** 1/2 CHEAP TRICK. "Lap of Luxury." Epic. Call it the Petersson Principle. When original bassist Tom Petersson was aboard, Cheap Trick soared to creative and commercial heights with albums like "Cheap Trick at Budokan" and singles like "I Want You to Want Me" and "Surrender." When Petersson left in 1980, the band went into a nose dive, creatively and commercially. Now with Petersson back in the lineup, the band has returned to form--commercially, anyway. "Lap" has ascended toward the Top 20, propelled by the smash single "The Flame."
Things aren't nearly as encouraging on the creative side. For starters, guitarist extraordinaire and resident nerd Rick Nielsen, once the group's dominant creative force, is barely involved in the songwriting. Nielsen's bandmates pick up some of the slack and come up with some vintage Trick sounds--like the bright, chugging "Let Go" and the souped-up rocker "All Wound Up." But there's also a surprising amount of outside material, including the solid ballad "The Flame" along with some strictly corporate-rock ventures.
Overall, "Lap of Luxury" suggests a prevailing desire to return to the upper end of the charts. You're there, guys. So next time, maybe we can have a lot more of the good stuff--preferably your own.