[It came on the radio in the late afternoon and from the first note it was right: Alice Cooper bringing it all back home again. God it’s beautiful it is the most reassuring thing that has happened in this year of the Taylor Family…]
Ever since they ceased to be the Nazz, a fairly normal Yardbirds/Who derivation in the manner of Count V, and became instead Frank Zappa’s vision of American youth’s sexual uncertainties gone berserk, Alice Cooper have endured more than their fair share of abuse from such redoubtables as Rolling Stone in general and L. Bangs in particular, this in spite of the fact that their stage-show, clumsy and heavy-handed though it usually has been, represents at least a modest oasis in the desert of dreary blue-jeaned aloofness served up in concert by most American rock-and-rollers.
That their recorded work has heretofore been quite ghastly has scarcely served to make anyone fonder of them.
Henceforth Alice’s detractors won’t have their albums to kick about any more. Love it to death they and you may not, but at least like Love It To Death a lot many will, especially those with an ear for nicely-wrought mainstream punk raunch and snidely clever lyrics. For these, along with a heretofore-lacking sense of economy and control, are the major ingredients of such staples of Love It as “I’m Eighteen” (Alice’s first teenage hit single), “Is It My Body” (a plea for, believe it or not, less superficiality in interpersonal relationships, particularly in those between the Coopers and their backstage courtiers). “Hallowed Be My Name,” and “Sun Arise” (their dynamite show-opener, which they resourcefully learned off the back of an old Rolf Harris hit).
Sadly, the one bummer on this album is so loud a bummer that it may threaten to neutralize the ingratiating effect of the aforementioned nifties. Embarassingly reminiscent of the very worst of such horrors as Iron Butterfly and Black Sabbath and in places so strikingly similar to “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” that the Coopers may yet have to answer to Pink Floyd in court, “Black Juju” is mind-blowing black-magic nonsense at its most inane. Considering that this piece has seldom, if ever, worked properly live, in which context Alice’s supposedly hypnotic chanting in the middle has been known to inspire audiences to yell, “Get off the fucking stage,” it’s difficult to imagine why they supposed it would work on record.
Some will be pleased to note, though, that “Ballad of Dwight Fry,” the story of a man who’s gone temporarily insane and finds himself going gradually more insane as a result of being confined in a mental institution, is conveyed by a genuinely pretty melody, which more than makes up for “Juju”‘s presence. I’ll be looking forward to seeing the Coopers perform this one live.
Now that they’re making quite good records, incidentally, it is to be hoped that the Coopers will apply themselves to dreaming up a new image, that of the psychedelic drag-queen group having long since been exhausted witness how they’ve had to get into gruesome (and thus inconsistent with their stated intention of testing our sexual insecurities by being ambiguously attractive) stuff like tarantula eye make-up in order to stay ahead of their audiences in terms of outrageousness.
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Not to be presumptuous, but I should like to suggest to the group that, in what will surely be recorded as a monumental feat of guts, as a sensational testament to the veracity of the image of iconoclastic perversity they’ve worked so hard to compile, they now turn the tables completely -to wit, that they all get crew-cuts, weight-lift their frail or pudgy bodies into Atlasian magnificence, perform in leopard-skin bikini briefs smeared head-to-toe with coconut oil (taking care to flex their muscles as often as possible while playing and flexing them dramatically between numbers), and generally give the young rocking studs of our great nation something to look up to.
I’ll betcha they don’t have the balls.