There has always been something comforting about Thunder. Perhaps it’s their no frills approach to the classic hard rock sound, perhaps it is down to their reliable quality in terms of output (from 1990’s Back Street Symphony to Rip it Up, they’re still recognisably the same band in terms of their sound, with relatively few out and out duds in terms of studio albums), maybe it’s because they have always given the impression that they knew they’d never be the biggest band in the world in terms of sales, so they would do all they could to be one of the most reliable in the live arena, and that is where their reputation has always been strongest. Be it headlining arenas, getting a hitherto uninterested festival crowd on their feet, or raising the roof off of a sweaty rock club, few bands deliver the goods in a live setting with such consistency as Thunder.
With their solid riffing, dependable rhythm section and the strong frontline of Luke Morley and Danny Bowes, Thunder should have enjoyed huge success with their smart and welcoming arena rock sound, but they arrived at the rockers party just too late and Grunge swept over the landscape they were poised to conquer. Over a quarter of a century since their initial success, a number of splits and reformations behind them, and a reputation as one of the most consistently great live acts carved in stone, Thunder don’t have much more to prove on an album like Rip It Up.
Rip It Up has all the ingredients for a good Thunder album, with a rousing opener (“No One Gets Out Alive”), a power ballad (“Right From the Start”) and a bluesy number (“In Another Life”) present an correct. While it can’t be argued that Thunder are offering anything new or unique on Rip It Up, after the lengthy career that they’ve had, you can’t really blame them for only making the most subtle changes to a formula which has served them well to date – Big hard rock tunes, combined with a generous serving of power-ballads, a liberal sprinkling of mature reflection and unfussy production are the order of the day. Thunder have a formula and it works for them and at this stage in their, off again, on again, career, they’re unlikely to adjust it beyond some subtle fine-tuning. Sure, they continue to struggle to harness the energy of their live performances in the studio, but then their live albums haven’t done the job either, leaving them as a band whose live reputation far outstrips their studio material. Not that this matters much to Thunder fans, as long as Rip It Up is a solid rock with a few good choruses, big riffs (“Shakedown”, “The Enemy Inside” and “The Chosen One” are particularly good for this) and Bowes remains in good voice (which he is), then Thunder fans will be happy. Much like Def Leppard fans will always be happy with Def Leppard sounding exactly like Def Leppard, Thunder fans just want Thunder to sound like Thunder.
In terms of Thunder albums, Rip It Up is yet another solid release, and if you want an album of classically styled hard rock, then it’s definitely worth your hard earned.