ALICE COOPER: HEY STOOPID (1991)
1) Hey Stoopid; 2) Love's A Loaded Gun; 3) Snakebite; 4) Burning Our Bed; 5) Dangerous Tonight; 6) Might As Well Be On Mars; 7) Feed My Frankenstein; 8) Hurricane Years; 9) Little By Little; 10) Die For You; 11) Dirty Dreams; 12) Wind-Up Toy.
From a rigidly formalistic point of view, Hey Stoopid is an utterly faithful sequel to Trash: one more batch of big fat glam-metal tunes that sacrifice the Cooperishness of Cooper for the sakes of modern commercial values. From the economic point of view, Hey Stoopid was a financially unsatisfactory venture — not only did it fail to repeat the success of Trash, but it plummeted down so fast that people might have missed its appearance altogether, were it not for the lucky move of featuring one of the songs in Wayne's World. From my personal point of view, Hey Stoopid simply kicks ass in a way that none of the three preceding albums could ever hope to.
Let me put it this way: Trash, for the most part, could have been recorded by any ballsy artist of its era, and nobody would have winked. It was
Let us begin with the worst. We still have a share of moronic cock-rockers and pompous power ballads. 'Snakebite' is not a very useful song, not much of an improvement over 'House Of Fire', except a little faster. 'Burning Our Bed' and 'Die For You', following tradition, dress cheap sentimentality in hymn form and fail, quite miserably so (me never having been a major worshipper of 'Only Women Bleed', I cannot help but wonder just how much «weightier» the average commercially-oriented pop ballad of the 1970s used to be).
But overall, the standards have improved. For instance, 'Dirty Dreams' could have easily been the equal of 'Snakebite'. Instead, it is given this crunchy, catchy, hilarious riff that is more T. Rex or Cheap Trick than Mötley Crüe, and only the obligatory (but somewhat fun) finger-flashing guitar solo truly gives it away. And 'Might As Well Be On Mars' (which is not really about Mars, but about the inability to get together — apparently, even non-stop fucking eventually has to stop) could have easily been the equal of 'Die For You', but it is given an artsy, «spacy» arrangement that befits the title and a lengthy coda where guitars engage in a fierce battle with strings until both run out of steam and get swallowed up by 'Feed My Frankenstein'. Hardly a timeless classic, because the powerhouse chorus still sucks, but the classy touches certainly justify Dick Wagner's one-time involvement with the creation of this particular tune.
Wagner, however, only guests on one track. The rest are dominated by more trendy guitar heroes — no expense has been spared, as
I sincerely believe that three of these songs at least deserve as much recognition as anything Alice ever did, before or after (with the fourth one — the title track, a spitting warning for the fans not to waste themselves away — closing in not too far behind). First, 'Love's A Loaded Gun'. This one should be in everybody's handbook on how to write a non-cringe-inducing power ballad, except it is not properly a ballad, because it is a threat song, not a love song. Tense, memorable, paranoid, acid sharp in terms of both riffs and solos, it follows the outlines of Trash, but with much more wit and bite, and it has the second most exciting use of the "Pull the trigger!" exclamation in rock history (the first one, of course, is attested for AC/DC). Plus, it gives you something to think about when you consider Alice's ironic tribute to Robert Johnson: where the latter used the image of 'her suitcase in her hand' as a starting point for unraveling his own misery, Alice uses it as the starting point for revenge — no time for sissying around for this guy.
Second — yes, you guessed — 'Feed My Frankenstein'. Vai and Satriani battle it out in the solo section, but that is actually the least interesting section for those who already know a little about either of them. The most interesting thing is how, torn between the necessity of writing about dirty sex and horror shows, Alice manages to come up with a song that deals with both at the same time, using healthy, decent cannibalism as a metaphor for sick, indecent you-know-what, and combining it with great riffs and (finally!) his old sense of humour for good measure. "Feed my Frankenstein, meet my libido!" is certainly silly, but it makes you laugh, and yet, at the same time, this is nowhere near the comfy safety of sex-oriented material on Trash — I can hardly imagine the respectable bourgeois headbanging to "I'm a hungry man but I don't want pizza..."
Third and most important — do not miss on that one! — is 'Wind-Up Toy'. Refreshing!
All of this translates as «mixed bag, but with a well-discernible positive trend for the whole factory», and, consequently, as a hearty thumbs up — with only three or four songs out of twelve ranking below expectations. To this I should probably add that Hey Stoopid was released just a few months before the grunge explosion, which possibly explains its inability to find the same market as Trash, but something tells me that, had the hair metal rule managed to last for another decade, Cooper's next record in the same genre might have completely overcome the genre's weaknesses. Fortunately, with the hair metal empire collapsing around him, for his next offering he already didn't have to.