Saturday, June 10, 2006

Alice Cooper-KILLER CD (Warner Brothers)

Yeah, I know, why should I review an album by a group that I've already spewed a good thirteen pages of bile on way back in the twenty-second issue of my own dear fanzine, even though that ish was a good nine years back! Boy, that Chriz certainly must be as repetitive as alla them blogsters out there make him out to be, right-o? Well "yeah", right-o. Y'see, I'm so ga-ga over this thing called "rock & roll" (as a nerve-grating, soul-searing, life-affirming sound) that if you pampered brats don't get the rockism message about the music and the groups and the PEOPLE behind it all well, yeah, I'll be "repetitive" and yammer on about everything GOOD and WHOLESOME about this thing called ENERGY as sound-patterns until you're all firmly entrenched in the fine rays of enlightenment, even if I have to drag you there by your nipple rings. And guess probably ain't gonna be the last time I'll be raving on either so you better get used to it and PRONTO!

But y'see, the real reason that I'm posting a dissectation of KILLER, the fourth album by that mysterious pop/beat band going under the strange moniker of "Alice Cooper," is because I've chanced upon a review of it in an old vintage fanzine, and given how these Golden Age fanzines are so to-the-point and high-energy in their sway and style (plus the fact that fanzine and web refs. to particularly fave musical acts can have me digging way into my collection in search of an obsession-filled listening session, especially if said mention hits my musical parameters in the right way) well, how could I resist writing about a disque that somehow seems to fit itself into everything that's been driving me BATTY for the past few weeks anyway? I'll probably be dropping hefty wordage on the fanzine said ref. came from another day, but for now all I wanna do is write about KILLER which is perhaps the most aptly-named album in the history of LPs or at least was until MX-80 Sound's HARD ATTACK which was six years down the line anyway.

Since it was a fanzine review that got me all hot and bothered in the first place, maybe I should do this writeup in a (classic-era) fanzine style...real down to earth and cruddy like you used to see in mags such as BACK DOOR MAN and DENIM DELINQUENT (to be "repetitive" about it)...anyway, KILLER remains a certain top-notch wowzer and not only in the heavy metal arena where it was born and bred but in a whole passel of other "genres" as well. Not only was it released in 1971 which was perhaps the last killer (sic) year for the original heavy metal generation, but in retrospect it definitely ranks as one of the best albums of that best of/worst of time year alongside T. Rex's ELECTRIC WARRIOR and Black Sabbath's PARANOID. '71 certainly was a good year for heavy metal (Sir Lord Baltimore, Dust, Hawkwind...) and it's too bad that the whole thing seemed to get wooshed over into boring doldrums within a year or so. Or at least Metal Mike Saunders said something along those lines in his thrashing of Led Zep's HOUSES OF THE HOLY not to mention his heavy metal cover saga also in PHONOGRAPH RECORD MAGAZINE, and who am I to argue with the spokesman for a generation? Maybe it was burnout, but as far as '71 goes it was heavy metal all the way, with a good deal of punkism thrown in for good measure (just to keep it exciting).

But no matter what good (T. Rex) or dire (Carole King's TAPESTRY, not forgetting James Taylor, Cat Stevens and that whole mellow-out scene) came out of 1971, KILLER certainly stuck out like a sore nose. I mean, how many other groups back then were drawing heavily from the Detroit heavy metal sound (which bore a distinct difference from heavy metal proper) that it seemed NOBODY wanted to remember two years after Danny Fields detailed the "hype", not to mention the mid-sixties garage bands that were about as "cool" as Studebakers, or the Velvet Underground for that matter? Mixing and matching those influences should have made KILLER instant bargain bin fodder but it made for one of the bigger sellers of the year, which should prove to you readers that miracles do happen especially when you least expect them.

"Under My Wheels" starts the thing off about as good as a classic album can be started off. One of my beefs in life has been how a whole slew of top fave-rave albums from THE VELVET UNDERGROUND AND NICO through Hackamore Brick's ONE KISS LEADS TO ANOTHER (another '71 winner!) started off with soft, outta place tuneage. Not so with Alice Cooper (the singer, not the band) leads off Alice Cooper (the band, without the singer) on a hard-rocking Rolling Stones-influenced all-out rocker that still seems to retain its original high energy throttle even though too many pseudo heavy metal acts (especially in the eighties) have taken their ideas from this song (and Cooper in general) and used them to further their own stuffed-crotch visions which always seemed like a joke to me. Oh well, it's about as bad as all of the phony gnu wave posturing of the early-eighties which took the ideas of the mid-seventies originators and "commercialized" them outta existence. Only I thought that the gnu wavers woulda known better given alla the pratfalls of the past they accused everyone else of falling into.

Following "Wheels" comes "Be My Lover"...I remember hearing this one back when it was onna radio getting played on a local AM tries to hint around at FM freeform station. I was in the other room reading a comic book, but even though Green Lantern was more or less front and center in my mind "Lover" really stuck out in my mind! There was also a contest on the same station (where you didn't win anything, but had the glory of knowing you had the right answer and your name mentioned over the airwaves!) where whoever could identify which song the lines "'cause it's a long long way to Paradise/And I'm still on my own" would "win". I dunno if this is the tune that won me over to the Cooper brigades or not, but it sure had me hopping around the local department store album bins wanting to know more! The song reeks Velvets, from the "Sweet Jane" ripoff opening to the atonal guitar at the end...and with all that good energy going for it "Be My Lover" shoulda been a huge '71 hit though considering all the worthy flops of the early-seventies who could blame it for sinking like it did! (A useless aside...the liner notes to the Velvets' ARCHETYPES budget reissue of WHITE LIGHT/WHITE HEAT refer to this song as "Woman Love" which at first had me thinking it was some unknown outtake or a tune available only on certain variations of the album! So I guess I was a Velvets obsessive even before hearing a note of their music!)

