Talking about Pink Lady and their grisly variety show (see here) got me thinking about seventies excess and Cheap Trick's contribution to it. Between "Surrender", (a near-perfect single as the innumerable weak cover versions prove) "I Want You To Want Me" and "Ain't That a Shame" Cheap Trick were as ubiquitous in the late seventies as Star Wars merchandise. Everyone owned Live at Budakon and many bought their relatively less successful sequel Dream Police, the bulk of which, as we speak, lie resting in the bins of Value Villages across North America.
What of the place of the lush, in many senses of that word, single "Dream Police" in the firmament? It's disco-rock sound is so vast, produced in layer upon layer like a cross between Queen and Giorgio Moroder, that it practically turns into science-fiction spectable. Sit back and enjoy the show as the forces of good (played here by a chainsaw-wielding Rick Nielsen) battle against evil incarnate (played here by the 101 Strings) for The Future of the Galaxy. All of the weaponry of seventies excesses; the cocaine subtext, the white outfits and the feathered hair are deployed here but ultimately it's a victory for good. That's because, despite it's grandiosity, there's a palpable joy in this song as each verse, bridge and chorus ascends to dizzying heights, without losing the pounding rhythms and staccato riffs that ruled the band. But from here on Cheap Trick would steadily, as if caught in a tractor beam, be drawn to to the Dark Side (insert echoey mu ha ha here).
(The B-side is "Heaven Tonight" the even druggier title track of their last album and as a bonus I've added the strings-less version of the A-side so you can decide if it's better for the subtraction.)
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