Special One

Cheap Trick Unlimited / Big 3 Records


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 After releasing one of the best rock albums of the ‘90s only to have it swallowed up in the wake up a capsizing record company, Cheap Trick aren’t taking chances this time. Special One, the debut on the band’s own imprint contains all the rawness of the lost classic 1997 self-titled return to form, but here, CT ventures further into psychedelic harmonies and massive layering to make an album truly the equal of its massively influential first 5 albums. “Sorry Boy” is a dark and delirious murder rock with enough sugar to make it truly devious. Droning and insistent, it pulses like “Helter Skelter” and threatens like dark clouds swirling in from the horizon. On the other hand is “My Obsession.” Still, on The Beatles tip, but this time the melodic, minor key beauty of Revolver is conjured. Heart-wrenching harmonies make the song even more overwhelming. The rest of the CD bounces between the two, but that doesn’t mean that it’s all retro-cool swagger. “If I Could” is a ballad that starts with modern loops, then leaps unexpectedly to a straight power pop groove. The transition almost feels like switching radio stations and just happening upon another song in the same key. Leadoff single “Scent Of A Woman” sounds like AC/DC if they’d spent more time listening to The Move. “Hummer/Low Life In High Heels” is not much more than a relentless groove. If there’s a quintessential Cheap Trick moment, though, it’s in the title cut. Experimental and familiar, the cut balances light and dark in the way that “Heaven Tonight” did in the ‘70s. It sounds gentle and exotic until the undertow sweeps you away. Special One is a record that needs to be heard. It’ s debatable whether Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Foo Fighters or Guided By Voices could’ve ever existed without the influence of Nielsen, Zander, Carlos and Petersson. After these bands have come and gone, it’s surprising and refreshing that Cheap Trick’s power is not diminished in the slightest. In fact, quite the opposite may be true. If you only know the tongue-in-cheek bubblegum of their early albums or the regrettable, mercenary fluff of the late ‘80s, you owe it to yourself to get this. Cheap Trick was the best power pop band of the ‘70s. Now, they’re the best power pop band of the ‘00s.

 Chris McKay /