After 1980’s raucously self-indulgent All Shook Up, many fans who’d been seduced by the irresistible power pop of In Color and Heaven Tonight began hopping off the Cheap Trick bandwagon. One on One suggests that although guitarist-songwriter Rick Nielsen’s AC/DC fixation continues unabated, there remains cause for hope.
Which isn’t to say that One on One doesn’t offer its share of depressingly moronic cuts. Take “I Want You,” for example, during which singer Robin Zander sounds as though he’s undergoing total body electrolysis. His hollering, also featured on “Looking Out for Number One,” is abetted by Nielsen’s ultravolume ax thrashings and Roy Thomas Baker’s acquiescent production. Not even the solid rhythm section of Bun E. Carlos and new bassist Jon Brant stands a chance against that kind of aural firepower.
There are some tantalizing moments, however. “She’s Tight,” with a guitar line right out of Eddie Cochran’s “Something Else,” is a spirited, though moderated, rocker; the Tourists-style sound of “Time Is Runnin'” is similarly pleasing. But the cream of the crop is the ballad “If You Want My Love.” Boasting a smashing guitar attack (and a middle eight on loan from the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”), the tune is easily Cheap Trick’s best slow song since “Take Me I’m Yours” and a stunning example of what this band can do when it forgets about being commercial in these days when heavy metal rules the world. “Reputation is a fragile thing,” says One on One‘s title song. Ain’t it the truth.