering soundscapes and great songwriting all combine to make an album that’s ambitious in scope, timeless and thoroughly addictive. The album will be released through Wichita Recordings and sees the band reunited with label co-founders Mark Bowen and Dick Green, who worked with Ride during the band’s early years on Creation Records. It also brings the band back together with mixer Alan Moulder (Arctic Monkeys, Smashing Pumpkins, The Killers) who mixed their seminal 1990 album ‘Nowhere’ and produced it’s follow up ‘Going Blank Again’.

The revitalised four piece – comprising of Andy Bell, Mark Gardener, Laurence Colbert, and Steve Queralt – reformed and returned to the live scene in 2014, selling out headline tours around the world to a plethora of critical acclaim, as well as show stopping turns at festivals including Coachella, Primavera and Field Day. More than that though, the British music sphere especially has been littered with bands heavily indebted to Ride and their peers. The likes of The Horrors, School Of Seven Bells and labels such as Sonic Cathedral have ensured that shoegaze is a sound that’s eternally relevant.

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Royal Blood  -How Did We Get So Dark?

After becoming the biggest breaking British rock band with their self-titled 2014 debut album, Royal Blood’s release their eagerly anticipated second album How Did We Get So Dark? released on Warner Bros. Records. The ten tracks that feature on How Did We Get So Dark? were written in instrumental form during sessions in Brighton, Hollywood, Los Angeles and Nashville. Always trying to explore ways of stripping their enormous sound back to give it more space and impact, inspiration for the lyrics came from events in vocalist / bassist Mike Kerr’s life since the band first found huge success. In November 2016. Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher, along with producer Jolyon Thomas, spent six weeks in a studio in Brussels that was decked out like a New York diner and featured a warehouse of antique gear. How Did We Get So Dark? was subsequently completed after a final session in London with their debut album’s co-producer Tom Dalgety. There are times where Royal Blood are more visceral than ever – notably the gargantuan introduction to Hook, Line and Sinker and also the intense denouement that brings Looks Like You Know to a close. While the album finds Royal Blood refining their melodic might, there are other moments that fulfil their aim to create songs that will add new dimensions to their live sets. Adorned with Kerr’s falsetto, Don’t Tell drops the intensity to mesmerising effect, while Where Are You Now? pulsates with a bounding energy that’s quite a step apart from anything else in their catalogue. The Royal Blood palette is also expanded with the complementary addition of piano or keyboards on four tracks, including the foreboding album closer Sleep.

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Fleet Foxes  –  Crack Up 

Crack-Up is Fleet Foxes’ long awaited and highly anticipated third album. It comes six years after the 2011 release of Helplessness Blues and nearly a decade since the band’s 2008 self-titled debut.

All eleven of the songs on Crack-Up were written by Robin Pecknold. The album was co-produced by Pecknold and Skyler Skjelset, his longtime bandmate, collaborator, and childhood friend. Crack-Up was recorded at various locations across the United States between July 2016 and January 2017: at Electric Lady Studios, Sear Sound, The Void, Rare Book Room, Avast, and The Unknown. Phil Ek mixed the album, at Sear Sound, and it was mastered by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound. Fleet Foxes is Robin Pecknold (vocals, multi-instrumentalist), Skyler Skjelset (multi-instrumentalist, vocals), Casey Wescott (multi-instrumentalist, vocals), Christian Wargo (multi-instrumentalist, vocals), and Morgan Henderson (multi-instrumentalist).

Fleet Foxes’ self-titled debut made a profound impact on the international musical landscape, earning them Uncut’s first ever Music Award Prize, and topping numerous ‘Best of’ lists, including Rolling Stone’s 100 Best Albums of the 2000’s and Pitchfork’s 50 Best Albums of 2008. Fleet Foxes is certified Gold in North America and Platinum in both the UK and Australia. The follow-up album Helplessness Blues was met with the same critical praise as its predecessor;s .

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Big Star  –  Best Of Big Star 

Best of Big Star is part of a wide-ranging, year-long initiative celebrating Stax Records’ 60th anniversary. Formed in 1971 by singer/songwriters Alex Chilton (1950-2010) and Chris Bell (1951-1978), drummer Jody Stephens (b. 1952) and bassist Andy Hummel (1951-2010), the Memphis-based group is now considered to be one of the most influential bands in modern music, having inspired some of the biggest alt-rock artists of the ’80s, ’90s and beyond. An underground core of fanatical enthusiasts kept the fire burning. The Replacements famously released “Alex Chilton,” a song that paid tribute to Big Star’s songwriting genius. R.E.M.’s Peter Buck said, “Big Star served as a Rosetta Stone for a whole generation of musicians.”

