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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Alice Cooper: Along Came A Spider


1) Prologue: I Know Where You Live; 2) Vengeance Is Mine; 3) Wake The Dead; 4) Catch Me If You Can; 5) (In Touch With) Your Feminine Side; 6) Wrapped In Silk; 7) Killed By Love; 8) I'm Hungry; 9) The One That Got Away; 10) Salvation; 11) I Am The Spider (Epilogue).

After the brief relaxation of Dirty Diamonds, Alice returns to concept mode — but I am not en­tirely sure if this particular concept is really such a great step forward for the father of shock rock. That the Coop is a huge fan of generic slasher movies, we all know very well: all through the Ei­ghties, he had constantly expressed this love with both his albums and his occasional songwriting and even acting contributions to such movies. But with The Last Temptation and whatever fol­lowed, it seemed like this preoccupation was somewhat behind him, and that he would now fore­ver be focusing his attention on worthier matters.

Apparently not. Apparently we have been wrong all these years. Along Came A Spider brings back the fetish in full force: the entire album is a mini-rock-opera about a serial killer who — ima­gine that — is busy collecting eight human legs in order to construct his personal spider, lea­ving the rest of the bodies behind wrapped in silk cocoons. His only mistake is falling in love with his last victim — justice, after all, must triumph. (He even repents in the end — a good Christian like Alice must always leave his heros at least a theoretical chance of "Salvation").

The bad news, therefore, is that the overall style of the record, out of all of Cooper's past output, is most closely reminiscent of the campiness of Constrictor. The good news is that Alice is not toying with commercialism this time around, and is neither intentionally dumbing down his ly­rics to appeal to the scum of the earth, nor calling upon the most clichéd musical arrangements in exi­stence to «fit the times». He has once again changed his working partners, to be sure, replacing long-term partner Ryan Roxie with guitarists Danny Saber and Greg Hampton, but they fit Ryan's shoes pretty well, so the transition will not be painful for anyone. And these guys help him write decent songs, too — a collective Kane Roberts they are not.

The overall sound is more or less what we would expect based on past observations: heavy and crunchy, but not industrial-brutal crunchy à la Brutal Planet — surprisingly, this may be the clo­sest Alice has ever come to capturing the classic grunge sound: metallic sound tones applied to punkish guitar riffs. He has not asked us if we really want to hear the classic grunge sound all over again, but it does agree with the concept: setting it to the old hair metal style would be just as ridi­culous as setting it to the garage riffs of The Eyes.

None of the songs will probably become classics, considering that their primary way of working is as part of the concept. Alice has not even taken them along for the supporting tour (!), with the exception of 'Vengeance Is Mine', either because, deep down inside, he had a feeling they really sucked, or because he did not think performing them individually would make much sense. (The latter consideration, mind you, never stopped him from staging the freshly released Welcome To My Nightmare in its glorious entirety back in 1975). My feelings exactly: individually, the songs are no great shakes, but together, they work. For B-movie fans, that is.

There is plenty of exciting Cooper-worthy moments, however, scattered around. The opening funk-metal riff of 'I Know Where You Live'. The hooting harmonica on 'Wake The Dead' (where Alice is joined by Ozzy on the vocals, but you wouldn't get it without the liner notes). One more outburst of believable Lennonesque sentimentality on the chorus of 'Killed By Love'. The unex­pected piano opening of 'Salvation'. These are just a few occurrences that make the record musi­cally interesting. If only they were matched by solid riffs and choruses throughout — but they are not. The riffs are «healthy» — they growl, roar, and threaten in all seriousness — but not really «solid». The emphasis is clearly on the storyline, not on the music; too bad, because some time in the past Alice made us believe that he was capable of keeping one eye on the concept and the other one always fixed on the hooks.

