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Tom Petersson, Robin Zander, Bun E. Carlos, Rick Nielsen
Not Rated.

Standard 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English PCM Stereo

Runtime: 65 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 3/26/2002

• Audio commentary With Cheap Trick
• Band Interview
• Discography
• Liner Notes
• Merchandise
• Website
• Fan Club Info


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Cheap Trick: Music for Hangovers (2000)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Back in 1979, pretty much every self-respecting 12-year-old white boy owned a copy of Cheap Trick Live at Budokan. Not one to buck that trend, I possessed the album on cassette and really liked it. However, my passion didn’t last. I still love some of the music that I went for in 1979 - I really got into the Beatles that year, for example - but Cheap Trick fell by the wayside for me years ago.

At the risk of violating semi-cherished childhood memories, I decided to give the band another look after their new DVD arrived on my doorstep. Music for Hangovers shows excerpts from four 1998 shows at Chicago’s Metro club. They started on Thursday April 30 and ran consecutively through Sunday May 3. Cheap Trick highlighted a different vintage album every night. Apparently, each evening they played one of their first four records in its entirely and in its original running order. From 1977’s Cheap Trick, we get “Taxman, Mr. Thief”, “Hot Love”, “Mandocello”, and “The Ballad of TV Violence”. 1977’s In Color offers “I Want You to Want Me”, “Oh Caroline”, and “So Good to See You”, while 1978’s Heaven Tonight gives us “Surrender”, “How Are You”, and “Oh Claire”.

When it comes to the identity of the fourth album, I become confused. It appears they considered the classic Live at Budokan to be the fourth record. Indeed, it was one of their initial four releases, but normally I’d expect them only to count studio efforts. However, it looks like one night was reserved for Budokan, at least based on the DVD’s cover. Cheap Trick did play two songs from their fourth studio effort; from 1979’s Dream Police we find “Dream Police” and “Gonna Raise Hell”. Since we also find one song from 1982’s One on One (“If You Want My Love”) and 1983’s Next Position Please (“I Can’t Take It”), it’s obvious that a number of other songs were played as well, so I remain confused.

No matter! The program bops from concert to concert, and it doesn’t attempt to make us believe they came from the same show. Indeed, at the start of most songs, the day on which it was taped appears at the bottom of the screen. That’s a nice device to clue us in to the different evenings, though it might have been more helpful for them to also mention the album from which the tunes came as well.

Although it jumps from date to date, the program decently approximates the flow of a regular concert. That’s a pretty good accomplishment. Since the DVD emanates from four different shows, it could have felt choppy and inconsistent, but it meshes together pretty well. It maintains a nice progression that seems clear and logical.

However, the presentation falters due to some lackluster editing and direction. The DVD shows the concert in a bland manner. While I’m happy that it doesn’t favor the rapid cutting found on many such packages, I still would like it better had some visual panache been apparent. Frankly, the program seems fairly amateurish much of the time; it didn’t come across as a polished and professional piece. That may be preferable for some, but I’d prefer something a little more lively and distinct.

As for the music itself, I can’t say that Hangovers won me back to the Cheap Trick cause. I think they’re a decent little power pop band, but they don’t stand out to me. At best, they provide nicely tight and bouncy tunes such as “Surrender” or “I Want You to Want Me”. Cheap Trick seem to be regarded as a hard rock band and they’ve often been lumped with groups like Journey, but I don’t think that’s accurate. Instead, they work best when they provide basic three-minute pop songs.

The band shows a very strong Beatles influence. This becomes most evident with “Taxman, Mr. Thief”; since it took its title and some lyrics from George Harrison’s Revolver tune, no one can argue that the song exists as an homage. In addition, singer Robin Zander can sound a tremendous amount like John Lennon; that comes through most clearly on “The Ballad of TV Violence” and “Gonna Raise Hell”.

While the Beatles tone is obvious, Cheap Trick don’t feel like a rip-off band. While they don’t do much for me, they manage to achieve their own sound and identity. Of course, they always had one of the more interesting visual dichotomies based on the band members. On one hand, Zander and bassist Tom Petersson provided the handsome eye candy, while guitarist Rick Nielsen went for the quirky nerd look. Drummer Bun E. Carlos resembled a rumpled white-collar worker.

Although I do think they offer a distinctive sound, not many of the songs really stand out for me. The tunes are consistently lively and acceptably engaging, but except for a couple of exceptions, they don’t manage to stick out from each other. Frankly, they all blend into each other after a while.

I noted some of the stronger tunes earlier. My least favorite is definitely “Gonna Raise Hell”, mostly because it violates the band’s power pop tone. The song runs about nine minutes and features tedious elements like a drum solo! Bands like this shouldn’t indulge in such pointless material.

A couple of guest performers appear during the show, both of whom came from Smashing Pumpkins. Bill Corgan plays guitar during “Mandocello”. Garbed in quirky Nielsen attire, he strums along and offers the tune’s solo. In addition, D’Arcy Wretsky provides backup vocals for “If You Want My Love” - sort of. Yes, she sings along with the tune, but it sounds like they unplugged her microphone; her crooning appears totally inaudible. However, we can sneak a nice peek at her via the see-through top she wears.

