With the release of Woke Up with a Monster, Cheap Trick's first new music in four years, the band was in for a rude awakening of its own. The disc died on the vine, reaching a dismal number 123 on the U.S. charts and (with an almost audible sigh) retiring to the ignominious role of a cut-priced cutout, to be sold on convenience store countertops and in the discount bins of broken dreams. While it was a commercial bust, the music represents a reclamation of artistic ground ceded over the years. Some fans, in a zealous attempt to vindicate commercial indifference, rank this alongside Cheap Trick's first few albums -- it's a weird thing about some Tricksters that each new release holds the vague promise of returning to the innocent power pop of their youth, and every catchy hook spurs on the belief that some holy grail of homecomings is forthcoming. It's not, get over it, and enjoy the music that they are making. Woke Up with a Monster is enjoyable in its own right; power pop with the emphasis on power, it's the first Cheap Trick tape in some time that you'd feel comfortable listening to in your car, loud with the windows rolled down. Robin Zander's voice has grown rougher over the years, but it's well suited to the band's harsher sound. Sure they sound like the rejuvenated Aerosmith sometimes (e.g., "Girlfriends"), but if it ain't Busted, don't fix it. Producer Ted Templeman, well-known for his work with Van Halen, helps Cheap Trick find middle ground between pop hooks and hard rock. Sometimes the elaborate production complements the melodies ("Woke Up With a Monster"); sometimes it masks the lack of one ("Ride the Pony"). If their power pop is a little over the top, underneath are some very good songs: "Didn't Know I Had It," "Tell Me Everything," "You're All I Wanna Do." So, if you spot Woke Up with a Monster in a bargain bin, don't let it languish alongside Billy Joel's Streetlife Serenade and Asia's Alpha; give it a good home and enjoy these cheap tracks.
Woke Up with a Monster Review
by Dave Connolly