And, coming back to where we started, what sort of concept is this, really? Yes, I realize perfectly well that, in our modern world, one can express a far more unique and profound artistic inter­pretation of one's surroundings through a concept album about a serial killer who wraps his victims in silk webs than one about the abstract vices and shortcomings of the planet in general. But, for all of Alice Cooper's genius, he is no Umberto Eco, and Along Came A Spider is no Name Of The Rose. Heck, it is even no M or Silence Of The Lambs. It is what it is: a suitably ade­quate tribute to second-rate horror movies. Perhaps, in the long run, we should be glad that Alice got it out of his system; he must have been waiting a long, long time to do that. Now that he did do it, it is time to get back to bigger and better things. And yet — still a thumbs up, because as a soundtrack to a second-rate horror movie, it works as best as it can. Plus, even though I do not watch a lot of second-rate (or even first-rate, for that matter) horror movies, it is sort of uncool to say they stink, and frequently garners the humiliating response of «go back to your Julia Roberts, you cog», so if you wanna propagate Along Came A Spider as the greatest piece of work to grace the Noughties, I am not going to be so stupid as to argue.


  1. Well I was naturally a bit dissapointed when I first got this, but like you say, it's good for what it is, and what it is ain't nothing we didn't know the Coop might one day give a shot at. I doubt I'll ever listen to it again though.

    Seems like Cooper has a new album already pretty far advanced, certainly looking forward to it.

  2. A minor bit of formatting corrigenda: the last 3.5 sentences of the review switch to Times New Roman, all of a sudden.

  3. So I've heard his new album "Welcome 2 My Nightmare". Fair warning, the first track might just be the worst song he's ever recorded. I'm totally serious, I could barely get though it. Some serious legacy-raping going on here.
    The rest of the album doesn't do much to improve on that either. Thankfully it's very diverse which keeps it from getting boring (which wasn't the case on his last few albums), so you're bound to get a kick out of at least one or two tracks here, but just as often you'll be raising your eyebrow at what Cooper and Ezrin apparently thought were good ideas. I wish your thumbs luck with this one George.

  4. Well, immediately after I read your comment on his latest album, Ken, I looked up some information on wikipedia regarding the conception of the album. I think I have some knowledge as to why the album might be so terrible.

    "In addition to Cooper, Dunaway, Smith and Bruce and producer Ezrin, various outside artists co-wrote some songs on the album, including Producer, Singer Songwriter Tommy Henriksen, Buckcherry member Keith Nelson, songwriter Desmond Child, Dick Wagner (who had previously worked with Cooper), Chuck Garric (a member of Cooper's band for the 2011 tour), film composer Jeremy Rubolino, and Ke$ha, who also performed on the song "What Baby Wants."

    Wow. Everything about that is terrible.

  5. Well I wouldn't say all of that is terrible by any means. The only thing on that list that outright says "musical kryptonite" is Kesha (and yes, her song on the album is as bad as you think it is). Alice has collaborated with tons of people and made it work before so in theory the various others on the list could have made decent contributions. And the album does have some good people on it that should have made for some really great stuff: Ezrin, the original Cooper band, Dick Wagner, all great musicians. But in practice it just fails so so hard.

  6. But then, really what should I have expected from an album titled "Welcome 2 my Nightmare" (and that sloppy photoshop job of a cover)? Heck they only parts that really made me sit up and take notice are when the album directly quotes from the original WTMN album (like in "Underture" which is extremely clumsy but somewhat entertainingly medleys various Cooper melodies together, though it says something when the most entertaining track is also the most pointless).
    However keep in mind I've only listened to it once so far. Maybe it'll grow on me? maybe...?

  7. I have no problem with Dick Wagner, the original Cooper band, or Bob Ezrin, but a guy from Buckcherry, Desmond Child, and especially Kesha all make me extremely hesitant to listen to the album. I don't see how any of those three could've contributed anything other than garbage.

  8. So I listened to it a few more times. I'm glad to report that I largely spoke too soon on this one. This album does have some of the worst songs Alice has ever done yes (namely "Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever" and "What Baby Wants"), but it does have it's share of good stuff as well. I guess the bad moments were just completely overshadowing the rest for me.