Despite that cheap thrill, Cheap Trick’s Music for Hangovers seems like a fairly bland program. At best, it shows some good performances of good songs. However, it feels somewhat bland and doesn’t showcase the band to their best advantage. Fans of the group will enjoy it, but I don’t think it’ll sway anyone to the cause.

The DVD Grades: Picture D+ / Audio C / Bonus C+

Music for Hangovers appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The disc offered a very erratic picture that frequently looked rather poor.

Sharpness varied. Some shots appeared reasonably crisp and well defined, but the program also declined badly at times. Many images seemed soft and fuzzy, and that tone dominated the show. Jagged edges provided definite concerns, and some shimmer appeared via instruments like Corgan’s guitar. Video artifacts popped up through much of the video, as it betrayed a hazy and grainy look a lot of the time.

Colors tended to be bland and runny. At times they seemed fairly vivid, but those examples were exceptions to the rule. Instead, the hues generally appeared flat and lifeless. Colored lighting tended to look too heavy and oppressive. Black levels were murky and inky, while shadow detail appeared thick and fairly impenetrable. When the production didn’t use spotlights, the performers became lost in the muck. In the end, Hangovers offered enough attractive shots to earn a “D+”, but much of the program appeared surprisingly rough and ugly. Even the band themselves cracked on the video quality during their audio commentary!

While the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Music for Hangovers improved on the picture, it still showed a mix of concerns. The soundfield largely maintained an appropriate focus on the front, where it demonstrated decent though inconsistent stereo. Instruments offered reasonable definition, but they lacked the concise placement I’d expect.

Part of the problem related to the usage of the rear speakers. Some of the material bled through to the surrounds. Nielsen’s guitar presented a particular problem in that regard. It often popped up in the rear left channel, which made it distracting on occasion. Zander’s vocals featured too much echo as well; it sounded as though the mixers thought the band played a stadium, not a club.

Audio quality also seemed erratic, mostly related to distortion. Zander’s vocals periodically displayed some edginess, and instruments also crackled at times. During consistently loud sequences, those problems were less apparent. However, when the songs got quiet, the flaws became more noticeable. For example, spoken introductions to tunes provided serious roughness, as did lead-ins from guitars.

Otherwise, the material demonstrated fairly good reproduction. Except for those incidents mentioned above, guitars sounded crunchy and crisp, while bass response was reasonably tight; at times the low-end seemed a bit boomy, but it usually appeared solid. Drums varied. Sometimes they sounded punchy and distinct, but they could also come across as flat and limp. Music for Hangovers provided some good auditory elements, but it displayed enough faults to seem average as a whole.

Music for Hangovers offers a few supplements. Of most interest is an audio commentary from the band, all of whom were recorded together for this running, screen-specific track. Annoyingly, no one ever clearly identifies the speakers. I could figure it out as the piece progressed, but it remained somewhat confusing to a degree.

While not a terrific commentary, this one features enough interesting material to merit a listen. The band give us little concrete information about the shows or the material, but it’s fun to hear them crack on each other and also different performers. They cover notes like the various instruments they play, but again, there’s not much upon which you can hang your hat; very little real content appears. That said, it does seem strangely entertaining, and I’m sure fans will get a kick out of it.

Note that the presentation makes it look like the band off a video commentary. At the bottom of the screen, we see a silhouette of the performers, ala Men In Black. However, it’s not an active image. The silhouette remains static through the concert and adds nothing to the proceedings.

The other extras seem less interesting. Credits just takes you to the final chapter of the DVD. Liner Notes provides some decent and personal remarks from Billy Corgan. Oddly, they’re presented as a running scroll ala the opening of Star Wars; it lasts four minutes, 35 seconds as “Mandocello” plays beneath it.

Fan Club Info just lists an address and some specs to contact that organization, while Merchandise does the same for that side of the coin. Website provides that address; not surprisingly, it’s www.cheaptrick.com, and since we see that plastered all over other parts of the DVD, it’s less than useful here. The Discography also seems like a waste of time. It shows the covers for 20 Trick albums all crammed onto one screen but includes no information about them.

Finally, the DVD provides an Interview with the band. We hear from each member separately during this five minute and 35 second piece. It moves quickly and goes over topics such as the Metro shows, instruments of choice, and the band’s present and future. Despite the brevity of the piece, it includes a reasonable amount of information and merits a look.

One disappointment: why don’t we find any bonus songs? Hangovers only runs 65 minutes, which doesn’t even run the length of one concert. Since the program compiles numbers from four shows, obviously a slew of unused material exists. The DVD would have been a perfect place for some of these other numbers.

While Music For Hangovers didn’t resurrect my decades-dead interest in Cheap Trick, I liked some of what I heard. They offer fairly good power pop and still can put on a decent show. Unfortunately, the DVD suffers from poor video and erratic audio. It includes an uninformative but still fun audio commentary plus other minor extras. Because of the relatively problematic quality, I’d leave this one for the band’s biggest fans; neophytes probably won’t be swayed by it.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.6666 Stars Number of Votes: 6
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