Out There

Trick of the trade

Music for Hangovers
Cheap Trick
Cheap Trick Unlimited

Nothing at all unseemly about this live one-off, culled from four sold-out shows at the Cabaret Metro in Chicago last year; the only thing missing is the Smashing Pumpkins' opening performances, though Billy Corgan's weepy liner notes and "Mandocello" cameo make up for it. Music for Hangovers is Cheap Trick now doing Cheap Trick then, most of the 14 tracks culled from the band's first four studio records--the good ones, that is, before the boys got all confused and started trading soft pop for soft metal every other song. Granted, it's a little close to the 1998 re-release of the remastered, now-double-disc At Budokan for this consumer's tastes; suffice it to say the 1979 live album bests the 1999 live album by a good 20 years--back then, the band wasn't playing the songs because they had to, but because they wanted to. Now, it's either "Surrender" or try to convince the kids that the now-out-of-print Woke Up With a Monster really was a good record.

Only three of the 14 songs show up on the complete Budokan--the obvious retreads too, "Oh Caroline" and "I Want You to Want Me" and "Surrender." That leaves plenty of room for the obvious hits left off the original live product ("Dream Police" and "If You Want My Love") and the deep cuts long since abandoned to the cut-out bin ("The Ballad of T.V. Violence" and "Taxman, Mr. Thief" among them). Good songs all, though the performances leave something to be desired--that, and the disc sounds as though it were mixed by a deaf man through a transistor radio. Could be Robin Zander's voice is shot; either that, or the baby-in-a-blender production renders these formerly slick sides untenable. Or maybe I just don't get in-concert records. They're just tepid souvenirs of last night's echoes, digital reproductions that can never capture the audience-artist give-and-take that turns a memory into a moment.

That's especially true with the Trick, who still put on a marvel of a show; the band played the State Fair of Texas a couple of years back and could have juiced the giant ferris wheel all by themselves. Nielsen's still got the touch, Zander's still got the hair, and Bunny and Tom still keep the beat on a leash--if only a live keepsake such as Music for Hangovers could capture such moments instead of reducing them to digital, dusty static. No matter: It's worth it just to hear "Surrender" one more time. It will forever remain the ultimate teen anthem, even when performed by guys closer to AARP membership than drivers' ed.

--Robert Wilonsky

Music for Hangovers is available through amazon.com until June 15, when it will be in stores.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky