Wednesday, December 7, 2011

CD Odyssey Disc 345: Alice Cooper

The CD Odyssey is random, but this is a bit ridiculous. Not only is this the second Alice Cooper review in the past three albums, it is the album that directly follows "Trash." What are the odds?

Well, with Alice Cooper representing 26 of my 1,000 or so albums, I think the odds are somewhere around 1 in 1484. However, the Odyssey odds are a bit corrupted. This is because whenever I roll an album I've already reviewed, I don't just reroll. If I did that, when I'm 800 albums in I'll be spending hours just rolling over and over again to get the last remaining records, trying to figure out how many there are (I currently have the rolling divided roughly into 25 equal sections of about 40-50 records each, so I don't have to count from 1 each time).

So after I roll a section, and get a repeat, instead of starting over, I make one more roll to determine if I go 'left' or 'right' from the album that's already been reviewed, and I keep moving that direction until I hit a record I haven't done yet. It isn't perfect, but it is random enough for me.

In fact, the two most recent Alice Cooper reviews actually resulted from me rolling 1983's Dada (reviewed back at Disc 18), and going 'right' until I hit a new album - meaning I've reviewed every Alice Cooper record from 1983-1991 at this point. The odds of rolling "Dada" twice in three rolls? I have no idea, but I'm confident in going with 'a lot'. OK, enough fun with probability, here's the review:

Disc 345 is...Hey Stoopid

Artist: Alice Cooper

Year of Release: 1991

What’s Up With The Cover?: A whole lot of stoopid. An Alice Cooper skull combined with male and female steel arms and a collage of smaller, and stoopider imagery. This cover is in the running for worst cover in the Odyssey and is lucky I don't track such things.

How I Came To Know It: Just me buying Alice Cooper's latest release. I bought this when it came out on tape, and a few years later on CD when my financial situation allowed for it.

How It Stacks Up: I know I just finished reviewing "Trash", and this record fits in at around the same place. The big hit "Hey Stoopid" isn't as good as "Trash"'s big hit, "Poison", but overall the music is better, so I'm going to rank it one ahead of "Trash" - either 22nd or 23rd out of 26 Cooper records.

Rating: 2 stars.

Weird as it is, I'm kind of glad I rolled "Hey Stoopid" so soon after "Trash". They fit together as a stylistic pair in the Alice Cooper discography.

They are collectively part of what I would call the third phase of Cooper's career, or what I call "Clean and Sober" (phases one and two I call "With The Band" and "Drunk And Alone" respectively). They follow his first two sober albums, 1986's "Constrictor" and 1987's "Raise Your Fist And Yell", both of which are efforts more squarely in the metal category.

"Trash" and "Hey Stoopid" are more that late eighties hair-metal sound, and as I've recently said I'm not a fan of that sound. That said, "Hey Stoopid" is a bit better on that front. The production is a little bit meatier, at least enough that you couldn't confuse it with truly awful 'tinsel' acts like Skid Row or White Lion etc. "Snakebite" is practically metal in its own right although strangely, not the best song on the record.

"Hey Stoopid" is full of catchy licks, and many of the songs are really pop songs that have been dressed up with heavy guitar. Somehow, against all odds it strangely works. I even enjoyed the lone Desmond Child writing assist, on "Might As Well Be On Mars," which is both anthemic and grotesque in all the right places, just like I've come to expect from Alice Cooper's original sound. In fact, there are a few tracks where Cooper shows glimpses of his greatness on his early records, and vocally he is in fine form.

Metal-noodler extraordinaire Joe Satriani adds his talents to five of the albums's twelve tracks, and despite his track record, remains miraculously restrained. The guitar solos aren't great, but they do fit thematically with each song's melody, which is the minimum I expect in a guitar solo. Or to put a new spin on an allusion used in Satriani's solo work, it is OK to surf with the alien as long as your love of humanity keeps you firmly within the earth's atmosphere.

If you got both halves of that obscure reference, score yourself five bonus geek points.

While musically this record is more interesting than "Trash", lyrically this is one of Cooper's weakest, and that's a shame. One song, "Feed My Frankenstein," has some of the worst rock lyrics of all time:

"Well I ain't evil, I'm just good lookin'
Start a little fire, and baby start cookin'
I'm a hungry man...
But I don't want pizza
I'll blow down your house
And then I'm gonna eat ya."

The tips of my fingers are bleeding just from having to type that atrocity, but no amount of exposition could've shown you just how bad it was. I had to share it undiluted. At least now I don't have to bear the burden alone.

That said, "Hey Stoopid" remains a guilty pleasure for me. Many of the tracks are catchy, if a bit empty and the record doesn't take itself too seriously. Maybe it is just Stockholm Syndrome, having been locked in my car with this record and "Trash" in such close succession.

As a side note, I don't usually like the deliberate mis-spelling of words, but I think 'stoopid' is a reasonable exception. After all, there is a difference between just regular old stupid, and a stupid so incredibly dumb that it can't be fully communicated without the use of two 'o's. When you say 'stoopid' you are almost forced to lower your voice two octaves and jut your lower jaw out. It says dumb like no other word.

This record is stupid in places, and lyrically it even crosses over into stoopid once or twice, but the music is generally good enough that I keep it on the positive side of the ledger. Another one for completionists only, but I'd be lying if I pretended I didn't enjoy listening to it the last couple of days.

Best tracks: Hey Stoopid, Burning Our Bed, Might As Well Be On Mars, Hurricane Years

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