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Kevin Morby  –  City Music 

City Music is the new album by Kevin Morby. Full of listless wanderlust, it’s a collection inspired by and devoted to the metropolitan experience across America and beyond by a songwriter cast from his own mold. As he puts it: “It is a mix-tape, a fever dream, a love letter dedicated to those cities that I cannot get rid of, to those cities that are all inside of me.”

His fourth album, City Music works as a counterpart to Morby’s acclaimed 2016 release Singing Saw, an autobiographical set that reflected the solitude and landscape in which it was recorded. Saw was imagined as “an old bookshelf with a young Bob and Joni staring back at me, blank and timeless. They live here, in this left side of my brain, smoking cigarettes and playing acoustic guitars while lying on an unmade bed.”

And now follows City Music, the yang to its yin, the heads to its tails. It is a collection crafted using the other side of its creator’s brain, the jumping off point perhaps best once again encapsulated by an image. “Here, Lou Reed and Patti Smith stare out at the listener,” explains Morby. “Stretched out on a living room floor they are somewhere in mid-70s Manhattan, also smoking cigarettes.” It finds Morby exploring similar themes of solitude, but this time framed by a window of an uptown apartment that looks down upon an international urban landscape “exposed like a giant bleeding wound.”

Image of Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit - The Nashville Sound

Jason Isbell and The 400 UnitThe Nashville Sound 

The Nashville Sound was recorded at Nashville’s legendary RCA Studio A and produced by Grammy Award-winner Dave Cobb, who produced ‘Something More Than Free’ and Isbell’s celebrated 2013 breakthrough album ‘Southeastern’.

‘The Nashville Sound’ features 10 new songs that address a range of subjects that include, politics and cultural privilege (“White Man’s World”) longing nostalgia (“The Last Of My Kind”), love and mortality (“If We Were Vampires”), the toxic effect of today’s pressures (“Anxiety”), the remnants of a break up (“Chaos and Clothes”) and finding hope (“Something To Love”). Songs such as “Cumberland Gap” and “Hope The Highroad” find Jason and his bandmates going back to their rock roots full force.

Big Machine

It’s difficult for any band or artist to sound enthused after decades of making music. Automatic pilot and rock ‘n’ roll root rot can easily set in. There are some exceptions: Paul McCartney has had some late-career gems; same goes for David Bowie . You can add Cheap Trick to that list. They sound positively vibrant and genuinely excited on We’re All Alright! . 

Unlike many of their contemporaries, Cheap Trick have never broken up, stopped touring or quit making new music. They have also never stopped putting everything they have into what they do either. Coming hot on the heels of last year’s excellent Bang Zoom Crazy Hello , We’re All Alright!  follows in the footsteps of its predecessor while adding a couple of new twists to the mix.

Guitarist Rick Nielsen welds together riffs borrowed from the Kinks and the Who for the album’s first single, “Long Time Coming,” while “Nowhere” takes on a Ramones -like charge in its speed attack. Other songs follow a similar path, with no track clocking in at more than four minutes. This pace gives the album a whiplash flow that recalls some of their earliest records.

A few of the songs actually date back several years. “Radio Lover” was put on the shelf in the ’90s, and it’s rescued from oblivion here as an amphetamine-fueled hard rocker. “Lolita” slaps keyboard sequencers on top of glam-rock boogie. And “She’s Alright” features some Dylan styled phrasing from singer Robin Zander.

Cheap Trick also dip into the past by covering Roy Wood again. As they’ve done in the past with “California Man,” “Brontosaurus” and “Rock and Roll Tonight,” they take the Move’s 1968 song “Blackberry Way” and spin it in their direction..

The band pushes itself on We’re All Alright!, turning in enthusiastic and engaging performances throughout. They still sound like a bunch of guys half their age. “Who knows what forever is about?” Zander asks on “The Rest of My Life.” He doesn’t pretend to know the answer.

Cheap Trick sound like they still have something to prove, and perhaps they do. After a couple of trying and triumphant years — there was a legal hassle involving former drummer Bun E. Carlos, and they were finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 2016 — they sound ready for their next chapter.

