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Cheap Trick: Special One

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Cheap Trick

Album: Special One
Label: Big3

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It isn't fair to expect Cheap Trick to crank out awesome rock records nearly 30 years after its inception: After all, the resilient band already remains a touring beast, doing justice to its many classic singles and somehow avoiding the county-fair circuit that has swallowed up most of its peers. But its most recent studio album, a self-titled disc from 1997, actually holds up pretty well alongside its late-'70s classics, which can't often be said of the group's more commercially successful '80s output. Unfortunately, Cheap Trick's long-awaited new Special One gets off to a rotten start and only incrementally improves from there. The turgid, pandering single "Scent Of A Woman" commits many sins, but worst among them has to be its interminable, inexplicable five-minute length. Cheap Trick rarely finds a pulse from there: Aside from the refreshingly muscular "Best Friend" and the catchy "Words," Special One dispenses a big batch of listless plodders, which is hard to fathom given the group's richly deserved reputation for mile-wide hooks and affable showmanship. Lyrically nondescript when it's not resorting to howlers like "I wasn't ready to say goodbye / but goodbye was ready for me" ("If I Could"), Special One marks a sad and curious return to Cheap Trick's fallow "The Flame" era, but without the attendant pop savvy. This sort of forgettable misstep can't undo decades of goodwill, but it'll likely cement Cheap Trick's modern-day status as a great live band best left on stage.