With nearly half a century under their belt, it’s fair to say that Illinois quartet Cheap Trick are among the most enduring and reliable rock bands of the last several decades. In fact, three out of the four founding members—vocalist/rhythm guitarist Robin Zander, bassist Tom Petersson, and lead guitarist Rick Nielsen—are still here. (Of course, the line-up is completed by Daxx Nielson, who took over for original drummer Bun E. Carlos.) As 2017’s We’re All Alright! and Christmas Christmas proved, the quartet remain uncommonly energized, creative, and adept, retaining a lot of what’s continuously made them beloved while also sounding sufficiently modern and relevant.
Luckily, the same holds true for In Another World, their 20th studio record. Once again produced by Julian Raymond, it naturally houses the band’s trademark poppiness, vibrancy, and density, yet there are also some more sobering aspects that purposefully reflect the current state of the world. (This is particularly evident with their characteristic cover of John Lennon’s “Gimme Some Truth”, which was originally released for Record Store Day back in 2019 and features ex-Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones.) By and large, In Another World packs the intoxicating exuberance, diverse songwriting/instrumentation, and top-notch performances Cheap Trick has always excelled at. In many ways, it feels more youthful, proficient, and enjoyable than the latest outputs by many of the group’s far younger proteges.
A peak example of that excellence is the opener “Here Comes the Summer” (which was initially issued as a 2018 single called “The Summer Looks Good on You”). Its preliminary vocal harmonies alone are extremely impressive and welcoming, and it sets the stage well for the upbeat and catchy development that follows. Sure, it’s as straightforward and commercial as could be, but that doesn’t undermine the fact that it’s done with the mastery of a group who’s had nearly 50 years to hone their craft. It’s immensely hooky and accessible but also multifaceted enough (production-wise) to reveal new layers with subsequent listens, making it a great way to kick off In Another World.
Predictably, Cheap Trick uphold that vibe for most of the runtime, with standouts including the buoyant and snarky “Quit Waking Me Up”; the feisty “Here’s Looking at You”; and the celebratory “The Party” and “Final Days” (both of which conjure classic Alice Cooper with their lavish grittiness). That said, other pieces take a softer and more serious route. Specifically, “Another World” is an acoustic ode whose warm timbres juxtapose its somber melodies, lyrics, and lead acoustic chord progression. The folky “So It Goes” and “I’ll See You Again” go even further with their reflective elegance, especially in terms of their symphonic foundations, whereas “Passing Through” engagingly ventures into late 1960s psychedelia.
While much of the LP is quite strong, some of the pieces tend to run together because they’re too similar. Every composition is at least likable and praiseworthy, but Cheap Trick could’ve done more to diversify the tracklist overall. Along the same lines, a couple of tunes—namely, the breezily hard rock “Boys & Girls & Rock N Roll” and “Light Up the Fire”—are notably generic (I mean, just look at their titles). To be fair, they’re by no means bad, but they nonetheless fail to excite and intrigue as much as the other track.
Even so, the vast majority of In Another World is gripping, charming, and laudable. It’d be a solid collection of songs for any rock band to create, let alone one that’s been around for so long and done so many prior albums. Thus, Cheap Trick certainly aren’t innovating stylistically or challenging themselves here—they basically just stick to what works—but they still do an exceptional job delivering precisely what fans expect. As a result, it’s nearly impossible not to commend them for pulling it off so well or get sucked into the colorful liveliness of it all.