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Sun Kil Moon – Common As Light And Love Are Red Valleys Of Blood

“‘Common As Light And Love Are Red Valleys Of Blood’, for the most part, captures events from January to August of this year and how I processed it all while traveling. “[…] I’m blessed to have met the very talented Justin Broadrick and to have made these beautiful albums with him. “These two new albums capture more than my reactions to mass murders or the passing of beloved heroes like David Bowie or Muhammad Ali. The Sun Kil Moon and Jesu / Sun Kil Moon albums are also full of love, humour, and my gratitude for the gift of life.” – Mark Kozelek, Sun Kil Moon.

4LP – Limited Four LP Set. Limited to 2000 Copies.

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Trevor Sensor  –  Andy Warhol’s Dream

It’s Trevor Sensor’s voice you notice first. A deep bubbling black tar pit of a sound, it’s a voice whose unique timbre resonates far beyond the constraints of the songwriting format. It demands the listener reaches for a new vocabulary. The 23 year old’s debut album Andy Warhol’s Dream is part of a literate folk lineage that runs from Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan through Tom Waits and onto the likes of Bon Iver, Bright Eyes and Sufjan Stevens today. It’s an unflinching honest album, transcendent in its exploration of self and sonically a collision between the classic and the forward-thinking. Sensor’s debut EP for the label, Texas Girls and Jesus Christ, was written on a borrowed acoustic guitar and took him out into the world. 2016 saw him tour Europe before hitting the road in the US for tours with Foy Vance and The Staves. Andy Warhol’s Dream was recorded to tape at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio and produced by both Jonathan Rado of Foxygen (The Lemon Twigs, Whitney) and songwriter/producer Richard Swift (Damien Jurado, Foxygen). His backing band featured members of Whitney. On these 11 songs Sensor doesn’t so much wear his heart on his sleeve as flings it out in the darkness of the front rows that sit beyond the glare of the single blinding spotlight. This is the sound of one man’s soul laid bare, facing life head on.

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The Drums –  Abysmal Thoughts

With The Drums’ new Abysmal Thoughts, band founder Jonny Pierce is making the exact album he’s always held in his heart. Of course, this is The Drums, so that heart is broken—but there’s beauty and even bliss in this kind of heartbreak, as well as that special kind of glorious delirium that comes from taking everything life can throw at you and still walking away triumphant. Here Pierce is back in full control of The Drums, not just writing all the songs himself but playing every instrument and bringing his exact personal vision to life. Not coincidentally, it’s some of the most revelatory work he’s ever done. If Abysmal Thoughts doesn’t sound at all abysmal—really, Pierce has rarely been this irresistibly pop—that’s because this is a story about how to figure out what happiness means once the worst has already happened: “If there’s one thing I can rely on it’s the healing power of being an artist,” he says. “I’m falling back in love with music.”

“There’s no question that The Drums have mastered the synthpop game” – Consequence of Sound.
For fans of The Smiths, Morrissey, New Order and The Cramps.

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Echo and The Bunnymen – It’s All Live Now

Each LP is individually numbered and strictly limited. 180 Gram, black vinyl pressed at Record Industry comes in a single sleeve aqueous-gloss, old school tip-on Stoughton sleeve with brand new artwork and hard stock insert. Never before seen photos of the band. Liner notes by guitarist Will Sergeant. One of the most acclaimed British rockers from the 1980’s, this legendary band formed in Liverpool in 1978 and were forefathers of the neo-psychedelic movement. This brand new collection of their legendary live material recorded in Sweden in 1985 includes classic Rock- N-Roll covers of legendary tunes by the Doors, Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground, Television and more available on vinyl for the first time. Many of the tracks from Sweden were recorded live for Swedish National Radio at the Karen Club. Also included here is a legendary extended version of Do It Clean recorded live in concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 1983.

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Game Theory -2 Steps From The Middle Ages

Their final studio album ” remastered and expanded. Following up 1987s Lolita Nation (whose reissue appeared on numerous year-end best of lists for 2016) would be no easy task for Game Theory. But, Scott Miller and company were certainly up for the task. Re-teaming with producer Mitch Easter (R.E.M., Marshall Crenshaw, Velvet Crush), 2 Steps From The Middle Ages was released in 1988, and showed the band had no shortage of energy, experimentation, and excellent material. This reissue contains the original 13 songs supplemented with a whopping 11 bonus tracks ” demos, live performances and covers ” all previously unissued. The translucent orange, first pressing of the LP (on vinyl for the first time since its initial release), contains a download card for the entire CD/Digital program. Packaging includes rare and previously unseen photos from the bands photographer, Robert Toren, as well as essays from Easter, Ken Stringfellow (The Posies, Big Star), and Franklin Bruno (The Village Voice, Salon.com). The bands drummer, Gil Ray, who was involved in all aspects with the Game Theory reissue series including this title, sadly passed away earlier this year. This reissue is lovingly dedicated to him.

