by Tim Durling
Produced by Roy Thomas Baker
Warner Bros. Records
Alice Cooper – vocals
Davey Johnstone – lead guitar
Fred Mandel – Fender guitar & keyboards
Dennis Conway – drums
John LoPresti – bass
Background vocals - Flo & Eddie, Joe Pizzulo, Fred Mandel, Ricky Tierney and Keith Allison
This album, like Alice’s few albums before and after it, remains unfairly obscure after all these years (although I believe it’s finally been reissued by Rhino domestically, infuriating those of us who shelled out for the German imports. See also Y&T vis a vis Japan.) In the common marketplace, most people assumed Alice disappeared around ’75-’76 (after Welcome to My Nightmare or if you’re really astute, A.C. Goes to Hell) but the fact is that Alice Cooper continued to record for Warner Bros, releasing a steady one album a year from 1977 until 1983 (plus the lackluster Alice Cooper Show live album.) And of all of them, this one was the most successful, and I think for good reason. All of these “lost period” Cooper albums have their share of gems on them, but this album feels the most cohesive, also the most committed to the new directions Alice was trying out. A lot of people refer to this time as A.C.’s “new wave era” and while that is partially true, Alice’s music has always been all over the sound spectrum, “Blue Turk” from School’s Out, for instance, smooth jazz anyone?
It also didn’t hurt the success of the album that it contained a minor hit single in “Clones (We’re All)” which a lot of people probably liked, having no idea it was Alice Cooper. The song hit the bottom rung of the U.S. top 40, while faring a little better (#28) in Canada. In fact, the Flush the Fashion album was actually a gold record for Alice up here, reaching #19, compared with #44 U.S. Ironically, it was on this tour that the infamous Toronto riot happened, as can be seen here…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=scrIUhGU ... re=related
Fascinating footage, and what is it about Alice Cooper and Toronto anyway?
Now, onto the album itself. Legendary Queen/Journey/Cars producer Roy Thomas Baker was at the helm for this one, and it definitely sounds more Cars than Queen or Journey, that very stark, astute slightly new wavish rock. And it’s a short one too, the entire album clocks in at 28:40.
1) Talk Talk – This song was originally recorded in 1966 by a group called the Music Machine, which if I’m not mistaken contained future producer Keith Olsen. Yeah, this is definitely new wave, but its outsider lyrics totally fit the Coop mindscape.
2) Clones (We’re All) – Another cover, not sure who did this originally, although the Smashing Pumpkins covered in later years. Yup. Another new wavey tune, a cross between the Cars and, well, Gary Numan’s “Cars.” I do find the song incredibly catchy though, and it’s one of those songs you play just to piss people off who don’t like it. Another aspect of this time period was just how freakin’ weird Alice looked, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNTcufUBntg
3) Pain – This song is one of my favourite Alice Cooper songs of all time. No exaggeration, this masterful piano semi-ballad is such a great piece of music, and one of Alice’s best lyrics. The lyrics are from the point of view of Pain, as if it were a being, and they range from the tragic (“I’m the reds by the bed of the suicide star”) to the masterfully ridiculous (“I’m the lump on your head when you step on the rake.”) Great twin guitar harmony, I just can’t say enough about this song. One of Alice’s more overlooked pieces of work as a songwriter.
4) Leather Boots – But enough of that serious stuff, here’s another cover song, a quick little, dare I say rockabilly romp about wanting a pair of leather boots so you can “hurt somebody” because you’re “frightened by the real world.” It has to be said you’ve got to fully immersed as a Cooper fan to attempt these late 70s early 80s albums.
5) Aspirin Damage – Years ago, sadly, “little Betty ate a pound of aspirin.” Two years before the “Tylenol scare,” Alice was warning about the dangers of over the counter drugs, set to more new wavish music that almost sounds Kinks-like.
6) Nuclear Infected – This song is the first on the album that I would honestly place in the category of “rocker.” Alice’s lyrics are always on the cutting edge of whatever was happening, and the Three Mile Island scare was news at that time, which is kind of the focus of this one. Although Alice typically makes light of it with lyrics like “I just show up, glow up, and have a real good time.”
7) Grim Facts – Another slightly heavier one, with lyrics guaranteed to make parents look in their teenagers bedrooms to check for guns, condoms, or other parental scares. Kind of dated nowadays with its line about gay bars, but not a bad song.
8) Model Citizen – This is the only song on the album which wouldn’t sound out of place on another Alice album, 1980 production aside, this one is clearly from the “No More Mr. Nice Guy” train of thought. The background vocals in the chorus cheerfully chant “he’s a model citizen,” to which Alice asides (presumably to us), “I think I’ve got them fooled again” and “just keep believing that my friends.”
9) Dance Yourself to Death – A fun, almost Stones-y rocker about a kid whose parents embarrass him by being supposedly cooler, a sort of sardonic twist on Cheap Trick’s “Surrender.”
10) Headlines – Alice Cooper has always been ahead of his time, and here he rants about people who want to be famous simply for the sake of being famous. Favourite line, “dirty movie (porno movie in the lyric sheet) comes to light, but I was starving then so that’s all right.”
There you have it, If you don’t like Alice (I’m not referring to anyone here in particular of course lol) this is not an album which would convert you. But if you’re into the more eclectic sides of Alice’s music, this is one of his hidden treasures. Check it out.