Saturday, July 4, 2009

First Listen: Cheap Trick, The Latest

I am of two minds about this album. I will take the negative path first.

I did not receive Dr. Tony Shore's warning in time, and I ordered The Latest from I did not read the fine print (included not in the album description, but in an editorial review), and was surprised to hear that what I was about to receive, for $13, was a CD-R. It's true - Amazon is selling their own version of The Latest through their on-demand service, burning CD-Rs to order, and slapping a poorly-printed booklet on ridiculously cheap paper in for good measure. The packaging is a travesty.

I wouldn't be this upset if Amazon had made it perfectly clear what I was getting into. But they didn't. You have to hunt for that information on the product page. Regardless, I'm most upset about something no one seems to be talking about - the album sounds like crap, because it's compressed MP3s burned onto a consumer-grade CD-R. It sounds just good enough that I can tell how terrific it should sound, and that's a shame.

Of course, I also wouldn't be this upset if The Latest were not the best Cheap Trick album in a couple of decades. But it is. The record is relatively short, at 41 minutes, but it never flags - it contains some of their best and most aggressive material in years. "Sick Man of Europe" is power pop the way it should sound, "Miracle" is a glorious Lennon-esque piano ballad, "Everybody Knows" has an amazing melody, and "Alive"... well, it's been ages since they've sounded this, um, alive. Even the clutch of slow songs at the end is excellent. The Latest never wears out its welcome - it's a return to form for one of America's best pop acts.

So definitely buy The Latest. But don't buy it from Amazon. Try instead.

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