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Nikki Sudden and his Jacobites – Chelsea

Limited edition 350 copies only on Transparent Green vinyl 7” single. Both tracks feature vocals by Max ‘Lizard’ Edie ( Waterboys ) and also Mike Scott ( Waterboys) features on Chelsea Embankment. Chelsea springtime single edit has remained unreleased since 1992.

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On this episode of Live From Daryl’s House, prepare to “Surrender” your Philly soul to 2016 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees and Rockford, IL natives, Cheap Trick, as they bring their blend of pop, punk and metal to Daryl’s HouseDaryl Hall started Live From Daryl’s House, the free monthly web show in late 2007, after having the idea of “playing with my friends and putting it up on the Internet,” and the show has since garnered acclaim from Rolling Stone, SPIN, Daily Variety, CNN, BBC, Yahoo! Music and influential blogger Bob Lefsetz, who have cited Live From Daryl’s House as a perfect example of a veteran artist reinventing himself in the digital age by collaborating with both established colleagues and newer performers.

Cheap Trick is part of the very fiber of American music, inspiring and delighting generations with their unique union of massive melodies and razorblade riffs, their own special brand of mischievous wit and maximum rock ‘n’ roll. Frontlined since 1974 by Robin Zander (vocals, rhythm guitar), Rick Nielsen (lead guitar), and Tom Petersson (bass guitar), the Rockford, IL-born band is set to impact still another era with the spectacular new BANG ZOOM CRAZY…HELLO, album their 17th studio collection and first in more than five years. Co-produced by Cheap Trick and Grammy Award winner Julian Raymond (Glen Campbell, Fastball), songs like “Heart On The Line” and the turbulent first single, “When I Wake Up Tomorrow,” are deeply connected to the band’s own irrepressible history just as they accelerate their trademark sound and vision into the now. The glorious “Long Time No See Ya” marks another in a long line of salutations spanning “ELO Kiddies” and “Hello There” to “Goodnight” and “Say Goodbye,” while the piledriving “Do You Believe Me” showcases dueling solos from Nielsen and six-string icon Wayne Kramer – a milestone meeting of the long established Midwestern mutual appreciation society between Cheap Trick and the mighty MC5. BANG ZOOM CRAZY…HELLO prove Cheap Trick to be as energetic and idiosyncratically irresistible as ever before, a callback to their classic canon yet somehow as inventive and exciting as a bunch of crazy kids just coming out of the garage.

Cheap Trick are of course a indisputable institution, beloved for their instantly identifiable, hugely influential, powerhouse pop rock ‘n’ roll. The constant core of the band remains one of a kind – three guys, four chords, and tunes that will last in perpetuity, from “He’s A Whore,” “California Man” and “Dream Police” to “Surrender,” “I Want You To Want Me” and the worldwide #1 hit single, “The Flame.”

If 2016’s terrific Bang Zoom Crazy … Hello was a long awaited comeback after a seven year lapse, then this year’s rapid follow-up shows that was no anomaly. Cheap Trick are determined to keep the adrenaline pumping.

With their Studio album number 18 , blasts out of the starting gate like a rabid stallion on uppers as the salacious “You Got It Going On” pounds out a hard rock riff as earth shaking as anything in the AC/DC catalog. At 64, Robin Zander’s vocals remain powerful and founding guitarist Rick Nielsen proves himself the king of power pop/rock hooks. Ditto for the following “Long Time Coming” whose simplistic lyrics of “Shake it, shake it, shake it/I’ll let it blow my mind/a real pole grinder” won’t win any Pulitzer Prizes but as pedal to the metal rockers go, it leaves most poseurs half their age in the dust.

And so it goes through ten tracks (13 on the expanded edition—worth springing the extra bucks for the killer cover of The Move’s psychedelic rocker “Blackberry Way”) as Cheap Trick grind through the paces. Only a few mid-album ballads like the anthemic “Floating Down” give you a chance to catch your breath between hot tamale sizzlers guaranteed to be future live staples such as “Brand New Name on an Old Tattoo” and the nitro-burning “Listen to Me.”

