Cheap Trick

Special One (Big3)

Twenty-six years in, and still the Trick keeps turning--notably at state fairs, a regular stop on the nostalgia trip. In the end, what's most surprising about these pop-rockers is the immortality of a back catalog crafted out of the slick and ersatz; nothing should have aged worse than a band determined to fuse Beatles tunecraft with Aerosmith bombast, yet even at this late date, you just have to at least like "If You Want My Love" and submit to "Surrender," even if the latter's just background music in Daddy Day Care, in which the band cameos as entertainment at a kiddie fest. They are the walrus, or maybe just long in the tooth.

On the one hand, admire the determination and resilience: The major-label deal's a thing of the past, after several discs released straight to the used bins, yet still they soldier on with fresh recruits, chief among them curmudgeonly cheerleader Steve Albini and disco odd duck Dan the Automator. But the pragmatist has to balance the reasonably good (three tracks produced by the aforementioned twosome, and they come late in the game) with the unbearably mediocre, of which the ironically titled Special Onecontains plenty, including an opener that plays like the reformed misogynist's apologia and a title track that sounds like reformed REO Speedwagon. (Robin Zander equals Kevin Cronin, and anyone who insists otherwise is in a Styx cover band.) The thrills, cheap and otherwise, have diminished with time; there is no newTrick, only the same ones remanufactured for completists who should have had enough by 1982.

 
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