Despite having sold upward of 10 million records in America alone, it wasn’t until recently that Cheap Trick stopped feeling like an afterthought. That is in no way meant to be a slight to the band: They are one of the quintessential American rock bands, and their first four albums are absolute essentials. But Cheap Trick’s big problems were their consistency and their endurance: The band never broke up, no member ever died, and the core of the group — frontman Robin Zander and guitar wunderkind Rick Nielsen — have remained together for 40 years. Lack of drama might bode well for your tour schedule but it doesn’t earn you a lot of ink in Rolling Stone.
Of course, drama eventually came when, in 2010, original drummer Bun E. Carlos relinquished his throne due to the rigors of the road, and eventually followed that up in 2013 with a lawsuit against his other bandmates. (It was thrown out of court later that year.) But any acrimony was pushed aside in 2016 when Cheap Trick was rightfully inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, and the classic lineup of Zander, Nielsen, Carlos and bassist Tom Petersson reminded everyone in attendance and watching around the world just why they were America’s last great rock band. Helping their cause was the release of Bang, Zoom, Crazy… Hello, the band’s first album in seven years (and first with new drummer Daxx Nielsen, son of Rick). It was a consistently rocking affair that fit nicely in a catalog full of them, and had it been Cheap Trick’s final missive, no one would’ve complained.
But here we are, barely a year later, and the foursome from Rockford, Illinois, has delivered We’re All Alright!, another 10 songs (or 13, if you pick up the deluxe version) that sound unmistakably like Cheap Trick: There are Nielsen’s hot-roddin’ guitar licks (the back-to-back salvo of “Nowhere” and “Radio Lover” is as punk as this band has been in years), the impassioned vocals of Zander (his screams in album standout “Brand New Name on an Old Tattoo” are incredible) and some delightfully chunky grooves (opening track “You Got It Going On” is downright nasty).
While the best hooks on Alright! sink in slightly less than those on Bang, it’s a marginal difference — and the swagger and attitude the quartet brings to tracks like “Lolita” and “Listen To Me” more than makes up for it. Blessedly, the only ballad on Alright! is only a ballad for about a minute: “Floating Down” starts off wispy enough, with Zander testing the limits of his falsetto, but it never devolves into cheese like many ’80s-era Cheap Trick ballads did.
Having been an active band for more than four decades, Cheap Trick continues to be a model of freakish consistency with We’re All Alright!. Quick, think of any other American rock band formed in ’70s who is still putting out albums in the modern era that not only don’t embarrass the band but repeatedly revitalize their career. The list starts and stops with one name: Cheap Trick. They’re not going anywhere, so you might as well start listening.