Most of the Beatles nods apparent throughout Trick’s long lifespan, and which came full circle when they covered “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” to commemorate that album’s 40th anniversary, are gone. Rather the swirling strings added to “Nowhere” sound like a reference to ELO, who were themselves heavily indebted to the Fab Four. But fist pumpers like “Radio Lover” are just pure gritty, garage punk rockers this quartet was likely churning out 40 some years ago, before their 1977 debut.

Few acts inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as Cheap Trick deservedly was in 2016, are cranking out music as fresh, honest, energized and explosive as these guys have released in the past two years. And if this recent burst in activity keeps going, they will be the poster boys for how ageing rock and rollers can stay relevant without selling out or trying to be hip.

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Dream Police

One of my favourite CHEAP TRICK  albums is Dream Police, it was released thirty-seven years ago today on September 21st, 1979. I knew it was 1979, Dream Police, befitting the name of the record label that released it, is epic. it was  Cheap Trick’s fourth studio album, but also a big step forward in it’s sound and production. Filled with orchestration, and additional keyboards, Rick Nielsen’s riffs carry the tunes “The House is Rocking (With Domestic Problems)”, Robin Zander’s vocals are of course, stellar (“Voices), Bun E. Carlos’ drumming is efficient and swinging “Need Your Love” and the whole thing is anchored by Tom Petersson’s melodic and at times ominous 12-string bass guitar “Gonna Raise Hell”.

Dream Police was the instant, and perfect, follow-up to the band’s new-found success after the release of the Live At Budokan Album. In many ways, Dream Police just solidified every aspect of what Cheap Trick had been working towards since day one, and wove it all together into one perfectly simmered brew. The album’s title cut opens things up, and is so full of energy, excitement and flat-out fun, it was (and still is) irresistible. With a simple one-two snare drum intro, things are off and running directly toward sheer jubilation.

The title track was the big radio hit, and remains a staple of every Cheap Trick show to this day. Other highlights include the sheer pop brilliance of “Way of the World” (guaranteed to improve any mood), is one of the band’s great lost songs. Before they began pulling it into live shows over the last few years, the song seemed all but forgotten. It’s one of countless great rockers in the band’s catalog. Again, the strings add a certain excitement here, just some nice coloring, never flooding the gate or weighing down the rock action at hand. As is so often the case, vocalist extraordinaire Zander shows off those pipes — power and grace, truly one of the greatest singers in the history of rock ‘n’ roll.

Side two kicks in with the classic Cheap Trick sounds of “I’ll Be with You Tonight.” It’s a no-frills power pop item that dates back to 1974, with a big guitar hook that sets the scene. Everything falls into place from there. It’s the Raspberries, the Move and the Beatles all rolled up into one perfect ball.

The aforementioned “Voices” – a beautiful ballad which should have been as big as “The Flame” was nine years later; “Need Your Love” is a killer, relentless jam, as is the mean, dark “Gonna Raise Hell.”

The album still sounds great today; the songs still hold up. Most Cheap Trick fans will rank this album as among the band’s best.

  • The release of the album was delayed for months because of the runaway success of the Live at Budokan album
  • That snapping snare drum sound on “Gonna Raise Hell” is augmented by 2×4’s slapping together
  • Steve Lukather played the solo on “Voices”
  • “Need Your Love” was first heard on the Live At Budokan album

Artist Kii Arens’ gorgeous poster commemorating Cheap Trick’s introduction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

When it comes to Cheap Trick, I was a late-bloomer. I was a huge metal head and for some reason in my teenage years, A guy I worked with was a Cheap Trick super-fan who never stopped trying to help me understand how great the band was. The first time I saw the band live I was (gulp) already in my 30’s and I actually fucking cried when they broke into one of the greatest rock anthems ever written, “Surrender.” that I had listened to loads on the Live at Budokan album.

This footage of Cheap Trick on the German in concert Rockpalast in 1979 captures the band at the very top of their game after the face-smashing success of their live album, Cheap Trick at Budokan that finally saw a US release after a frenzy of demand for the record (which was only available in Japan at the time). That album catapulted the band into the stratosphere of rock and roll superstardom. Here they rip through eleven songs with switchblade precision and I don’t know if I’ve ever heard vocalist Robin Zander sound better than he does here.

I recently caught Cheap Trick’s acceptance speeches at the 2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, and I was really moved by drummer Bun E. Carlos’ (who no longer performs with Cheap Trick) reminiscing about how the first time he heard guitarist Rick Nielsen’s name was in the fourth grade. Still going strong, Cheap Trick kicks off a massive tour in support of their seventeenth studio album, Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello on June 4th in Syracuse, New York.