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New releases from Parquet Courts, Cheap Trick, and P.J. Harvey 

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click to enlarge Cheap Trick
  • Cheap Trick

Cheap Trick

Bang, Zoom, Crazy... Hello

Big Machine

File next to: The Move, Boston, Fountains of Wayne

With Bang, Zoom, Crazy... Hello, the Rockford, Illinois, foursome sticks to what they know: anthemic, melodic rock. The key elements have been in place since their self-titled 1977 debut: Robin Zander's powerful lead vocals, often doubled (an octave higher) by guitarist Rick Nielsen; Nielsen's mock-heroic (yet underrated) guitar abilities; Tom Petersson's thunderous, eight-string bass and Bun E. Carlos' solid-as-rock drumming. But — 2016 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction notwithstanding — Bun's gone, replaced by Nielsen's son Dax. The difference is subtle but real, and something important has been lost. Some songs sound like rewrites: The intro to "When I Wake Up Tomorrow" echoes "Tonight It's You." The album offers nothing as immortal as anything they did in their early days (though "No Direction Home" comes close), but Bang, Zoom, Crazy... Hello is still a solid if unspectacular addition to the group's catalog. — Bill Kopp

click to enlarge P.J. Harvey
  • P.J. Harvey

P.J. Harvey

The Hope Six Demolition Project

Island/Vagrant

File next to: Cat Power, Kristin Hersh, Bat for Lashes

England's Polly Jean Harvey spent the first 15 years of her career blurting amazing confessions of love and desire in front of unusual, strident blues rock. In the last few years, she has alternated between stark, acoustic works like 2007's White Chalk, and brazen political manifestos like 2011's Let England Shake. The Hope Six Demolition Project aligns with the latter, but forgoes the common bitterness of 2016 politics. The album's title comes from a failed U.S. housing program, but instead of cheap shots, Harvey uses the song "Community of Hope" to show how local communities can find their own footing. Similarly, the album's first single, "The Wheel," promotes an anarchist message of self-reliance. Harvey proved long ago that she's among the sexiest and most innovative blues-rockers alive. Now, she not only gives us nuanced political observations, but displays immense empathy and positivism while doing so. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge Parquet Courts
  • Parquet Courts

Parquet Courts

Human Performance

Rough Trade

File next to: Terry Knight and the Pack, The Seeds, Elvis Costello and The Attractions

Last November, when Brooklyn's favorite band moved to the Rough Trade label, they released a sloppy and unfocused EP, Monastic Living. Perhaps to show penance or forward motion, Parquet Courts' Human Performance is a brash statement, with less of a Pavement sound and more '60s garage-rock roughness. "Dust," "One Man No City" and the title track all sound like they could have topped the charts in 1966. Even the less-focused tracks here feel like the dreamy psychedelic tunes one might find on the Pebbles collections of underground one-hit wonders. The sheer diversity of styles on Human Performance may not match those of 2014's Content Nausea, but Parquet Courts have already proven that they rarely repeat themselves and can always add new wrinkles to even their most rambling, Dylanesque songs. Maybe last year's EP was just to prove they can goof off in style. — Loring Wirbel

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