ALICE COOPER: DRAGONTOWN (2001)
1) Triggerman; 2) Deeper; 3) Dragontown; 4) Sex Death And Money; 5) Fantasy Man; 6) Somewhere In The Jungle; 7) Disgraceland; 8) Sister Sarah; 9) Every Woman Has A Name; 10) Just Wanna Be God; 11) It's Much Too Late; 12) I Am The Sentinel.
For the direct sequel to Brutal Planet,
Still, at least several songs are immediately distinguished by the new presence — such as the title track, whose Middle Eastern keyboard patterns on the verses immediately bring to mind similar arrangements on DaDa. And this ties in well with Alice's decision to vary the stylistics a bit: Dragontown is not simply one titanic metal onslaught following another, but rather a more diversified journey through the pleasures and horrors of our times, liable to be set to grinding gnashing metal just as easy as it can be set to light balladry or even rockabilly.
Strangely, the record does not start off on an epic note: 'Brutal Planet' announced its goals from the first minute, but Dragontown takes things more slowly, conducting the listener to its own brand of hell in several steps. First, there is the introduction of 'Triggerman', a fast, churning rocker that introduces your own personal Virgil who's going to be your guide for the rest of the album: "I'm pure non-entity, don't even watch for me, I watch you when you sleep". Who is that? Subconscience? Some sort of inner voice? Nah, probably just Satan once more.
Then the real metal starts, plunged in a felt-more-than-heard
I have caught myself plenty of times on the realization that, at some point, despite all the obviousness and simplicity, the Coop's cartoonish vibe transcends these flaws, making even prepared listeners of the «been-there, heard-that, no surprises» caliber experience an unfaked internal shiver. Dragontown has plenty of moments like this. On the previous album, the evil of genocide was vividly described within 'Pick Up The Bones', inspired by events in Bosnia; here, the subject continues with 'Somewhere In The Jungle', reminding Western audiences of even bloodier events in Rwanda (granted, most people won't even pay attention to the lyrics, and those that will may not know what the thing is specifically about; it does not help matters much that the reference to the Serengeti is somewhat misguided — that's, uh, in Tanzania, Alice, on the other side of Lake Victoria. Might as well say the Kalahari). Nevertheless, it's quite scary as well.
On the lighter side, the humor is back, and most of the heaviest songs are imbued with sarcasm so as not to sustain the same homicidal level of depression throughout. 'Sex, Death And Money' introduces the deadliest, zombiest guitar tone you will ever hear on a Cooper album, but the song's message ("sex, death, and money, sonny, that is why we all are gonna fry") is delivered with irony: for all of Cooper's unexpected Christian morality, he sure knows a mean way how to hand out a moral message and have a good laugh at professional moralists at the same time and not end up sounding like a cheap hypocrite.
There are also some killer send-ups on the record. 'Fantasy Man' returns us to the lambasting of the redneck stereotype: "I don't do dishes, and I'm suspicious of any grown-up man that does; I'm homophobic, don't do aerobics, just lay around and catch a buzz" — he hasn't nailed that stereotype that well since 'I Love
To complete the picture, we have the obligatory woman-is-the-nigger-of-the-world sensitive ballad ('Every Woman Has A Name', hardly better or worse than all of Alice's similar creations, but give the guy extra points for consistency) and a lighter pop-rocker about a guy who seemingly led a righteous life but is now wondering how the hell he ended up right in it ('It's Much Too Late', which, according to rumors, is dedicated to Lennon and, indeed, sounds a bit like John, but it is a little difficult to imagine John as the protagonist of a song whose lyrics go "When I was a teen, all the sex that I missed was an abstinence blessing to me", don't you think?).
We are more or less accustomed to Cooper's albums arriving in pairs — Welcome To My Nightmare in a two-fer with Goes To Hell, Trash with Hey Stoopid, etc. — but most of these pairs had a clear superior and inferior member. With Brutal Planet and Dragontown, no such decision can be taken. The former has the upper hand when it comes to pouring out bare emotion — it pummels you right across the floor; the latter, while slightly more restrained and calculated, is, on the other side, more interesting in that the sheer number of ideas is much larger. Naturally, it is as easy a thumbs up as its predecessor, continuing to build up