In the hipster climate of 2011, Night Ranger T-shirts were the only way to out-ironic your friend who showed up wearing Styx, something set in motion when the film Boogie Nights used “Sister Christian” and helped make the band representative of Rock at its most excessive and vacant. Night Ranger themselves did nearly as much damage in this time, splitting into two factions and legally wrangling over use of the band’s name. Then, after the usual re-recordings, live albums, and unplugged efforts, they released 2007’s Hole in the Sun, a misguided modern album that couldn’t even get a release date in America -- where you still couldn’t rock, apparently -- until a year later. Hardcore fans weathered it all somehow, but the reason it all needs to be said is that Somewhere in California is not only the back-to-basics effort that was much needed, it’s the return-to-form album packed with some extra blasts of relief and pride. Granted, the members of this energetic crew have poured their hearts into lesser material, but here, everything sounds genuine, leaving more room for fun as guitarists Brad Gillis (the vet) and Joel Hoekstra (the new guy on loan from Trans-Siberian Orchestra) work their way up and down the fretboards in that showy, over the top way that was once the band’s trademark. As far as material, there’s nothing on the level of “Sister Christian” or "(You Can Still) Rock in America," but there’s plenty of "Don't Tell Me You Love Me”-grade material, including the big blast of harmony “Bye Bye Baby (Not Tonight)” and the semi-autobiographical “Growin’ Up in California,” which follows the band from formation to success, leaving out the later bits about lawyers and Japan-only releases. One run through Somewhere in California and hook-loving, power ballad-embracing rockers will be glad that this is your father’s Night Ranger and feel that rocking in America is, once again, all right (all night).
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries