Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Review: Alice Cooper, "Along Came a Spider"

For the past few years, Alice Cooper has been trying, with limited success, to recapture the sound and feel of his 1970s heyday. Those records, "The Eyes of Alice Cooper" and "Dirty Diamonds," had a little problem, though. While some of the tunes hit the right note, both albums had several songs that sounded like they were written by Vincent Furnier, the aging 50-something rocker who spends more time on the golf course than on the stage.

This time around, though, he nails it. A concept record revolving around a serial killer in love, "Along Came a Spider" is pure Alice, a guy who Vincent Furnier would be quick to tell you has never held a golf club unless he was clubbing someone over the head with it. This is perhaps one of Cooper’s more twisted creations. It’s a much darker record than his last two, and is filled with his trademark black humor, not the least of which is the often bouncy and happy-sounding melodies that accompany dark turns in the storyline.

I’ll be honest and say that, in the lead up to this record, I was hoping for something more in line with the heavier sounds of his 2000 record "Brutal Planet." He only delivers that on one song, “Vengeance is Mine,” which features guitar work from Slash. The lack of that heaviness, however, is not a disappointment. Most of the songs on this record are firmly rooted in Cooper’s classic 1970s blend of punk and garage rock with the occasional bit of metal or Broadway thrown in.

The only real misses on the record come in the form of the ballad “Killed by Love,” the latest failed attempt to recreate “Only Women Bleed,” and the showtune-influenced “Salvation,” which seems a bit out of place and doesn’t connect with the rest of the story.

The remaining songs on this record are all rock solid. Cooper delivers catchy garage melodies and memorable hooks on tunes like “Catch Me If You Can,” “(In Touch With) Your Feminine Side,” “Wrapped in Silk” and “The One that Got Away.” Perhaps the best example of the blending of twisted thoughts with happy-go-lucky, bubblegum rock comes on the track “I’m Hungry.” There are some less tongue-in-cheek dark moments scattered around the album, most notably the maniacal “I Am the Spider,” which closes the record.

This is easily Cooper’s best work since "Brutal Planet."

Get "Along Came a Spider."

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