ALICE COOPER: ALICE COOPER GOES TO HELL (1976)
1) Go To Hell; 2) You Gotta Dance; 3) I'm The Coolest; 4) Didn't We Meet; 5) I Never Cry; 6) Give The Kid A Break; 7) Guilty; 8) Wake Me Gently; 9) Wish You Were Here; 10) I'm Always Chasing Rainbows; 11) Going Home.
As the 1970s slowly begin to usher in the age of punk and disco and retire the age of glam and shock rock, we find
This is the reason why critics, and plenty of fans, think of this period as the «lost years». What good is a man whose output is saddled by drink, and who cannot even decide properly what it is exactly that he wants to do? And what good is a man who used to make mind-blowing killer rock, only to have later flushed it down the toilet and replaced it with show tunes and cheesy humor? Awful times, awful songs, awful sell-out.
The title of Alice Cooper Goes To Hell suggests that it may be some sort of conceptual sequel to Welcome To My Nightmare. It is conceptual, for sure, but hardly a sequel. This time,
A concept album about Alice Cooper traveling through the nine circles, with realistic musical illustrations — hot, hot sounds! — could have been just the thing that fans were waiting for. Astonishingly, there is nothing even remotely resembling such a concept. Instead, what you get is, essentially, a rock-tinged comic Broadway musical, with a very simple subject: Alice Cooper goes to Hell (depicted, more or less precisely and authentically, as a disco nightclub), meets up with the Devil, pleads for mercy and salvation, confesses his sins, and only manages to avoid eternal torment by... waking up.
No giant snakes or lizards, no sword-wielding demons, no pitch or tar or boiling blood, no Bosch level horrors, and even the Devil himself is just a big old bad boss who, so it seems, can be reasonable enough unless you flip out too early, which is the protagonist's biggest mistake. Plenty of irony and humor, but no titillation whatsoever: you do not really need to call yourself Alice Cooper to stage this kind of show. You couldn't exactly be Frank Sinatra to do it, either, but there is nothing whatsoever to scare off the little kids. I bet even Elvis would appreciate.
Musically, the last traces of rock'n'roll have been washed away by the onslaught of orchestrated balladry, retro-vaudeville, and disco. We still get a couple crunchy riffs on the title track and 'Wish You Were Here', and Alice tries to mold 'I'm Guilty' in the old garage style, but neither of the three are very convincing as «rock»-style material — they just provide some instrumental diversity and catchy themes, fist-clenching not included.
Topping it all is the album's hit single, 'I Never Cry' — another housewife-level ballad, second in a row. This turns a potential one-time blunder into an alarming tendency: Alice Cooper competing with Barry Manilow? This either got to be the grandest put-on known to mortal man, or the grandest sell-out this side of Rod Stewart.
In short, it does not take a genius to understand why Alice Cooper Goes To Hell is usually pinpointed as the start of the slide by the regular audience (purists, of course, point already to Nightmare or even Muscle Of Love). But there is also a small heretical group of semi-outsiders who confess to loving this record — and this is exactly the group to which your humble reviewer belongs. According to him, this just happens to be one of
Yes, the concept is not particularly smart, but it is FUN. Who but
And while the songs may not rock, they are good. 'Go To Hell' is massive and memorable. 'Wish You Were Here' is a complex mini-suite where Wagner and Hunter are eager to show what they have learned about the intricacies of funk. 'I'm The Coolest' is cute minimalistic vaudeville. The ballads suffer from overpompous arrangements, but show an ever-increasing skill; in particular, 'I Never Cry' owes as much to the
Goes To Hell does have some structural similarities with Nightmare, in that both albums start off at a high level of tongue-in-cheekiness, and then, by the time the second side comes along, gradually turn into something more disturbing, sincere, and deep. Here, under the superficial «mush» of all the balladeering — 'I Never Cry', 'Wake Me Gently', 'Going Home' —