In times of chaos and uncertainty, people turn to the familiar for comfort and stability. During the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, they have sought solace from their favorite foods, comfortable clothing, movies and television shows old and new — and especially music.
Fans of classic rock received an especially soothing salve last month from Cheap Trick in the form of “In Another World,” the band’s 20th studio album in a roller coaster career spanning almost half a century. Filled with 13 of the group’s trademark guitar-driven, hook-filled pop rock songs, this sure-to-please effort reassures listeners that, despite a recent period of crises — medical, political and societal — in this country and the world that has left many feeling like misfits, lost and alone, we’re all alright.
Like many classic rock bands, Cheap Trick’s success is built on two primary elements: a charismatic, gifted lead singer — Robin Zander — and an innovative, brilliant lead guitarist — Rick Nielsen. On “In Another World,” this outstanding duo show their talents have not diminished with age. Capably rounding out the band’s lineup are long-time bassist Tom Petersson and Nielsen’s son, Daxx, who replaced original drummer Bun E. Carlos several years ago. Zander’s son, Robin Taylor Zander, also makes some guest appearances on rhythm guitar and backing vocals.
Cheap Trick always has been a direct musical descendant from the Beatles. That lineage is strongly apparent on songs such as “Quit Waking Me Up” and “So It Goes.” The band also covers the still-timely John Lennon-penned declaration “Gimme Some Truth.”
But the Fab Four are not the band’s only influence. “Final Days” struts with the bluesy swagger of classic Rolling Stones, while “The Party” channels the spirit of Led Zeppelin.
With its hard-driving rhythm and scorching guitars, “Light Up the Fire” is 2:50 minutes of rock perfection. “Passing Through” is a psychedelic meditation on love lost. “The Summer Looks Good on You” is an ideal song for cruising.
The album packs a surprising one-two punch with very different, yet very enjoyable versions of the song “Another World.” The first is a lush power balled in the vein of the band’s “The Flame” and “If You Want My Love.” Buoyed by a soaring guitar solo, the song offers a message of hope for those shell shocked by the recent pandemic, social unrest and divisive politics of hate. “I will be there for you/I will stand by your side/We’ll find us a way/To have shelter and say/We believe in/In another world.”
The song is reprised later on the album as a punked-out, revved-up, cathartic primal scream.
As they age, many music acts find it hard to sustain a career without changing their sound in an attempt to stay relevant and still sell new offerings. “In Another World,” Cheap Trick shows they can still be successful, and relevant, by staying true to what made them Rock and Roll Hall of Famers in the first place: catchy songs that are sometimes anthemic, sometimes quirky, but always memorable and fun.