Music For Hangovers

Cheap Trick

Cheap Trick Unlimited Records, 1999

http://www.cheaptrick.com

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/10/1999

There's no denying the album that defined Cheap Trick as a commercially viable act was Cheap Trick At Budokan; in 1978, Robin Zander and crew went from being hometown favorites to overnight superstars, a title they've worked hard at trying to keep. Even today, 21 years after Budokan came out, the band - Zander, guitarist/resident wildman Rick Nielsen, bassist Tom Petersson and drummer Bun E. Carlos - still know how to write a killer pop hook, even if today's music consumer doesn't know how to recognize it.

Their latest release, and second official live album (now that At Budokan and Budokan II have been rolled into one package), Music For Hangovers, captures the band on more familiar soil, playing the Metro in Chicago. In front of a hometown crowd, Cheap Trick knows they're with friends, and they take a good chunk of their past and roll it into a very entertaining release. And to think, I could have been at the taping, but for a previous commitment. Nuts.

The shows that this album were culled from featured Cheap Trick playing their first four albums in their entirety. Had this release featured only the work of the first three discs and At Budokan, it might have been as enjoyable, but there would always be the feel that something was missing. Fortunately, Zander and company stretch their setlist to include more.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The inclusion of cuts like "I Can't Take It" is a great decision, though I'll always be more partial to the polished studio version of this track - not because Todd Rundgren produced it, but because it just sounds cleaner. The two selections from Dream Police - "Gonna Raise Hell" and the title track - are wonderful additions, highlighting an album that has been ignored over the years. (True story: When my father was a purchasing manager for a lift truck company, he knew Petersson's father, who was nice enough to get for me a copy of Dream Police - which I wore out - and a signed Japanese program from that tour. If only I had taken better care of that program.)

Most of the hits you'd expect are on Music For Hangovers. "Surrender" is always a great track live (though I wonder what the main difference is between the track on the disc and the "unreleased" version that Amazon.com is offering as a download; I kinda like the downloadable track better, though there's no crowd noise). Likewise, "I Want You To Want Me" is now a song that has to be included in the set - though I miss the screams during the verses that you can hear on At Budokan.

One hit which you won't find on this disc is "The Flame", though I can understand why Cheap Trick would want to distance themselves from this one. (It's still a great song, though.) And there are a few surprise inclusions, such as "If You Want My Love" (featuring D'arcy from Smashing Pumpkins), which is a track I've just never warmed up to. (Another Pumpkins member, Billy Corgan, sits in on "Mandocello".)

For the most part, Music For Hangovers is a killer disc that showcases a band that is going to exit the picture kicking and screaming. Nielsen still is a powerful force on the guitar, and time has only helped to improve Zander's vocals. Petersson and Carlos provide a solid one-two punch as the rhythm section; Petersson still knows he can wring more sound out of his 8- and 12-string basses than many guitar players can.

If you're a long-time Trick fan, hearing songs like "Taxman, Mr. Thief" and "So Good To See You" will undoubtedly bring back memories of when the albums first came out. If you pick this one up as one of the first Cheap Trick albums you've ever purchased, it's a great introduction to a band who were never in the spotlight for as long as they deserved to be.

Music For Hangovers does what all good live albums should do: it puts both the band and the music in familiar, comfortable light. Hearing this will make you think you're standing at the edge of the stage at the Metro, watching Cheap Trick tear into another one of your favorites. Maybe - just maybe - they have an album that could even top At Budokan.

Rating: A-

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© 1999 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 Cheap Trick Unlimited Records, and is used for informational purposes only.