"Halo of Flies"---OK, I gotta 'fess up to the fact that this one doesn't quite grab me by the lobes like it should. Maybe it reminds me too much of the extended theatrical production numbers Alice Cooper (with or w/o Alice Cooper the band) ended up doing in a "gee, ain't I bold and daring" fashion while other bands were outgrossing the originator at every turn. It's not like I'm writing this one off en toto, because "Halo"'s still a proverbial wowzer even though I've been finding myself more often than not clicking the "forward" button for...

"Desperado" which is a real top notcher, especially considering how it uses an acoustic guitar as well as a string quartet to heighten the metal effect. Sounds strange to you? Well, lemme too you that I too have always hated a lotta the softer, introspective moments that have ruined many a heavy metal epiphany for me. Those acoustic interludes on Dust's HARD ATTACK didn't do that 'un any good while the slow schmooze of Metallica's MASTERS OF PUPPETS was enough for me to write that band off for me despite the protestations of a certain "heavy metal" rock critic who shall remain nameless. But "Desperado" wins precisely because of the acoustic guitar and strings, with the former giving the tune a striking, almost harpsichord-ish spine tingle and the latter...well, I am moved to the same heights that strings brought to bands like the Left Banke, Montage and STREET HASSLE...

In the old days we hadda flip it over, but now we can just stay still and listen to "You Drive Me Nervous" which is yet another metallic stormtrooper of a tale dealing with the teenage diaspora. I remember hearing this one on the same station mentioned about and around the same time as well (Warners must've been dumping a lotta SOMETHING to warrant such airplay!) in disbelief that a song could be so hard-edged powerful. Especially with those drums doing the hard thump in an almost vain attempt to break a pre-adolescent's spine.

With a title like "Yeah Yeah Yeah" (not the Amon Duul I song!) you'd kinda think that Alice was trying to cash in on Beatlemania. Not so Gertrude, and although I can't hear any Moby Grape here like the aforementioned fanzine review(er) mentioned earlier did, I can hear a lotta the Electric Eels! Especially Brian McMahon's, er Michael Bruce's acerbic rhythm playing leaving a hard base for the John Morton-ish leads of Glenn Buxton. It's so primitive right down to Alice's (intentional?) sub-garage band speak-singing that I'm surprised that the Eels didn't even consider covering it.

"Dead Babies" never did thrill me that much. Lemme take that did when I was writing my article on them way back when, and I do remember the controversy surrounding this song (some thought it a commentary, either pro or con, on abortion, and believe you me I remember when even mentioning that word brought gags and sputters amongst the more upstanding of people in this nation!) but nowadays it just gives me the creeps. Not that its creepy per-se or that creepiness is necessarily a bad option in rockism, but maybe I just hear future echoes of mid-seventies castrated Alice, which doesn't do that much good for my gullet.

But at least the disque ends on the good note of "Killer", the title track being a nice under-the-beat groover that kinda reminds me of that part on the Deviants' PTOOFF! where Farren and the guys are discussing the anatomical dimensions of some English toffee (a "piece"...get it?) while this sub-Diddley beat goes on and on. At this point the record shifts over to the live portion of our show where the band drags Alice to the scaffold (as spooky pre-recorded organ music plays) where he does his hanging routine as the music suddenly switches over into moog dementia. A fine ending for one of the best moments of early-seventies rockism that I'm pretty positive got the opposite end of the spectrum a bit peeved (making me wish I was more aware of the hard vs. soft struggle going on at the I said, I was too busy reading comics!). I mean, I know that John Denver once mentioned how "People like David Bowie and the New York Dolls exist only to satisfy the sick and far out," and one wonders if Cooper would have joined this litany if only Nature Boy had given KILLER a spin!

But then again, by the time heavy metal did "make it" as a bona-fide teenage rabble-rousing means of expression a lotta the haller had gone out of it. I believe Saunders himself had said "No later than '72" while I'm sure his mentor Bangs would have agreed. It wasn't until the eighties underground thrash/speed groups began ejecting some vim and verve back into the mix (not forgetting the bands that did keep the faith like MX-80, Von Lmo and all those heavy metal nights at Max's Kansas City), but after awhile all I can say is, given the likes of "Only Women Bleed" and "You and Me" Alice Cooper might as well have been John Denver, and that's no bunk even with all of those well-meaning comebacks and revivals!

Hope this track-by-track nitpick helps keep you in tune! Will be back tomorrow with a hopefully traditional Sunday weekend wrap-it-up!

1 comment:

Christopher Stigliano said...

Regarding Alice Cooper and John Denver, I remember reading in CREEM a brief piece where Denver mentioned that Cooper only had about a year to go before hitting the obscurity cycle (this was around 1974) while his own music (Denver's that is!) was going to last in the consciousness of Goodtime Ameriga forever because it was so good and down-to-earth wholesome. After hearing this, Cooper retorted "I'm spiteful enough to piss on his flowers" or something to that effect, which resulted in Denver sending Cooper a dozen roses. Cooper himself responded by sending Denver a specimen bottle. No word on whether or not it was filled.