another uneven lesson from the professors

Woke Up with a Monster (Warner)
Cheap Trick

By Mark Clark

Everything you need to know about rock 'n' roll you can learn from a good Cheap Trick song.

Jumpy backbeat, sweet melody, nifty guitar solo — it's all there on older tunes like "Surrender," "Dream Police," and "Tonight It's You."

The band's problem over the years has been getting enough good songs on each album to make their records recommendable, overall. Heaven Tonight and 1970s essential Live at Budokan were fine LPs. But the other eleven titles in the Cheap Trick catalog consist of two or three great songs and a bunch of other stuff.

Take, for instance, the band's latest release, Woke Up with a Monster. It boasts some cool tunes.

"You're All I Wanna Do" is classic Trick — Tom Petersson thumping away on his 12-string bass, Bun E. Carlos keeping impeccable time, Rick Nielson hammering out a punchy guitar riff, Robin Zander offering a lovely vocal hook. "Never Run Out of Love" is nice too. It's a chirpy ballad in the "If You Want My Love" vein.

Then there's the other stuff: Pleasant but forgettable ear candy ("Let Her Go," "Didn't Know I Had It"), syrupy ballads ("Tell Me Everything") and botched experiments (the blues-dirge "Cry Baby").

The album's title cut is the latest in a long line of Trick tunes to nick the Beatles' "I Want You (She's So Heavy)." That song must have left some kind of dent on the band's collective psyche when it was new. They've ripped it off at least a half-dozen times.

Like 'em or ignore 'em, it's worth remembering that Chicago gave us Cheap Trick long before it produced Smashing Pumpkins, Liz Phair or Urge Overkill. And these guys will probably still be cranking out albums when those bands are long gone.