Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Trick Tuesday: "Special One" (2003)

It's a solid album, stuck being the merely very good album between two great ones.  In some ways, the six year gestation period probably didn't help: Cheap Trick are always at their best when they stand on the knife-edge of chaos, and the years Special One spent living (by his own admission at the time) on Rick Nielsen's MacBook, subject to endless tinkering, account for its slightly over-fussed-over feel.  On stage, the Special One material came across with more power: compare any bootleg live version of "Pop Drone" to its differently-excellent studio incarnation, and you'll hear what I mean before the first chorus passes.  Still, there is some absolutely textbook-worthy power-pop ("My Obsession", "Words", "Too Much") to be found here, even if it needed a couple more rockers and a bit more spontaneity to put it all the way over the top.  A few bonus points awarded for the original cover design as well (the one with the old vinyl feel pictured above, not the reissue with the band caricature); it's one of their most attractive.  So, yeah, good album, critical schmitical, yada yada yada.

The spring of 2003 was a seminal era in my life: much of my post-work free time was spent at the local bar with my future fiancée Rhea; we were getting to know each other's stories, and working on healing together the separate heartbreaks that were still too close in both of our respective rear view mirrors.  We'd become friends in that way that so many music obsessives find one another; over a span of time and many drinks, the conversation expanded to include everything: life stories, loves and losses, how many times we'd probably been in the same place at the same time and never known it.  Less than a year later, we'd be an "us", as we still are today.  Back then, we were laying the groundwork, whether we'd known - or, maybe more accurately, would have admitted - it or not.

None of this is to say that the conversation ever drifted totally away from music.  One night, Rhea was telling the story of the one time she got to see Jellyfish live, on their Spilt Milk tour, in what ended up being the last time said neo-power-pop heroes would ever play in New York City.  I told her how I'd been finally convinced of that band's worth by seeing the video for "The Ghost at Number One" late one night on MTV and thinking that the song sounded like it could have fallen off of Cheap Trick's In Color were it fifteen years or so older.

*total silence, no reaction at all from Rhea*

Slowly, it dawned on me: I'd hit the one hole in Rhea's musical education.  I was incredulous: "How can you like all this power-pop stuff and not have ever heard the early Cheap Trick albums?"  To be fair to Rhea, the answer was obvious; in many ways, it's the reason I've undertaken this series: if all you knew was "I Want You to Want Me" and "The Flame", how much further would you really dig?  I swear that there are few bands worse represented by their hits than Cheap Trick, but I digress.

Suddenly, I had a mission.  It involved a two-volume mix CD, tapes having become recently passé.  Along with it, I gave her a burn of the advance Special One CD pictured above. The album was still a few months away from release at that point, but in those days most things could be had in one of the 8.923 record stores in Greenwich Village well in advance if one was willing to dig a bit.  Obviously, the widespread adoption of file-sharing has rendered such endeavors outdated.  The thrill of the hunt was fun then, not paying for such things is fun now, and the world keeps on a'-turnin'.  So I burned Rhea the then-forthcoming Special One along with two discs of the hits, and told her the truth: "I think that they're still great today, but if you end up liking the old stuff you should give this a spin too and see what you think."

The mission was a complete success: Rhea became a fan of both old Cheap Trick, new Cheap Trick ("wow, they've really still got it"), and of me.  All these years later, she remains a fan of all of the above.  Special One?  Most definitely.

No comments:

Post a Comment