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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Alice Cooper: Paranormal


1) Paranormal; 2) Dead Flies; 3) Fireball; 4) Paranoiac Personality; 5) Fallen In Love; 6) Dynamite Road; 7) Private Public Breakdown; 8) Holy Water; 9) Rats; 10) The Sound Of A; 11*) Genuine American Girl; 12*) You And All Of Your Friends.

General verdict: Just some light-hearted fun this time around, with some old and new friends. The only thing that is truly paranormal about this record is Alice's endorsement of its production.

It is nice to know that Mr. Cooper is alive, well, and has not lost his energy, humor, and desire for further creativity at the ripe age of 69. This is probably all you need to know about Paranormal, a record that adds nothing whatsoever to our general understanding of Alice Cooper — if you are not planning to listen to it. If, however, you are enough of an Alice fan to still bother, do not make the mistake I made — even after three sub-par studio albums in a row, I still subcon­sciously keep expecting a Cooper album to bite me, if not with the bite of Killer, then at least with the bite of a Last Temptation or a Dragontown. But perhaps this is my problem and not the artist's; and if we do acknowledge the right of toothless kitsch to count as an art form alongside ironic satire, how could the artist be blamed for jumping from one to another at random?

Paranormal is a very lightweight record; so lightweight, in fact, that even Alice's voice here sounds strangely more youthful than before — when, after the long intro of the title track, he comes in with "I'm condemned to the long, endless night", I almost got the impression that he set himself the goal of emulating the average emo teenager. Later on, you do get the screechy growl and the guttural howl, but for the most part, Paranormal is all about the 69-year old Alice Cooper trying to convince you that, deep down in his heart, he is still just a nasty, reckless, and badassfully charming teenage brat from Detroit. Aiding him in this noble goal are several members of the original Alice Cooper band — all except Glen Buxton, who passed away twenty years before he could get this chance to rejuvenate himself — although they only play on a few of these tracks, with Dennis Dunaway also credited as co-writer.

This noticeably forced youthfulness is pretty much the only conceptual element about the record: otherwise, it is merely a collection of pop-rock songs about issues ranging from getting some to getting wasted to getting used to the imminent end of the world as we know it. It could, in fact, be legitimately seen as the conclusion to a sort of «Detroit trilogy» that began with The Eyes Of Alice Cooper and continued on Dirty Diamonds — with Paranormal never managing to recapture the grit and venom of the former, but arguably putting a slight improvement on the relative blandness of the latter. Music-wise, the worst thing about the album is the production: in between all the sound compression and all the unimpressive session musicians, there is not a lot of truly gritty-crunchy joy to be found in those rockers — ever so often, it sounds like you are not listening to a classic hard rocker, but rather to alt-rock in the vein of Ash. Which is not the worst thing in the world, but slickness in hard rock is generally a crime, and particularly if all your riffs and solos are essentially the result of a third or fourth cycle of recycling.

Still, I must stress that while I was very disappointed upon my first listen, by the time my ears adjusted to the slickness, Paranormal began to occasionally provide small bursts of fun. It is hard to resist the pure intelligent silliness of Cooper slipping into old school rockabilly on ʽRatsʼ (a song that, in a measly two minutes, manages to ironically lambast both politicians and their entire electorate — well, Alice never really concealed his belief that 90% of the people are idiots), or the catchy onslaught of the Dunaway-cowritten apocalyptic anthem ʽFireballʼ. On ʽFallen In Loveʼ, Alice engages Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, producing a bona fide ZZ Top non-classic in the process. ʽDynamite Roadʼ, sounding like a brief retelling of the storyline from Tarantino's Death­proof, is campy to the extreme, but it is such a speedy, over-the-top, utterly ridiculous rock'n'roll monolog that it is hardly possible to either get bored or offended by it.

Only once, at the very end, Alice decides to go serious on our asses and offer an atmospheric, mournfully creepy ballad (ʽThe Sound Of Aʼ) — not very effective, and not just because it steals its vocal lines from Pink Floyd's ʽBrain Damageʼ, but mainly because after all the giddy, over­slicked fun of the previous songs, this last out-of-nowhere attempt to make us feel genuinely uncomfortably feels misplaced. I ended up liking the song anyway, but it is no ʽPass The Gun Aroundʼ or ʽWe're All Crazyʼ when it comes to serious-soulful moments in the Coop's life.

Perhaps all of this could be better with a different bunch of producers: Tommy Henriksen and Tommy Denander, who had already worked with Alice on the Welcome 2 My Nightmare disaster, are fairly generic dudes, mostly known for bringing «rock» elements into the sound of Kesha and Lady Gaga, and their presence on the album very much overshadows that of Bob Ezrin, also credited as co-producer, but why, I do not exactly know — apart from ʽThe Sound Of Aʼ, nothing here has the deep spookiness that used to characterize Ezrin's best work with Cooper and Pink Floyd. Even with better production, though, Paranormal would never pretend to anything higher than recycled nostalgia — but Alice Cooper is still capable of putting the fun back into recycled nostalgia, and a dude who can have this much fun at the age of 69 certainly deserves respect.


  1. "expecting a Cooper album to bite me"
    This very well may explain why I've never been an AC fan - not even School's Out managed to bite when I was a problem teen from 1975-1980+. And I thought How You gonna see Me now nothing but averagely sentimental.

    1. Perhaps if you knew more than two songs you would find that there's plenty of bite there.

    2. Another important thing to understand about AC’s ‘bite’ is that it is invariably fragmented, concealed, and spread out landmine-style under a thick layer of camp. If you have no tolerance for camp, it’s unlikely you’ll appreciate Cooper, but for many fans the moments where genuine horror or psychological angst leap out from amongst the cheeky spook-house frivolities are some of the bitiest moments in rock. “Pass the Gun Around” from Dada, “Dwight Fry” from Love It to Death, “Dead Babies” and “Halo of Flies” from Killer all immediately come to mind. And who could forget the lyrics to “Enough’s Enough”?

  2. argue all you want but the album has one problem in the core: the melodies are weak.
    an ac album without melodies is not worth shit.

    1. Hey now, Paranormal is nowhere close to the Coop’s most consistent effort, but “Paranoiac Personality” is a damn fine pop song no matter what anyone says.