Cheap Trick

Dream police (Reissue)

[Sony]

Cheap Trick was always one of the most underrated bands in the rock pantheon. Lumped by many into the arena-rock epidemic that plagued the late 1970s, the band (and its famous repeating logo) was always too smart for that genre. They never pandered to audiences and were one of the few bands in that era that were able to write consistently great and fun rock records.

The band practically invented modern power-pop, fusing the heavy guitar squall of metal with the unfettered melodicism of psychedelia. Over the course of five years (from 1977 to 1982), they were one of the few bright spots in rock, rising out of the waning acidity of punk and preceding much of the spare detachment of New Wave.

Their records were drenched in irony, but the band never took themselves too seriously, always seemingly laughing at the fact that listeners were taking what they espoused at face value. Even their biggest hit, the live version of “I Want You To Want Me” was an exercise in pop slightness, and much of its appeal lies in the sheer jubilation Robin Zander’s voice has in singing those famous lines at the Budokan arena in Tokyo.

Dream Police, their fourth album, is certainly not their best but it retains much of what made this band so great. As always, the hooks are tight, the power chords are sharp and the ballads never drain the overall quality of the album.

At times, though, the album is too involved in itself, and the band becomes too self-aware for its own good. It seems that the band, in their incredible fame, forgot the necessity of simplicity. Too many of the tracks are layered with unnecessary strings, ultimately diluting their power.

Much of the requisite irony is also gone. While “Dream Police” is still an excellent song (with one of guitarist Rick Nielsen’s best guitar solos), its message of Big Brother and “The dream police they live inside of my head/The dream police they come to me in my bed” does not fit a band accustomed to an easy suburban milieu. However, it is a testament to the band’s strengths that they manage to make it work.

This reissue includes a bonus remix of “Dream Police,” a no-string version that is a more accurate depiction of the band’s strength, with Rick Nielsen’s high-pitched harmony adding the humor seen so often in Cheap Trick’s songs.

Nonetheless, Dream Police includes one of the band’s unduly ignored gems, “Way of the World.” A power ballad about the wake of an old unrequited love, Zander’s voice deftly revolves around a strong harmony, duly suited for the best in pop music. The song includes just enough dedication to ingratiate the listener, but still leaves a lot unsaid. Nielsen’s guitar fills in the rest, his power chords restoring the hardness and humor fans have always loved.

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