Special One is Cheap Trick's first studio album in six years -- the longest stretch between albums in the band's history. Since rock essentially entered a deep-freeze state in 1997, not much has changed since the second LP entitled Cheap Trick and Special One, and the band sounds no older or younger with the passing years. That doesn't mean Cheap Trick sound fresh, though. If anything, they sound labored in a way few could have predicted: they're doing precisely what fans and critics said they should have done by sticking to a fairly catholic power pop doctrine, but the end results aren't particularly satisfying. Why? Special One is too self-conscious, too aware of the band's deserved but slightly oversold reputation as pop gods, so it winds up being something that delivers on the surface without ever resonating. It knows the form, but it doesn't deliver the substance, which is kind of shocking, since Cheap Trick are one of the bands that wrote the form. Special One is never embarrassing, the way that some of the group's late-'80s efforts are to their core audience, but it never delivers the goods, either, and it's hard to hear the group strain to reach the idealized heights that their fans believe they once reached effortlessly. It is not awful and they've made far worse records, but in its deliberate exercise in good power pop taste, it's too stilted and deliberate to make it satisfying, and for those who long for another Heaven Tonight, this is far from the mark.
Special One Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine