Personnel: Robin Zander (vocals, background vocals); Rick Nielsen (guitar, background vocals); Bennett Salvay, Tim Lauer, Zac Rae (keyboards); Daxx Nielsen (drums, background vocals); Julian Raymond, Johnny Keach, Chris Deaton, Tom Petersson (background vocals).
Audio Mixer: Chris Lord.
Recording information: Blackbird Studios, Nashville, TN; East West Studios, Los Angeles, CA.
Photographer: David McClister.
In 2016, Cheap Trick were finally elected into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which is often a double-edged sword for a working band. While the induction represents a powerful acknowledgment of their legacy, it's also an honor most often bestowed on bands that are well past their golden era. The timing is especially touchy for Cheap Trick, since 2016 also marks the release of Bang, Zoom, Crazy... Hello, the group's first release for Big Machine Records, a label that previously specialized in country product. Bang, Zoom, Crazy... Hello sounds like an album that was designed to convince listeners of two things: first, that Cheap Trick are far from a spent force; and second, that they are still rockin' regardless of their new corporate sponsors. While ultimately this album shows both points are accurate, it hardly captures Cheap Trick at their best. Bang, Zoom, Crazy... Hello often rocks hard, but the poppy, Beatlesque side of their musical personality gets pushed to the side on most of these songs. (Though it makes its presence known on "The Sun Never Sets" and "When I Wake Up Tomorrow.") The material also leans to the slick side, perhaps thanks to producer Julian Raymond co-writing ten of these 11 songs, as he did on several tracks of 2009's The Latest. (In Nashville, it's widely believed most problems are easily solved by bringing in another songwriter.) The album also marks Cheap Trick's first set without longtime drummer Bun E. Carlos. Their new timekeeper, Daxx Nielsen (son of guitarist Rick Nielsen), is a strong player, but the album lacks some of the humor and bonhomie Carlos brought to the band. All this said, as a band Cheap Trick still connect on Bang, Zoom, Crazy... Hello. Rick Nielsen's tough but slightly twisted hard rock guitar figures remain satisfying. Robin Zander's voice is in good shape, and although his range is a bit narrower than in his youth, he's still plenty commanding. (His Brian Ferry affectations on the cover of "The In Crowd" are pretty funny, too.) And bassist Tom Petersson and Daxx Nielsen hold down the bottom end with style and focus. Anyone who was hoping Cheap Trick would pull an unexpected triumph out of their bag (as they did with 2006's Rockford) is out of luck. But almost 40 years after they released their self-titled debut, Cheap Trick can still make a solid and entertaining hard rock record. If that doesn't sound like much, compare Bang, Zoom, Crazy... Hello with the current work of their late-'70s peers and you'll see what a fine surprise that is. ~ Mark Deming