ALICE COOPER: CONSTRICTOR (1986)
1) Teenage Frankenstein; 2) Give It Up; 3) Thrill My Gorilla; 4) Life And Death Of The Party; 5) Simple Disobedience; 6) The World Needs Guts; 7) Trick Bag; 8) Crawlin'; 9) The Great American Success Story; 10) He's Back (The Man Behind The Mask).
Freedom of choice or predetermination? In 1983,
It is not difficult to understand the driving force behind this. The Coop did not just want to go back to making records again; he was in acute need of something that would reinstate his confidence in himself and his power over the crowds — not to mention acute need of replenishing his bank account. He also probably experienced some nostalgia for the horror shows of old, which he hadn't produced for about a decade now. In short, the man needed to be back!
But the man was also smart enough to understand that, if he wanted to capture a new audience of Eighties' teens, he had to meet their contemporary expectations. Since synth-pop was obviously not a good choice, the only other one was hair metal. Accordingly, Alice hired a hair metal guitarist by the name of Kane Roberts, who satisfied pretty much every single cliché of the genre: big, brutal, utterly stupid riffs and meaningless finger-flashing solos, played by a hairy dude with a Rambo complexion whose every stage move suggested having missed a successful career in porn flicks in favour of a misguided stunt at music-making. The rest of the band were mostly complete unmentionables. And Dick Wagner must have been begging on the streets.
The corny, mock-creepy arrangements would have probably ruined the album even if
Cooper's expertise still shows through in that most of the tunes are mildly catchy: you take one or two listens, you look back at the song names, and you will get a devilish urge to hum them and make yourself look silly. (I still think it was a particularly dirty trick on
But to understand is one thing, and to forgive and enjoy is another. When your comeback single, presumptiously titled 'He's Back (The Man Behind The Mask)', is not even a bona fide rocker, but a goofy pop song propelled by the cheapest synthesizer patterns in existence, not to mention a legitimate part of the soundtrack to Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (!), you know for sure this is not a record that is going to go down in history as a classic. What you do know for sure is that it is just one more piece of evidence of how deep down the drain mainstream taste had gone in ten years. In 1973, the world wanted Alice Cooper to give it Billion Dollar Babies; in 1986, the world was fairly happy to have Constrictor. Play them back to back. Taste the difference. Times have sure changed, haven't they? Please join me in my thumbs down.