Alice Cooper is a West Coast Zappa-sponsored group: two guitars, bass, drums and a vocalist who doubles on harmonica. Echoes of 1967 psychedelia in the oscillators and distorted guitars. Showing here the influence of the Mothers, here the first-wave San Francisco sound, there and almost everywhere the Beatles. But their overall texture and the flow of randomly-selected runs interspersed by electronic gimmicks place them closer to a certain rivulet in that deluge of pre-packaged groups which can be defined as marginal acidrock (references: recent debut albums by Aorta and Touch). Droning fuzz leads overlaid by droning (or is it whining?) Bee Gees vocal harmonies, and ponderous quasi-"baroque" organ wallowings a la Vanilla Fudge. Stereotyped guitar solos, a great many of which seem to derive directly (and not surprisingly) from Ray Davies' great fuzztone explosions on early Kinks hits like "You Really Got Me" and "All Day and All of the Night." Apocalyptic raveups patented by the Yardbirds. Spoken "poetry" or "trippy" declamations muttered half-comprehensibly over "atonal" guitar gimmicks (dragging the pick across the strings below the bridge, etc.).
I'm not trying to denigrate Alice Cooper's abilities: within the context of their self-imposed limitations, the album is listenable. But there is a way to do these things. I think simplicity and the imaginative use of the cliche are at the essence of rock; but the cliches have to hit you in a certain way, with a certain conviction and energy and timing, to get it on, to spark that certain internal combustion of good feeling and galvanized energies that lifts you out of your seat irresistibly and starts you dancing, balling, just whooping, or whatever — Black Pearl is the most stunning recent realization of this. And it is this that is lacking in Alice Cooper's music. Everything falls where it should, there are none of the gross, ugly, idiotic juxtapositions of the totally incongruous found in much other studio-assembled art-rock. But neither is there any hint of life, spontaneity, joy, rage, or any kind of authentic passion or conviction. As such, Alice Cooper's music is, for this reviewer at any rate, totally dispensable.
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