Has there ever been a lamer genre than power-pop? New wave without the experiment, harmonies without melodies and middle eights without choruses, power-pop always seem to hark back to a time when everyone, not just power-pop’s ageing purveyors, had hair.
Of course, there were exceptions, and one of the few bands to survive this label are America’s Cheap Trick. On material like Surrender, Dream Police and the great hit I Want You To Want Me, Cheap Trick showed that, alone among their contemporaries, they understood how to transmute the 60s stylings of The Beatles to the 70s without sounding like ELO (or indeed ELO Kiddies).
Guitarist Rick Nielsen’s slashing power chords merged perfectly with Robin Zander’s keening vocals to create a sound that was both timeless and new. A sound that came to the ears of John Lennon, who used the band on his Double Fantasy album sessions.
Cheap Trick’s first flush of fame was, admittedly, a while ago, but like all great bands they have a knack of revitalising themselves through the years. The repurposing of an old Big Star song for That ’70s Show brought Cheap Trick back into the limelight in the early 2000s, while last year’s unambiguously titled Christmas album Christmas Christmas saw them lay out their roots in Christmas song form brilliantly.
Like Cleopatra with power chords, Cheap Trick cannot be withered by age, nor does custom stale their infinite variety. They just continue to rock (despite being inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2016, normally the sign of a career’s fatal plunge).
In Another World, their twentieth studio album, is one of their best yet. As ever the band appear to have listened to both every record ever made and nothing at all since 1977.
Riffs pile upon riffs like dogs in a basket, harmonies are layered upon other harmonies, and everything sounds like polished thunder.
On songs like The Party (as close to metal as this band will ever get) and the by-no-means unself-explanatory Boys & Girls & Rock’n’Roll, Cheap Trick sound not so much like stadium rock as stadiums made of rock, while Final Days welds John Lennon to glam rock, and Gimme Some Truth actually is the John Lennon song, here performed by Cheap Trick with guitarist Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols.
In Another World is a remarkable album and another marvellous continuation: power and pop.