Photographer: Mike Casale.
Having brilliantly beat the skins for Cheap Trick, one of America's great rock bands, since 1975, Bun E. Carlos has nothing to prove to anyone. Except perhaps the members of Cheap Trick, who began working with another drummer in 2010, leading to plenty of bad feelings and legal scuffles between all parties concerned. Doubtless eager to prove that he's lost none of his skills behind the drum kit, Carlos has released Greetings from Bunezuela!, a 13-song set in which he and a number of talented friends play a bunch of their favorite covers, with a few lesser-known tunes thrown in for seasoning. Most of the musicians here play regularly with Carlos in a pair of live bands, Candy Golde (which also features moonlighting members of Wilco and Eleventh Dream Day) and the Monday Night Band, so if these recordings sometimes seem like the work of an exceptionally good bar band, that's not so far from the truth. And while there are a few lesser-known numbers here -- the Robert Pollard/Doug Gillard collaboration "Do Something Real," the ultra-obscure garage rock nugget "I Love You No More," Jacques Dutronc's French-language rave-up "Les Cactus," and the Bee Gees rarity "Idea" -- most of the selections here are ones you might hear a local band playing at the corner bar while hoisting a brew on Friday night. But the musicians here play with plenty of fire and inspiration, especially guitarists Rick Rizzo and Nicholas Tremulis, bassist John Stirratt, and of course Carlos, whose drumming is as rock-solid and confident as ever. And the guest singers also do great work, especially Robert Pollard of Guided by Voices, Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum, early Cheap Trick vocalist Randall "Xeno" Hogan, and Alejandro Escovedo (though the latter would probably have preferred that his name was spelled correctly in the credits). Greetings from Bunezuela! doesn't sound like a major musical statement from Carlos; instead, it plays like Carlos and his buddies rolling through some songs they really like. However, Carlos and company play well and choose well enough that this ends up being plenty of spirited fun, though if Bun and this crew had written some fresh material for these sessions, they might have created something a bit more special. ~ Mark Deming