On a recent episode of the radio show Sound Opinions, rock critics Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis talked about the brilliance and occasional cheesiness of Cheap Trick. To illustrate the former, they mentioned phenomenal classics such as “Surrender.” To illustrate the latter, they played a snippet of Cheap Trick’s 1988 power-ballad hit “The Flame.”
When I think of Cheap Trick, I think of hearing the wonderful “Dream Police” on AM radio when I was a kid. My wife is younger, and she thinks of “The Flame.” After hearing Sound Opinions, to clear her mind of that turgid song she looked up an early-’80s live rendition of “Surrender” on YouTube. This inspired a discussion among some of our friends who were puzzled by the band’s sense of fashion. Two of them got in an argument over whether guitarist Rick Nielsen’s ridiculous sweater was ironic. One said “yes,” the other said that Cheap Trick was pre-irony.
At this point I was getting upset — wasn’t anyone listening to the song? I tried to argue that Cheap Trick pretty much invented irony in rock ’n’ roll. I went on at length about the originality of the lyrics to “Surrender,” in which a kid comes home to find his parents smoking pot, making out on the couch, and listening to his Kiss records.
I got a little overheated, to tell the truth, but I stand by my argument. As Kot said in that radio show, Cheap Trick takes a lot of flak for their cheesy side, but their first few albums rank among the best in power pop. And the good news is, their past couple of albums show they can still write ’em like they used to.
- Wednesday, April 14, 2010, 8 p.m.
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