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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Album Review: Alice Cooper - Welcome 2 My Nightmare

Alice Cooper - Welcome 2 My Nightmare
2011 Universal Music Enterprises
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



Uncle Alice is back, not that he ever left. This is still one of the most pliable entertainers still haunting the scene. Alice Cooper may not have been given immediate due for his more recent albums such as The Eyes of Alice Cooper, Dragontown, Dirty Diamonds and 2008's groovy-freaky hedonism jaunt, Along Came a Spider, but the man's legend has surreptitiously risen even more beneath the radar. Recently Alice Cooper has been bestowed with a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction and iconic bestowments from Kerrang! and the Revolver Golden God Awards. Alice remains a king of his domain and best of all, he continuously delivers what his subjects want.

Perhaps all of this just fanfare inspired Alice Cooper to attempt something that almost never fully works: a sequel to his own best-known body of work, Welcome to My Nightmare. It takes a lot of stones to take on the task of writing a connector piece to an album written almost 40 years ago. Yeah, get your head around that a second, if you will. Alice has been on the scene for that long, and while Queensryche found themselves nailed to the cross more often than not for Operation Mindcrime II, Uncle Alice will be a lock not to suffer the same fate with Welcome 2 My Nightmare.

It's the respect for the original work, plus the respect for himself and his fans that allows us to give a cheerful thumbs-up to this project. The highest compliment we can pay to Welcome 2 My Nightmare is that this is its own beast. While there's undertones of the seventies on "I Am Made of You," "When Hell Comes Home" and "The Nightmare Returns," songs with subliminal tubular bells haunting their chiming melodies, this album is thoroughly updated with a powerful punch and an elder statesman's appreciation for what transcends the decades separating these bodies of work.

Alice Cooper best bridges his 1975 masterwork to modern life on "The Congregation," a song with enough Love it to Death era and Gary Glitter struts poofed up to a loud retro kick The Black Keys are no doubt taking strong note of.

"Caffeine" is a slamming bit of rock agitation with a PT Barnum blow-up beneath the cagey humor. Here Uncle Alice gives us a bit of nyuk nyuk explanation as to why he and his alter-alter ego Steven are wracked by this ever-continuing cerebral melodrama. A bad caffeine trip. If you've ever drank enough cups of coffee in succession, the near-paralysis and catatonic head trips left at the end of that java onslaught will toy with your noodle. Said from this writer's personal experience.

Now, are we to insinuate Alice Cooper has sold us a huckstering, nyeh-nyeh, fooled you rock opera, all plugged by the simplistic revelation that drinking too much coffee cooks you rightly? No, of course not. Welcome 2 My Nightmare is more the rock cartoon that Rob Zombie could've had with his Haunted World of El Superbeasto if the latter wasn't more obsessed with tit humor every other frame. It takes a gifted artist to know that hillbilly shakes and oom-pah bandstanding are riotous ways to portray a brain bake, conveyed through "A Runaway Train" and "Last Man On Earth" respectively.

Then there's the hilarious rock roast, "Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever," an intentionally nutty blast which is shrewder than you think. Consider this Alice's torching of the original disco era in which he was forced to tinker with on some of his late seventies' work, not to mention bits of the original Welcome to My Nightmare. It's also an acknowledgement that today's pop scene is lost in a disco revival and it well serves this new nightmare Alice Cooper is spinning for our consumption like the master showman he is. Alice's clownish rapping on "Disco Bloodbath" is nearly as funny as the "disco is hell, that's where we're at" choruses. Only he could get away with such lunacy, along with a hummable toe-tapper like "I'll Bite Your Face Off" that has planted blues and country beneath its twisted rock groove. Wait for the cadelabra-lit piano breakdown on that one. Riot. Nearly as much a riot as Alice's hung ten surfing bird, "Ghouls Gone Wild."

Also, only Alice Cooper could get away with bringing hip hop-pop megastar Ke$ha into his refined carnival of dementia. Their duet on "What Baby Wants" is sketchy on paper but ends up being a fun pop rock jerk-out, as catchy as anything else on Welcome 2 My Nightmare, and the hooks are out all over it.

Part of why this album works so much is due to the rogue's gallery of musicians and collaborators Alice corrals. Cool enough he has past associates such as Dick Wagner, Michael Bruce, Steve Hunter, Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith coming by for the party. Welcome 2 My Nightmare is graced with the presence of Bob Ezrin, overseer of the original Nightmare and without a doubt, the alignment of theory and mind pays off dividends once again. Cameos by Vince Gill, John 5 and Patterson Hood of the Drive By Truckers on top of Ke$ha only add to this album's festivities. Always thinking in the moment, that Alice. No wonder Steven doesn't stand a chance in his three-ring sanguinary world.

While nothing here rings ethereal-eternal like "Cold Ethyl," "The Black Widow", "Steven" and "Only Women Bleed," Welcome 2 My Nightmare is a banging capsule of Alice's long standing in the music industry and for good measure, he sends out a breathy love note to his fans with "Something to Remember Me By." Written as if in 1975, this one has a pretty poison you just know has dastardly designs beneath the sweetness and effervesence. All implied, never stated, make sure you ask Uncle Alice to tip his top hat to make sure there's nothing murderous beneath as he croons "Something to Remember Me By" to you.

Welcome 2 My Nightmare didn't need to be stellar, but it did need to be worthy enough to carry its daunting title. It's more than worthy; it's a huge success and even more inspired than Along Came a Spider, which was damned fun in its own right. This is one is heavier in sound than Welcome to My Nightmare, while the latter is heavier in the classic sense. Put together, they're yin and yan separated by generations. Uncle Alice seems proud the world cares so much about him, because his pride sounds off resplendently on this album.

Run, Steven, run...

Rating: ****


To Buy Welcome 2 My Nightmare, click here:

Buy Welcome 2 My Nightmare

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