A good concert strategy is to start on a high note, sprinkle some hits throughout, and end on a high note. Naturally, since very few bands have enough high notes for an entire hour-plus concert, a few of the songs in the middle are duds, album filler that’s played for the five or so people who like the song and so the rest of the audience can take break from screaming. We’re All Alright!, the eighteenth album by Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Cheap Trick, feels like an entire album of songs to be played during the middle of a concert or to fumble through on Guitar Hero so that you can unlock the actual song you want. Some of the songs are quite good, some of the songs are quite forgettable and unfortunately, there aren’t any stand-outs.
We’re All Alright! technically takes it’s title from the Cheap Trick song “Surrender,” though I’ve got to admit my mind first went to a different Cheap Trick song; The theme to That 70s Show, a cover of Big Star’s “In the Street”, which also heavily repeats the phrase “we’re all alright”. The opening credits to That 70s Show feature various members of the cast sitting in a car, rocking out to the song. It feels like Cheap Trick took that moment and tried to make an entire album out of it.
The majority of the songs are fast-paced rock and roll, perfect for blaring with the windows down or screaming along to. The energy level is kept high and almost every song has a beautifully executed guitar solo. There’s a noticeable lack of ballads, a bit odd considering that “The Flame” is still one of their best known songs.
You’ve got to hand it to Cheap Trick: with We’re All Alright! they have made a bonafide rock and roll album, one that certainly sounds like Cheap Trick but also oddly sounds like a lot of other things. The influences run RAMPANT: each song off the album sounds enough like something else that by the time you’ve figured out just what it reminds you of, the song’s over. The bones of “You Really Got Me” by the Kinks can be heard in “Long Time Coming” and the aesthetics of the Sex Pistols can be heard all over “Nowhere.” Perhaps the oddest track off the album, “Floating Down,” sounds more like the band trying to take a shot at indie pop. Consequently, it sticks out like a sore thumb compared to the rock and roll stylings of the rest of the album.
The most disappointing thing about We’re All Alright! doesn’t have anything to do with the music itself but everything to do with the production. There’s no way to sugar coat this: this is a terribly produced album. The mixing is drastically uneven and the instruments and vocals are unbalanced on almost every other track. The biggest piece of confusing production is “Nowhere.” The bass constantly threatens to overpower any other instrument, while the vocals are fuzzy-sounding and hard to hear. Still, if you can look past the odd mixing and the generic sound, Cheap Trick gives a perfectly serviceable rock and roll album that will undoubtedly be played in the middle of concert tours for the next five years.