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Cheap Trick

Special One (Big 3 Records)

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As long as Cheap Trick keeps tricking, the assumption is that they'll put out records mainly as a way to garner label support for their endless touring. More than three good tunes per record now qualifies as a success, which makes Special One a smash. The opener, "Scent of a Woman," is a classic rocker that ought to find a permanent place on the band's live playlist. Most of the lyrics seem intended as a one-night-stand-man's now-wizened view of women, though Robin Zander, voice still strong, sings more about the taste and smell of women than such trifling things as, oh, brains and talent.

In addition to its Herculean hold on arrested adolescence, Cheap Trick proves ever-skillful at the task it long ago mastered: beating choruses into the ground until it strikes gold. These days, it more often hits clay, though "Sorry Boy" and "Too Much" are fine examples of the band's candy-coated Who sound. "My Obsession" can trump the latest indie power pop, and "If I Could" employs little electronic touches that actually add melodic twists, rather than coming off like old-guy trend-lagging touchups. Still, this record is packed with midtempo power ballads and a throwaway closer that was obviously tacked on at the last minute. So while Cheap Trick's latest ain't so Special after all, at least it means they'll soon come through town to let you scream along to "Surrender" again.

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