Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Cheap Trick review series: Next Position Please (1983)

Review by Mike Kimmel

Why oh why oh why did I not realize what a great album this was when I first heard it in 1983?!

Produced by Todd Rundgren and basically panned (given two out of five stars) by Rolling Stone Magazine, as a die-hard Cheap Trick fan for six years already I owned it as soon as it came out. I'm still not sure what I think of Todd Rundgren. I mean, just because the guy qualifies as a creative genius doesn't mean you have to appreciate his talent, not necessarily enjoy his work.

Some of his stuff I like and some not-so-much. You can, however, detect his presence immediately as far as his involvement in this release. One only need pay attention to some of the seriously odd sounds interspersed throughout (need I remind you that Rundgren did a song called "Onomatopoeia" on one of his albums years ago).

Or we could just dial in on the extreme Beatle-esque, uh, Beatle-esqueness of many of the tunes on the release; another indelible Rundgren touch. Not a complaint about it at all. Cheap Trick has never made any bones about their Liverpudlian influences.

The release opens with one of my favorite Cheap Trick tunes – "I Can't Take It". At that point, it was the only tune thus far that Robin Zander alone authored. Though it flopped as a single, it's remained a favorite live over the years. It hasn't been nudged from my Cheap Trick playlist, either.

"Borderline" sounds like it could be on a movie soundtrack. Heck, it might have been, as far as I know. It's another really good, mid-tempo, all-Cheap Trick tune.

A play on words and the Zander vocal echo-fade that never gets old for me is up next with "I Don’t Love Here Anymore". It describes a romance that was fantastic at the start, but now "…You don't want to play by the rules. I don't want to love here anymore."

I'm still enjoying the weirdness of the title track from Next Position Please. Incongruous lyrics like "Read between the lines, learn a new message. Read the latest book. It's a new twist. Be the first one to have a new idea. You'll never get bored with mirrors on the ceiling". Right into the chorus of "Next position, please. Do I have to get down on my knees. Next position, please. I'm in a hurry, so hurry please".

In typical Cheap Trick fashion, a slight alteration of the words occurs in a later chorus when instead of "Do I have to get down on my knees?" changes to "You'll have to get down on your knees".

"Younger Girls" is a variation on Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little 16" – an ode to younger girls that predated the Cheap Trick version by 20 or 30 years and certainly not the only track to ever express this…sentiment.

"Feels so good, whoo! Let me in. I might jump right outta my skin. Don't you ever grow up, little girl. Sweet young thing. You're not so innocent."

"Don't Make Our Love a Crime" has Zander talking about wanting to be "caught" with his significant other in the tune. Shortly after he wants "…to be blamed with you," then "…I wanna be pawns with you."

"3D" is where Todd Rundgren's involvement really shows up, in my opinion. He's not the only professional recording artist to have been influenced by the Fab Four (not by a LONG shot)! The part that screams Rundgren to me is the number of odd effects, most of them applied to vocals in this track. It's not out of place.

It doesn't even sound questionable – it's just identifiable. It's a stamp Rundgren applies to a lot of his work. Just like Bob Ezrin's "stamp" helped Alice Cooper and KISS rock and Jack Douglas "stamped" Aerosmith, some Cheap Trick, Montrose, and others, almost like a Billy Gibbons guitar lick. Immediately attributable.

"You Talk Too Much" threatens about everyone. "Dear father, don't mother me. Dear mother, don't bother me. If I ever needed your advice I would have called you on the telephone. I've only been wrong maybe once or twice and that's when I was listening to you."

"Dear preacher, you won't reach me. Dear teacher, don't preach to me."

"You talk too much. You talk too much. You talk too much to me. Aww shut up!"

Cheap Trick reasoning at its absolute finest!

"Y.O.Y.O.Y." is another good Cheap Trick love song. Most of their stuff in this area is either very good or fairly humorous (on purpose). The difference here is that this tune is GREAT! I can't help it. You'll just have to listen to it.

"Won't Take No for an Answer" is really an early British Invasion (if you get my aversion to continuing to cite The Beatles) sounding track through the verses. The chorus? Maybe not so much. "Wait just a minute. You're a little lost. Things keep on changing. And so does the cost."

"Hey, Mister Sister (?), leave me alone. Today kids don't grow up – they just grow old." Even 33+ years after it was released, it's still such an accurate indictment in so many areas.

Rolling Stone's reviewer cited the next song in particular in his semi-scathing review. To be fair, he ripped Cheap Trick as well as ripping Todd Rundgren. But I really think the accusations were unfounded. He complains that the chorus of "Heaven's Falling" was predictable, and it was not intended as a compliment.

First, I really don't see it. Next, so what? Finally, have you ever gone to the movies with someone who was constantly saying things like "Oh that's just not possible!" or 'That'd never happen in a million years!"? My response to them as well as that reviewer is "Do you view/listen to art to be entertained or to be convinced?" Personally, I've always thought that entertainment's purpose was to entertain.

I guess I could be wrong.

"Invaders of the Heart" "…are messing with my mind. Invaders of the heart can make your heart blind." It starts out with several strange-ish start/stop things working on vocals, guitars, and drums. And about halfway through the song, someone (might be Zander, but it sounds kinda like Tom Petersson to me – which is odd, because Jon Brandt plays bass on the album – this was the period during which Tom Petersson had left the band) counts to 30. Another fun tune.

Take a brief run back to earlier Trick days feel with "You Say Jump". "You've got a one track mind. Wish you could just read mine. I hope you will in time." The song feels something like "I Want You to Want Me" with its sort of staccato drum and guitar delivery.

The boys from Rockford do one remake on the release, which is "Dancing the Night Away".

That's it for the original release. Some years later, Cheap Trick made an "authorized" version with a different song order and two additional tunes: "Twisted Heart" and "Don't Hit Me with Love".

"Twisted Heart" starts with a really eerie beat, screeching, broken Zander vocals, and background guitars/bass/keyboard-that-sounds-like-a-pipe-organ. Another unexpectedly good song that I didn't realize existed until I started this write-up. I mean, upon double-checking my inventory, I found that it does appear on the Sex, America, Cheap Trick collection. My fault for not listening, I s'pose.

Finally, the second of the two additional tracks added to the re-release is "Don't Hit Me with Love". It starts out with what sounds like a group of grade school kids counting down from five – as in "Lift off!" – followed by (I think) "Young astronauts… YAY!" Then it's a good, simple rocker.

"Don't try the one thing I'm so afraid of. Don't hit me, hit me, hit me, hit me, hit me. Don't hit me with love."

"But your eyes don't lie. They kick the shit outta me."

The lyrics, as always, are cool, the music is great, the selection is varied. Most of all, as with ALL things Cheap Trick, you have to watch and/or listen to the very end. You never know when you're going to miss something added where you just might not expect it.

-Mike Kimmel

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