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Rate A Record: Cheap Hüsker Giants


Listening to new music by bands you used to love can be a bit daunting. Like your children, you want the best for them. You hope they can continue to grow and do good work. You root for their success. Recently, They Might Be Giants, Cheap Trick, and Bob Mould (all former Crawford faves) released new albums. The various verdicts are dispensed below.

“Phone Power,” They Might Be Giants. “Phone Power” is available  from They Might Be Giants’ website with the nice feature that the consumer gets to select the purchasing price. Nine bucks is the system default, but it’s worth about eight dollars less than that. The quirky duo has had late period success with 2007’s “The Else” being particularly strong (production assistance from The Dust Brothers didn’t hurt). However, inspiration has been waning since the 2013 “Nanobots” album and this release feels like pure time marking product. John Linnell seems particularly tired of their absurdist shtick. The eighteen tracks include an unnecessary cover of Destiny Child’s “Bills, Bills, Bills” and a load of demo sketches impersonating songs. The white boy space rock/funk fusion of “I’ll Be Haunting You” is the only true winner on the album, although there a few other minor pleasures for the hardcore believers. Grade – C

“Bang, Zoom, Crazy…Hello,” Cheap Trick. Cheap Trick’s first album in seven years is a mixed bag – more pyrite than gold. The fact that the lead track is a generic rocker that Rick Nielsen gave to Greg Giuffria’s hair metal band House of Lords in 1990 tells you what your expectations should be for the record. Highlights include the multi-tracked vocals of “No Direction Home,” which cops a riff from Rush’s “Fly by Night,” and the lead single, “When I Wake Up Tomorrow,” which echoes Cheap Trick’s previous releases “Tonight’s It’s You” and “Say Goodbye.” Overall, it’s a bombastic production and the deft touch of Bun E. Carlos is sorely missed behind the kit. Skip the bargain basement Slade pastiche of “Blood Red Lips” and the heavy handed cover of the Dobie Gray hit “The In Crowd.” The band rights itself on the last two tracks – the Beatles inspired rocker “The Sun Never Sets” and the deadpan humor of “All Strung Out.” Grade – B

“Patch the Sky,” Bob Mould. As Iman Lababedi has noted, one time Hüsker Dü frontman Bob Mould has become a model of consistency in his later years – keeping farm boy fresh while plowing his power pop meets hardcore niche. “Voices in My Head,” the lead track, is an instant classic on chord structure alone and the momentum never flags. My only complaint is that lyrically Mould has never moved beyond existential angst, vague recriminations wrapped up in the-world-sucks-and-it’s-your-fault stance. Still, this sounds like an album that could have been released in Hüsker Dü’s glory years and Mould creates a glorious din of sound. He may be the punk rock Phil Spector, with less and better hair. Grade – A-

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