I can`t decide if this is a favourable review or not of this now legendary album. You help me decide…
And now for something utterly predictable…
ALICE COOPER: “Welcome To My Nightmare” (Anchor)
Review by Charles Shaar Murray
“ETHYL`S FRIGID as an eskimo pie, she`s cool in bed / she oughta be, `cuz Ethyl`s dead…”
Why hello, Alice.
We were wondering what had become of you. Just talking about you the other day, we were, and now here`s your new album – your solo album, in fact.
Your first effort without those other guys skulking around in the back. And here you are up to all your old tricks again. Lessee now…corpse-balling, youth revolution, madness, murder.
Yep, the gang`s all here.
“Welcome To My Nightmare” is the soundtrack album from Mr. Cooper`s TV spectacular of the same name.
The album`s packaging makes no reference to the special either in terms of visual or descriptive material, and the only concession that the content of the record makes to the TV show is a short cameo appearance by Vincent Price which serves as a prelude to a song called “The Black Widow”, and what the hell that`s all about I know not.
The end result of all this is that, as the album is more than a little oblique in places, the experience is not complete.
The show is yet to be seen in the States, so no-one outside of the Cooper machine is any the wiser on the subject.
So let`s get down to cases. “Welcome To My Nightmare” features most of the incredible band who turned in such an epic performance on Lou Reed`s “Rock `n` Roll Animal” album, namely Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner (guitars), the fabulously named Prakash John (bass) and Whitey Glen (drums), assisted by Jozef Chirowski (keyboards) and Tony Levin (bass) and Johnny (Bee) Badanjek (drums).
The whole deal is produced by Bob Ezrin, who also weighs in on keyboards here and there and co-wrote seven of the eleven tracks.
“Welcome To My Nightmare” is, in fact, some kind of major vindication of Ezrin, whose overweening pretentiousness played a considerable part in the capsizing of Cooper`s “School`s Out” and “Billion Dollar Babies” album – and let`s leave “Berlin” right out of this. Keep it clean, huh?
In fact, many of the best moments (oh alright, most of the good moments) on “Nightmare” are production touches.
The two outrageous quotes from other people`s work – the piano lick from the Stones` “Monkey Man” on “Only Women Bleed” and the intro to “Tubular Bells” – believe it or not – on “Steven”, the electronically treated mixed-down back-up vocals again on “Steven”, the eerie synthesiser on “Years Ago” (the album`s only wholly successful track) – it definitely comes on like a producer`s album.
The band are excellent, Hunter and Wagner performing heroically throughout. Wagner especially has earned his bread, co- writing six tracks and paying his back-up vocal dues. Cooper`s singing is pretty good, too.
The main problem with “Welcome To My Nightmare” is that Cooper`s semi-retirement over the last two years (one album and no gigs) hasn`t enabled him to restock his ideas cupboard. The album is constructed almost entirely out of retreads of standard Cooper licks, none of which manage to upstage the originals.
“Department Of Youth” is simply “School`s Out” all over again, complete with demented kiddie choir and watered-down “Clockwork Orange” braggadoccio.
Ezrin is well aware of how great Hunter and Wagner sounded playing “Sweet Jane”, and the chorus of this song throws in that hallowed riff just to provide some kind of instant reference point.
There`s even a good joke at the fade-out; listen: Alice: “Who`s got the power?”; Kids: “We have!”; Alice: “Who gave it to you?”; Kids: “Donny Osmond!” Many a true word…
“Cold Ethyl”, the lyrics of which were quoted right up front at the beginning of this review, is simply “We Love The Dead” all over again, “The Awakening” refers back to “Killer”, “Escape” is the old persona-juggling stunt (“I`m crying in my beer / Just get me out of here / Where am I running to? / There`s no place to go / Just put on my make-up and get me to the show” – Kim Fowley helped to write it, which figures).
On “Only Women Bleed”, Cooper gets his teeth into women`s lib, with a song so utterly flatulent, superficial and condescending that the people he`s supposedly attempting to champion will be more offended by it than anyone else. (Or maybe that was his intention – me, I just don`t care at all).
The main inspiration behind “Welcome To My Nightmare” appears to be late-show horror movies, and it`s a trifle dispiriting to discover that Cooper`s understanding of even this cultural phenomenon is totally off-beam.
All Cooper knows how to do is cop the licks. The horrors that Cooper manufactures and then confronts on our behalf are all so obviously papier-mache that the liberating effect of the enactment of the confrontation is approximately zero, and it is the basic moral and social cowardice of Cooper`s work that condemns him, finally, to the minor leagues when compared to, say Lou Reed, who`s wrestled a real demon or two in his day.
Basically, Cooper epitomises all that is worst in American culture and society without ever seeking to transcend it, to get next to any real issues.
Still, it`s all well-produced, the band are fine and there are even two potential hit singles (“Department Of Youth” and “Escape”), so what am I bitching about?
This album will be in your shops soon, if it isn`t already there. You`ll probably like it.
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper and you are free to use it as you like. If you use it on your own webpages – please credit me or put up a link to my blog.
This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Status Quo, Bryan Ferry, Robin Trower, Alan Freeman, David Bowie, Elton John, Larry Coryell, Hank Marvin, Eric Clapton, Kursaal Flyers, Todd Rundgren.
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