When guitarist Rick Nielsen formed Cheap Trick in Rockford, IL back in 1973, it seems more than doubtful that he could have imagined that he be releasing the band’s 20th studio album 48 years later. For a band with such staying power, it’s a bit strange that their greatest commercial impact came via their late 70’s concert album, Cheap Trick at Budokan, while the singles, “I Want You to Want Me” and “Surrender,” barely broke the Top 40 they went on to become classic rock staples. Much more successful bands broke up or at least got off the road, but Cheap Trick maintained a steady touring schedule, getting a commercial boost for a new generation when they recorded the theme song for the TV sit/com “That 70’s Show,” which had a successful run in the ‘00’s.
After releasing a handful of albums that failed to connect, in 2006 Nielsen and vocalist Robin Zander earned critical accolades with the release of Rockford, which keyed into the band’s strengths: Nielsen’s guitar playing, Zander’s killer voice, and fun, punchy power-pop and rock & roll. In ’14, Nielsen’s influence as a guitarist was celebrated when Pearl Jam included him on their HBO doc-related album, Sonic Highways, and in 2016 Cheap Trick was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. In ’18, the band released the single “Here Comes The Summer,” as a follow-up to the well-received album, We’re All Alright, the previous year, with the promise a new album soon to follow.
Completed by 2020 but with the release delayed by the pandemic, In Another World is more of the same, following the standing logic that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The band, co-producing again with Julian Raymond, keeps Nielsen’s great sounding guitars loud in the mix, Zander’s catchy vocals sweet and catchy, the beat a-rockin’. As one title proclaims, it’s “Boys Girls Rock and Roll” pretty much start to finish, consistent if not terribly groundbreakingly original songwriting. While the standard operating procedure appears to be all rock and roll all the time, they slow the pace a bit for a bluesy rocker, “Final Days.”
Over the decades, Zander and Nielsen have never shied away from wearing their love of The Beatles on their sleeves, recording “Magical Mystery Tour” as a single for their “Greatest Hits” album, recording “Cold Turkey” for a tribute album of John Lennon’s songs, and in 2007 performing “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” on its 40th anniversary at the Hollywood Bowl with a full orchestra. Here we can hear The Fab Four’s influence on the vocal harmonies of “Here Comes The Summer,” the two ballads they throw in to provide a palette cleanser, “So It Goes” and “I’ll See You Again,” and Lennon’s still timely political diatribe, “Gimme Some Truth.” Cheap Trick isn’t reinventing the wheel here as their more experimental days are behind them. In Another World focuses on giving their fans more of what has always worked best!
Key Tracks: “Light Up The Fire” / “Here Comes The Summer ” / “Boys Girls Rock and Roll”
Artists With Similar Fire: Bad Company / Joan Jett / AC/DC
Cheap Trick Review History: We’re All Alright! (2017)
– Reviewed by Brian Q. Newcomb