ALICE COOPER: DADA (1983)
1) DaDa; 2) Enough's Enough; 3) Former Lee Warmer; 4) No Man's Land; 5) Dyslexia; 6) Scarlet And
By a miraculous stroke of luck, Bob Ezrin, after a period of recuperation from all the stress caused by The Wall, returned one last time to produce what is, today, very commonly recognized as the «lost gem» in Alice's catalog. Of course, all of his early Eighties' records are criminally underrated. But the entire stretch from Flush The Fashion to Zipper Catches Skin, no matter how exciting from a general point of view, was certainly not very Cooperish: the theater vibe suppressed, the sci-fi New Wave elements replacing all the hard rock, and the entire balance tipped way too seriously towards the humor and irony end of things.
Dada is, of course, the name of an art movement, somewhat hinted at by the use of a modified Salvador Dali painting as the cover — even though Dali himself was never part of that movement. It is hard to tell whether DaDa the album was in any way stimulated by the Dada trend, though, because, if anything, it quenches most of the surrealistic trends that ran through Cooper's previous albums — even with all of its references to vampires, it is still quite brutally realistic. More likely, the primary use of the title referred to baby talk, and the art connotations, if any, came as an afterthought.
And, just like Waters was trying to build on his own emotional experiences and traumas, so does
After the father comes the brother: 'Former Lee Warmer' returns us to the well-explored territory of 'Dwight Fry' and 'Steven', now re-invaded with re-kindled passion and increased experience. Then comes the misogyny, weirdly joined with schizophrenia, in 'No Man's Land'. 'Dyslexia' offers one little drop of pure humor ("Is dis love, or is dys-lexia?"), before we are thrust into the hellish Middle Eastern paradise of S&M with 'Scarlet And Sheba', subjected to a poisonously vicious lashing of the stereotypical redneck in 'I Love America', and, finally, immersed into the romantic, but boring and depressing life of a vampire stalking its prey on 'Fresh Blood'.
Had all these songs been recorded five or six years earlier, they would have born a Stamp of the Silly; in the context of DaDa, even the ode to vampires takes on a personal aspect; its tired mid-temp funk groove may not be exciting per se, but it fits in very well with the concept of a vampire who keeps on doing his bloodsucking routine out of pure necessity rather than out of some sort of evil excitement and a sense of romantic destiny calling. Same thing with 'Scarlet And Sheba': the exotic sexual pleasures are presented neither as exciting/titillating, nor as dangerous/perfidious — the nagging chorus "I just want your body,
No wonder, then, that the album ends on an appropriately suicidal note and arguably the most personal song the Coop ever gave us. 'Pass The Gun Around' is one of his cleverest titles (as much as cultural history has discredited the concept of puns, one has to admit that, in this context, the line "give everyone a shot" is just brilliant), and Ezrin cloaks the song in a gorgeously desperate anthemic veil, while the trusty Dick Wagner contributes what I find to be his best guitar solo on an Alice Cooper record — taking a few easily noticeable hints from David Gilmour, but adjusting the catharsis mood to his own early-Seventies over-the-top glam style, with breathtaking results. In the end, 'Pass The Gun Around' is a song of epic proportions, tragically overlooked by the music world because it happened to be produced by the wrong artist at the wrong time — or, perhaps, because its subject matter was just too uncomfortable to be hailed publicly.
If it is at all true that great artists tend to produce their greatest art when totally strung out at the end of their rope, there is no greater proof of that than DaDa. The only thing that can, and will, prevent people from hailing it as one of the decade's finest achievements is bias of the «how can an Alice Cooper album not by the original band be anything but a shallow candy wrapper?» kind. Yet even Alice Cooper is human, and, as such, theoretically capable of communicating with his audience through some individual mutation of an art form. If it took him a decade of hard drinking to get to this point, there definitely is something to be said for hard drinking; at least we can state that not all of that «Stoli Vodka» had been consumed in vain.
Hopefully, when the dust settles and the finest and brightest of our children's children's children begin exploring the Alice Cooper backlog without using 'Poison' or even 'School's Out' as the starting point, DaDa will occupy its rightful place of honour. Until that day, I can only give it a major joint thumbs up as a record that does a great job of wiring up the brain and rocking the heart at the same time. Furthermore, it can be a terrific, utterly non-banal way of getting into Alice Cooper in the first place. Start with DaDa — and you will never want to end up with Trash.