Special One – Cheap Trick

Special One

Cheap Trick

2003

Big3 Records

 

Have you ever had an album that feels like it’s yours?  Whatever memories it conjures up when you play it seem like it belongs only to you alone?  Maybe because you found the album completely by yourself, without having someone recommend it to you.  Maybe it’s because you’ve never shared it with anyone, just listened to it through your headphones.  Well, this relatively modern Cheap Trick album (one of my favorite bands) is that album for me.
 

I saw them on tour for this album (in fact, I saw them twice, though the second time was a few years later), and, if you ever have a chance to see them live, go.  For some reason, they don’t translate as well in the studio as they do live.  That being said, Special One sees Cheap Trick leaving their comfort zone and experimenting more in the studio, leaving their classic rock anthems slightly behind (It always sounds like Cheap Trick, mind you, just not completely like they used to). 

The album opens with the single “Scent of a Woman”.  It’s a decent rock song (which of course already provides proof to refute my previous statement pertaining to classic rock anthems, but trust me, most of the albums isn’t that.  Honestly.), but mediocre by Cheap Trick standards.  The lyrics champion the female gender (“A man just don’t stand up next to a woman”).  No matter how straightforward (which is the reason the song is mediocre, just to clear that up) “Scent” is, it’s a very catchy song.  The song starts off slow, unfortunately, but by the end, really gets the listener into it.  This is due to Rick Nielsen’s “yeah, yeah” backup singing, and the band genuinely feeling the groove.  Until then, the song stagnates, though.

The second song, “Too Much” plays in directly to the band’s pop sensibilities.  The melody proves to be captivating, and the music seems to be enthusiastic, kicking in at all the right spots during the song.  Despite it being mid-tempo, “Too Much” is a written very well with an interesting arrangement. 

“Special One” displays the band experimenting in the studio.  Japanese-sounds(I honestly don’t know what that instrument is) open the track.  In fact, the first half of the song is slow and airy.  This contrasts with the heavier sound of the latter half, complete with George Harrison guitar licks interspersed between vocals.  The entire song allures the audience, completely rearranging what Cheap Trick is about in their fan’s minds.

The fourth song, “Pop Drone” brings about one of the best songs on the album.  The use of a pre-echo on Robin Zander’s voice works nicely, blending with Nielsen’s backup vocals.  The lyrics themselves work well with the melody (which gets stuck in your head so, so, so easily) .  In fact, try getting the chorus (“Sorry, I’m just colorblind, I can see just fine, Sorry I’m just blind around you”) out of your head.  And then the guitar solo enters.  Nielsen has never been a technically great player, mainly focusing on rather easy guitar lines and the pentatonic scale, but damn, he plays with such emotion that the solo fits perfectly, actually making the song work better.

“My Obsession” feels almost countryish with its verses.  The harmonies don’t meld well, and the melody falls flat.  The chorus brings the song back to life, but only for a little bit.  The bridge, too, doesn’t feel like it should be in the song.  In fact, it cuts out rather abruptly into an acoustic verse.  Overall, an okay song that warrants a few listens but not many more.

Cheap Trick have always been great at writing slower ballads (my favorite would be “Mandocello”, and everyone knows “Voices”, another great one).  “Words” is no exception.  In actual fact, they use their experience in the studio to create a very atmospheric sound, adding greatly to the feel.  The bouncy guitar sound is works with Zander’s melody perfectly.  And when the bridge comes in, the song has another added depth to it, no longer just having the one tonality to it.  Again, Nielsen’s tasteful solo imitates and mirrors the melody admirably.  “Words” is a finely crafted song.

“Sorry Boy” and “Best Friend” seem to be offshoots on each other, adding a heavy sound to Cheap Trick.  The former song is the weaker of the two, although still a fine song.  (On an unrelated note, just hearing to it now, go listen to the opening of “Sorry Boy”.  The first few seconds are the same exact sound and effect as on one of my own songs, “Less About Me“.  However, Cheap Trick enters a heavier zone than I do). 

“Best Friend” is arguably the best song on Special One, showing off the entire band.  I haven’t said anything about Petersson’s bass playing or Bun E. Carlos’ drumming as of yet, but they are solid during the entire album.  “Best Friend” however, has them all over the song.  This could be the heaviest song Cheap Trick has ever recorded (even better live by the way).  What amazes me is Zander’s complete control of his vocals.  He’s been singing with Cheap Trick since the early 70’s, and yet now (well, rather 2001-3) he’s hitting a range of a few octaves.  Just amazing.

“If I Could” brings the album back to a poppier, lighter form.  It opens with strange gibberish, which leads into the actual song.  The chorus itself is noteworthy if not great, a slower version of “Too Much”.  The most important aspect of the song would have to be Carlos’ drumming, as it sounds off-kilter, completely different from any of their other songs.

“Low Life in High Heels” and “Hummer” end the album, both songs (really one song cut into two) riffing off the same groove.  The former riskily opens with Zander humming, with the music catching up to him.  The band sounds really tight, with a good bass line, steady drumming, and Nielsen’s incessant guitar keeping the song from going too far out.  However, it’s the small touches that make these two songs, such as the harmonies of a the high falsetto humming backing up Zander.

Special One displays a rarity for Cheap Trick.  The band is not only playing to its strong points, but also trying to experiment lightly.  The album may have been received to mix reviews, but it can respectably be said that the four were not trying to please the critics with this album.  And in truth, if my review doesn’t make you like the album, I won’t care too much.  It’s my album.  But if you do care to adopt as your own as well, please, treat it kindly.

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2 Responses to “Special One – Cheap Trick”

  1. My favorite of their later works – great review.

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