It's easy to take Cheap Trick for granted. The group has been around close to forever and apparently has a few more forevers ahead of it. Yet, throughout the years of ceaseless touring, Cheap Trick has soldiered on nearly beyond the point of getting its just due. Always a superb live band, Cheap Trick has built only a tattered body of recorded work. Beginning with the enormously terrific and influential quintet of albums it released in the '70s -- Cheap Trick, In Color, Heaven Tonight, Dream Police, and the cliché-inventing Live at Budokan, the Rockville, Illinois-based band has fueled pop ambition with jackhammer rhythms, agitated guitars, and wry wit, not to mention killer hooks and fine pop/rock smarts.
Band defections, odd pairings with producers who "cleaned up" the band's gritty sound, and songs rendered by professional songwriters all clouded the next decade of Cheap Trick recordings. Though some of these later records contained small gems that gave off the "old" Cheap Trick sparkle ("I Can't Take It," from 1983's Next Position Please, for starters), most were just plain bloated, and the band was finally thought to be left for dead under the weight of 1988's smash hit power ballad "The Flame." Yet 1998's Cheap Trick (its second eponymous release) brought back a bit of the sly songwriting and hard-edged pop attack. That disc was quickly followed by the positively seismic At Budokan: the Complete Concert, an essential and complete update of the chopped-up 1979 Live at Budokan disc. At this point, Cheap Trick's legacy is secure: It's a truly great American rock band. It's a hard-earned legacy that can be heard in nearly every yearning strain of pop/rock music, from new wave to alternative and grunge. And in every crunching power chord that leans itself against a steady melody since Trick's 1977 debut, you'd swear you can almost hear: "Mommy's all right/Daddy's all right/They just seem a little weird/Surrender."