At this point, Cheap Trick has nothing left to prove except that it can carry on being the best Cheap Trick it knows how to be. After a white-hot burst of creativity in the late ’70s followed by some long wilderness years, the band has enjoyed a late-career renaissance that has more to do with restored confidence and the appreciation of bands who studied its winning mix of power chords, dramatic vocals, and Beatles-inspired melodies than having anything new to say. The band seems to know it, too. Even if the Slade cover “When The Lights Are Out” didn’t shamelessly throw in echoes of “Elo Kiddies,” the title of The Latest would still send a clear message: Here’s another Cheap Trick album.
And that’s okay. The Latest should be no one’s first Cheap Trick album, but fans of the band, especially those disappointed by the tired-sounding 21st-century albums Special One and Rockford, will find plenty to like here. Stacked back-to-back, “California Girl,” “Everybody Knows,” and “Alive” capture the band’s three most effective moods: lustful, philosophical, and defiant, respectively. “Sick Man Of Europe” looks to The Hives for inspiration and threatens to outdo them in the process. It’s not precisely an instance of an old band learning new tricks, but the song’s two punchy minutes show there’s plenty of life left in these veterans. No one beats them at their own game, and sometimes they even beat others at theirs.