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Cheap Trick Special One

By Frank Meyer, Contributing Editor
Friday, October 10, 2003 @ 9:55 PM


(Big 3 Records)

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It’s been a long time since the mighty Cheap Trick have released a studio album and fans have been waiting with baited breath. The few folks that even heard their last one, 1997’s self-titled album, or have seen them live in recent years know that band still packs a mean punch when they get their shit together, but label turmoil has resulted in a big gap between studio efforts.

So is Special One everything fans have hoped for and more? The best they have to offer? The album that will launch their major Aerosmithian comeback? Er… no. Quite unfortunately, Special One is a mixed bag of clumsy attempts at crossover, boring adult contemporary fare and a few truly classic Trick moments (too few though to elevate this above so-so status).

Whoever decided to open this album with “Scent of a Woman” should be shot. Not only is the title borrowed from a horrible, schmaltzy romantic comedy, but it is the worst track on the album and one of the worst they have ever recorded. And this is coming from a diehard fan who likes most everything they’ve ever done. “Too Much,” “My Obsession” and the title track prolong the boredom even further and find this once ferocious band sounding as tame and declawed as ever. By the time they go techno on “If I Could,” things appear to be getting very sad.

However, it’s not all bad. The band finally gets rockin’ on the heavy-as-fuck “Sorry Boy,” which sounds like it could be right off their debut, and the epic “Pop Drone” has that “Heaven Tonight” vibe, grandiose and sweeping yet somehow tender and dreamy. “Low Life in High Heels” is another charged rocker, though the Dan “The Automater” remix is less exciting. Bringing in indie legend Steve Albini and vet Trickster Jack Douglas to twirl the knobs must have sounded like a great idea, but they should have helmed every tune here as most everything that doesn’t rock hard, doesn’t work at all. Producer Chris Shaw, who helmed most of this, just wasn’t able to coax the best material or the most lively performances out of the band. Too bad.

“Words” is the only ballad that really works on Special One, with its simple ‘50s rhythm and beautiful vocal delivery, courtesy of Robin Zander, one of the best voices in the biz. In fact, vocally, Zander is in top form through the affair. It is Rick Nielsen’s patented power chord guitar wallop, bassist Tom Petersons 12-string bass stronghold and Bun E. Carlos’ tasty drum strut that are missed the most here. Where is the band hiding? “Sorry Boy” and the aforementioned ballad are the only moments where it sound like four guys standing in a room playing together, a vibe that is sorely missed throughout the rest of this album.

I have no doubt Cheap Trick has it well within their powers to deliver another great record... this just isn’t it. Oh well, sorry boys, I’ll just go see ya next time you play in concert, in color, again.

* * ½


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