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Cheap Trick

On their own terms

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By Gary Graff  
artist

It took them nineteen albums, but Cheap Trick finally got around to paying homage to their Illinois home town on Rockford. The set finds the veteran quartet in prime power pop form, featuring twelve new group-written tracks -- one ("Perfect Stranger") with hitmaker Linda Perry -- and plenty of crunchy guitar hooks and soaring harmonies.

It's been thirty-three years since the group first stormed out of Rockford, but Cheap Trick clearly hasn't Surrender'ed yet.

Q: Were you trying to butter up the town elders by calling the new album Rockford?

Rick Nielsen: No, they knew nothing about it. We're not around there that often. I'm the only one that still lives in Rockford, and if I'm gonna get anything it would be vice mayor, 'cause I've had most of the vices.

Q: You worked with a bunch of folks on the production end of this record -- Jack Douglas, Steve Albini, Julien Raymond. Does that make it more interesting than using one producer?

Nielsen: That's just the state of stuff. You can't get a single person to dedicate the time anymore. We didn't have a producer who's got six weeks available to make an album with us. So we thought, "Well, screw it. We'll just do it ourselves," and we got great people like Jack and Steve to give us some time and worked on it song by song. It just went well that way. I think it's a great way to do stuff.

Q: When you produce as a band, how do you define the roles and who does what?

Nielsen: You look out for the whole, for the big picture, but you also look out for the specifics. Like Bun E. (Carlos), he's there to make sure the drums are right. Sometimes he won't hear anything 'til it's in the mix stage. So you make sure your own part's right, and then when it gets down to everything else that's in it we all listen to see if it's what we want, or what we remember from when we started working on it.

Q: You collaborated with Linda Perry on a song on Rockford. Was it good working with other people like that this time around?

Nielsen: Well, if you think about it, you could say, "I wrote Dream Police, I don't need anybody to help me write!" Well, she wrote "Beautiful" for Christina Aguilera, so she doesn't need anybody to help her write, either. You throw the two together and then throw Robin Zander in and some of the stuff he's written and Tom (Petersson), and before you know it, it's a really good thing. We actually wrote a couple songs together and didn't finish them until about a month or two later, and "Perfect Stranger" was good enough to make the album.

Q: You've been working on re-recording the In Color album. How's that going and when will it be out?

Nielsen: I don't know yet. We're missing one song, I think, or maybe we've got 'em all by now. We haven't really done anything with it. We did it because we wanted to. I was just never happy with it. The songs I always liked, and the performances were all right, but the sound quality I was never happy with. The sound of that record always bothered me, so we went in and did it ourselves. No one paid us to do it or anything.

Gary Graff writes extensively about music. His work has appeared widely in such publications as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Detroit Free Press, and Billboard.