As long as the four members of Cheap Trick keep tricking, the assumption is that they'll put out records -- mainly as a way to garner label support for their endless touring. These days, more than three good tunes per record 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, still in strong voice, sings more about the taste and smell of women than such trifling things as, oh, brains and talent.
In addition to their Herculean hold on arrested adolescence, Zander and company prove ever-skillful at the task they long ago mastered: beating choruses into the ground until they strike gold. These days, they more often hit clay, although "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 touch-ups. Still, this record is packed with midtempo power ballads and a throwaway closer that was obviously tacked on at the last minute. But even if Cheap Trick's latest ain't so Special after all, at least it means it won't be long before the band comes through town and lets you scream along to "Surrender" again.