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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Alice Cooper: Dirty Diamonds


1) Woman Of Mass Distraction; 2) You Make Me Wanna; 3) Perfect; 4) Dirty Diamonds; 5) Pretty Ballerina; 6) Sun­set Babies; 7) Zombie Dance; 8) The Saga Of Jesse Jane; 9) Six Hours; 10) Steal That Car; 11) Run Down The De­vil; 12) Your Own Worst Enemy; 13*) Stand.

The album cover is almost the same as before — the important half of Alice's face staring at us from be­hind some ornamental camouflage — but the music is seriously different. Dirty Dia­monds is Alice's first album in God knows when that follows no specific agenda whatsoever, and deals with no particular concept other than «life as seen from the viewpoint of a cartoonish half-Satanic, half-criminal character», which is, by now, more than thirty years old. Now that all the points have been stated, all the comebacks effectuated, and all the trends perpetrated, there is lit­tle left to do other than simply write songs and record them. Or play golf. But I guess even a ma­niac golfer can go crazy from doing nothing other than play golf.

This is a good record, but it is not as focused or energetic as the four that came before it, so we can probably send the curve sloping down once again. Big bulging concepts do not work for eve­ryone, but they usually do for the Coop: his 1994-2002 «Trilogy of Hell» burned the same fuel of commitment to the idea as the rejuvenated ode to backyard brawls that was The Eyes Of... Two years later, Alice ran out of big ideas, and what we get is a rag-tag collection of small ones that frequently work, but also have the tendency to misfire from time to time.

Frankly speaking, the rock'n'roll numbers here are about as interesting as the recent attempts by the Rolling Stones — nostalgic riff-recyclers that will never appeal to the jaded fan, and, in all probability, will only make him mourn the fact that new generations of listeners, whose ability to turn the clock back usually gets lost together with their milk teeth, will take this for the real thing; but Alice Cooper may not be judged by 'Woman Of Mass Distraction' any more than the Rolling Stones' place in history can be decided based on 'Rough Justice'. It is a moderately fun song, but the chords are almost as recognizable as any standard 12-bar progression, and as for the sleaze — well, we sort of thought Alice would have outgrown that since his hair metal period; why return to it now? To appeal to the sacrilegious Eighties nostalgia guard?

The same criticism applies to 'Perfect' and maybe a couple other numbers that history, hopefully, will discard as unfortunate errors born out of boredom and temporary lack of focus. Then there are a few more similar numbers, helped out by nagging, nifty vocal hooks (the 'woo-hoo-hoo' on 'You Make Me Wanna') or by a combination of said hooks with on-the-level crunchy character asassinations ('Sunset Babies' — any song that trashes spoiled glammy trash is OK by me; where do I sign for turning the line 'Sunset babies all got rabies' into an international slogan?), but even these are sort of «melodically grim». And I do not support the idea of taking the Ramones' solo on 'Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue' and turning it into the backbone for the title track (granted, that solo was probably a lift itself, but that is beyond the point).

So the album is probably at its best every time it steps away from the generic rock'n'roll idiom; two obvious standouts are a beautifully felt and executed cover of the Left Banke's 'Pretty Balle­rina' (the Coop continuing the honourable mission of opening up the vaults of golden oldies to new listeners — although it is a little sad that most people commenting on the album do not even seem to realize the song's origins) and 'The Saga Of Jesse Jane', a tongue-in-cheek Johnny Cash send-up about a transvestite cowboy ending up in jail for defending his rights a bit too much on the violent side (and Brokeback Mountain had not even hit movie theaters at the time). Melody-wise, the latter at least hangs on a beautiful, melancholic guitar line that I do not recall ever ha­ving heard before — and this combination of ridiculously pointless lyrics with guitar gorgeous­ness gives it a nice post-modern flavour that the rest of the album lacks.

That said, I reiterate that Dirty Diamonds only sucks when taken in context — namely, in the context of Cooper's blistering renaissance with his four previous albums, and in the context of ha­ving almost nothing to add to the history of rock'n'roll as we know it. On their own, clear and unsoiled by extra knowledge, each number kicks its own midget ass, with the exception of the silly bonus track 'Stand' recorded in tandem with the rapper Xzibit (not just because it has a rap section, which can be tolerated, but because it is one of those ugly examples of the «let me teach the younger generation the important morals of life through their own voice because they are too dumb to figure them out on their own» approach that is always pretentious and fake, and I am sur­prised how a guy like Alice with his IQ level keeps falling in that pit so often). So, from the bottom of my heart, I still give it a moderate thumbs up; yet there is every reason to be afraid that the final comeback is over, and perhaps Alice should spend more time with that golf club, after all. Or, at least, try to write a concept album about golf.

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