Next Position Please

Cheap Trick

Epic Records, 1983

http://www.cheaptrick.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/13/1997

In 1983, Cheap Trick needed a miracle. Since the "overnight" success of their Cheap Trick At Budokan album, Rick Nielsen and crew had failed to live up to the expectations that people had for them. Their attempt to work with legendary Beatles producer George Martin was a flop (though I admit it's been a while since I dug that one out of the Pierce Archives). They had lost their original bassist Tom Peterssen, and had replaced him with Jon Brant. They needed something to rekindle the band's spark.

Enter Todd Rundgren. His work with Grand Funk, Meat Loaf and Rick Derringer was legendary, and his cult of fans continued to grow. Who better to give Cheap Trick's sound a kick-start?

As the resulting album, Next Position Please, proves, if the songwriting ain't worth shit, it doesn't matter who is turning the knobs in the control room. This album does feature some of the band's best work in some time, but it also has many weak moments.

The opening track, "I Can't Take It," is evidence that their label dropped the ball big-time when it came to promoting this record. Rundgren did work his magic here - a perfect blend of the instruments and vocals should have resulted in this song being a major hit. Alas, it wasn't - too bad, 'cause I think this even blows "Surrender" and "I Want You To Want Me" out of the water. Nielsen's guitar work is surprisingly controlled, while Brant's bass lines are simply incredible. Robin Zander has rarely been in such fine voice, and drummer Bun E. Carlos may have turned in the performance of his career - not only on this song, but on the whole album.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

For the first half off the album, Cheap Trick makes very few mistakes. "Borderline" is another song that had "potential radio hit" written all over it, but it never got the chance to prove itself. The title track is somewhat entertaining - but did Zander need to declare, "I wanna see the tits of every girl?" Who do you think you are, Kiss?

In fact, the occasional slip into cock-rock (or, in this case, cock-pop) is mistake number one. "Younger Girls" destroys the killer groove laid down by Carlos, abandoned for pleasures of the (younger) flesh. Mistake number two is not allowing all the songwriting to be as fresh as "I Can't Take It" - this could have been why the band had fallen on hard times commercially. "Y.O.Y.O.Y.", despite the smart-ass name, is half-baked, as is "Won't Take No For An Answer." Don't even get me started on "I Don't Love Here Anymore"...

Their choices of cover songs is a mixed bag. While "Dancing The Night Away" is too god-damn annoying, their cover of Rundgren's "Heaven's Falling" is quite exciting. (This could be the reason why Epic wanted Cheap Trick to use the works of outside songwriters near the end of their stay with the label.)

The biggest surprise here is "Invaders Of The Heart," a song which abandons all the restraint the band had shown to this point of their career and just let the moment carry them in the studio. A simply incredible song, the reason there are several false endings to the song could be that the band was just having so much fun with this one.

Don't get me wrong, Next Position Please was an improvement over what Cheap Trick had been putting out to this point, and Rundgren does the best he can with the material he's been handed. But the overall success of an album doesn't lie in the hands of a producer; there must be solid songwriting and performing to result in a great mix. In this case, one - okay, one-and-a-half - out of two ain't bad, but it ain't enough.

Don't get me wrong, it's not a terrible album - I know hundreds that could fit that description - but Next Position Please fails to renew any interest in Cheap Trick. And for that, I blame the band and their label at the time.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.