It's hard to say just what was hampering Cheap Trick's productivity in the first decade of the new millennium, but ever since they signed with Big Machine Records, they've become surprisingly prolific. Released in 2017, Christmas Christmas, the veteran band's first seasonal album, is their third full-length release in a span of just 18 months, and while many acts toss off Christmas albums with the care and enthusiasm that six-year-olds display when cleaning their rooms, Cheap Trick have offered up a full-bodied set of Yuletide rock & roll that doesn't spare the volume or the muscle. Christmas Christmas only features three original songs, but Cheap Trick have avoided many of the clichéd seasonal numbers that usually fill up these releases, instead opting for Yuletide numbers from for-real rockers. The Pride of Rockville, Illinois tear through Roy Wood and Wizzard's "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day," Slade's "Merry Xmas Everybody," the Ramones' "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)," and the Kinks' "Father Christmas," and they embolden each one with the big guitars and swaggering beat they deserve. The group turns down the tempo for more measured but still passionate takes on Charles Brown's "Please Come Home for Christmas" and Harry Nilsson's "Remember Christmas"; Robin Zander's performance on the latter works the number for all its tear-inducing emotional power. And if "Our Father of Life" suggests that serious songs of faith are not Cheap Trick's strongest suit, the other two originals, "Merry Christmas Darlings" and the title cut, show they can rock around the Christmas tree with the best of 'em. If you want some no-fooling rock & roll with big guitars and plentiful melodic hooks for your holiday get-together, give Christmas Christmas a try; it's a Cheap Trick album first and a seasonal souvenir second, which means you might even be tempted to spin it well into the New Year.
Christmas Christmas Review
by Mark Deming