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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Alice Cooper: Zipper Catches Skin


1) Zorro's Ascent; 2) Make That Money (Scrooge's Song); 3) I Am The Future; 4) No Baloney Homosapiens; 5) Ada­p­table; 6) I Like Girls; 7) Remarkably Insincere; 8) Tag, You're It; 9) I Better Be Good; 10) I'm Alive.

By this time, the alcohol problem was seriously catching up with Alice once again — to the point that he subsequently stated he had no memories whatsoever of recording this and the next record. Too bad: they happened to be, respectively, his weirdest/funniest and his most honest/personal al­bums to date — yet neither of them had a tour behind it, and no material has, even later on, been in­corporated into an Alice live show.

For Zipper Catches Skin, Dick Wagner returns full-time, playing on many of the songs and even co-writing a couple. This means that the New Wave overtones are somewhat hushed down (good news for all the old-fashioned fans who hated the Cars-like synthesizers), but does not make the record rock any harder than its immediate predecessors. Oh, there is a decent rock sound through­out, sure, but the most important goal here is to raise the stakes in the humor department, and serious humor does not go hand in hand with too much headbanging.

Predictability has never been one of Alice's major sins, but Zipper, in all of its weird splendor, nearly returns us to those crazy days of the late 1960s when the original Alice Cooper band was trying so hard to apply their garage muscles to the construction of Zappa's bizarre panopticum. Of course, the songs are songs, not disconnected atonal snippets, and their non-trivial messages do make certain sense — but other than that, this is sheer madness that certainly goes way beyond spec­tacle, vaudeville, and parody. Who else but a seriously deranged person could have written a song called 'I'm Alive (That Was The Day My Dead Pet Returned To Save My Life)' whose lyrics actually justify the title?

No one will ever be able to explain, least of all the amnesia-suffering Alice himself, why he tho­ught it commercially and artistically viable to write a song about the death of Zorro, or how he happened to come across lyrics like 'Yeah, I'm a Sony, you're Panasonic, I'm heavy metal, you're philharmonic', or why most of Side 2 rushes past the listener as if each individual song had a very serious individual bladder problem. Some things have slightly better motivation: 'No Baloney Homosapiens', for instance, pokes slow, ponderous fun at the human race in general, which is ra­ther typical of Alice, while 'Tag, You're It', first time in years, brings back the «scary» Alice, al­beit in grossly overdone form — the song may drop a reference to Halloween, but it is a comic performance, not a thrilling one.

None of the songs are too memorable; the goal is, at the most simplest, to amuse, and, at the most complex, to stupefy, certainly not to make you hum such catchy lines as 'If I ain't cool, my daddy gonna send me to military school, if I ain't nice, my girlie gonna freeze me with cold shoulder ice'. This is probably why, despite Dick Wagner, there is not a single distinctive riff, and why Alice never actually sings anything, rapping out all the lyrics like Groucho Marx's lost twin. But this is also why, in spite of these shortcomings, the record works. All the schizophrenically shifting ideas, all the misguided creativity, like a firehose gone out of control — none of this is truly mea­ningful or instructive, but it sure gets your attention like nothing else. And better not concentrate on the fact that it was alcoholism that drove the man to such dubiously delirious artistic heights, because you just might want to try this at home, without being a professional.

To sum it up — both the brain and the heart department had firmly settled upon a thumbs up from the very first time they heard this record; but up to this day, they are still having a hard time explaining what the hell made them persist in this decision.

1 comment:

  1. You persist fot two simple reasons: musically the numbers are catchy enough, and lyrically the album it's a fuckin' trip.