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Saturday, July 19, 2008

CD Review: Alice Cooper - Along Came a Spider

Alice Cooper - Along Came a Spider
2008 SPV/Steamhammer
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Mother Goose was one mean-spirited and violent wench when you stop and read past the gloss of her so-called "children's" sonnets, poems and limericks. Kids often face vicious repercussions, punishment and a hell of a lot of physical abuse, be it Jack and Jill splitting their noggins open while falling down a hill or cradles spilling newborns from tree branches to unspoken calamities. In other words, the hedonistic being writing under the nom de plume Mother Goose bore a grudge against children, no matter how idealistic you dress it up. It should then come as no surprise that Alice Cooper, the world's greatest theatrical shock rock performer can find inspiration in "Little Miss Muffet" to twist a silly fable about a girl spilling her breakfast at the sight of an arachnid into a more contemporary psychodrama set to a largely upbeat pulse on Along Came a Spider, one of Cooper's coolest albums of what many consider the extended second portion of his career.

Uncle Alice spins us a modern-day serial killer story on Along Came a Spider in which he assumes the main character, Spider, a villainous schizophrenic who outlines detailed murders of eight beautiful girls wrapped in silk and with one leg severed off through music that disturbingly flows at a pumping and uptempo rock pace. In the midst of Spider's gory human/arachnid assembly, Alice sardonically sings about a loathing of the general public that causes him to stuff his victims into trunks, leaving their fates to be decided later. Likewise, Spider toys with his victims by stalking and jumping them with chloroform and handcuffs, as relayed on the near-hilarious "I'm Hungry." While the story moves briskly along, Cooper attempts to fuse an imploring bit of humanity into Spider on the mini epic "Salvation."

With a blatant old-school Alice-meets-newer-school Alice methodology, Along Came a Spider is a relaxed vehicle that lets Alice Cooper be Alice Cooper, and he wastes no opportunity to dance gleefully in the waves of late sixties psychedelia on "I Know Where You Live," "I Am the Spider" and even "Wake the Dead," the latter a stripped-down throwback rocker that sounds, crazily enough, like Beck chawing about ripping up redheads, brunettes and blondes to the spin of a nonsensical repeat chorus.

Alice brings the amps behind heavier cuts like "Vengeance is Mine," (which features a guitar cameo by Slash) "Catch Me If You Can" and "The One That Got Away," while drifting backwards to the grimy rockout tone of the Love it to Death through Billion Dollar Babies era Alice on "Wrapped in Silk," which also bears hints of his Constrictor era dotting the choruses. For good measure, Alice drops out a couple of slower songs such as "Killed By Love" and of course, the loud rock blast of "Salvation," which is perhaps the best example of vintage era Alice making its comeback into his later-day existence, resting as easy on this album as it would on Pretties For You or Killers.

Alice Cooper has remained strong in his second coming from the mid-eighties via Constrictor and Raise Your Fist and Yell with Kane Roberts slinging axe or the dropkicked heaviness of Brutal Planet and Dragontown, much less his entertaining and creative Eyes of Alice Cooper album, which might as well be looked at as the retro-spirited catalyst leading to Along Came a Spider.

As "I Am the Spider" wraps up this album on a heavy note that actually launches from a reinterpretation of "Welcome to My Nightmare" on the verses, Alice Cooper finishes his project with an epilogue narrative that leads us to question if the grisly events ravaged through this throbbing rock odyssey are real or the intertwined mental fabrications of Cooper's unhinged muse. Bringing Kiss drummer Eric Singer aboard for another terror rock jaunt with guitarists Keri Kelli and Jason Hook and bassist Chuck Garric (also including a few random guest fills), Alice Cooper creates a sick and twisted tale set to a foot-tapping rock playground soundtrack. In other words, classic Alice. The songs on this album are the most memorable full set of tunes Alice has woven since Raise Your Fist and Yell. End summation, Along Came a Spider is just plain fun.

Rating: ****


Metal Mark said...

I have only listened to it once so far so I need to give it another listen to really figure it out. It is certainly a stab at blending Alice's older approach with newer sounds. The previous album was like that too, but this one comes across as being less forced.

bob_vinyl said...

I don't think Alice Cooper has done anything that's excited me since Billion Dollar Babies, but admittedly I haven't heard much from the last 20 years of his career. That being said, bringing some elements from the early days sounds enticing to me.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

I agree, Mark. This is the most relaxed he's sounded for an entire album in awhile.

Yeah, Bob, it's worth checking out. Much as I like heavier albums like RYFAY and Dragontown, this one's pure Alice, I think