Saturday, 20 October 2018

Alice Cooper - Killer (1971)


Released November 1971

Recorded in Chicago

After an underrated rock album in early 1971’s “Love It To Death”, Alice Cooper was back at the end of the year with another solidly impressive offering.


1. Under My Wheels
2. Be My Lover
3. Halo Of Flies
4. Desperado
5. You Drive Me Nervous
6. Yeah Yeah Yeah
7. Dead Babies
8. Killer

The first two tracks are superb Stonesy, riffy rockers - “Under My Wheels”, enhanced by some saxophone for the first time and the barnstorming “Be My Lover”, whch is absolutely packed full of, dare I say, “killer” riffs. “Halo Of Flies” is one of those mini-rock opera type songs that Cooper specialised in at the time - eight minutes plus of all manner of changes of pace, great guitar riffs, bass lines, hooks and weird noises. It appealed to those fans who wanted a bit of “prog-rock” type organ and indulgent drawn-out instrumental passages, while the short, sharp rock numbers kept the burgeoning “glam rock” market happy.

I remember at the time that us boys at school who loved Bowie, Mott The Hoople and Roxy Music liked the riffier Cooper material, but were a bit wary of him when he went “prog”-ish. That was for the boys who wore greatcoats and ike ELP. Cooper sort of crossed over between the two. A track that sort of summed that up was “Desperado”, which had a rock attack to it, but also some noodling orchestration and a few vaguely pretentious bits. The final track, “Killer” was also a bit directionless in places (despite its atmosphere), in contrast with the two openers, which were both beautifully succinct in their rock perfection.

“You Drive Me Nervous” was back to riffage on a searing proto-punk song in whch you can hear The New York Dolls and The Sex Pistols. “Yeah Yeah Yeah” is another guitar-driven one than wouldn’t have sounded out of place in 1976-77. In fact, I read that Johnny Rotten called this album the “greatest rock album of all time”.

Alice liked to shock, of course, and duly comes up with the menacing, creepy “Dead Babies” which has echoes of both The Doors, Television and the sort of thing “Siouxsie & The Banshees” would do several years later. Parts of it of are even “post punk”, would you believe. Throw in a few lyrics about graveyards and the like and the song was guaranteed to appall the older generation. That was the intention at the time, long before punk. Funnily enough, under all the shlock, the song’s message was an anti-child abuse one. Nobody saw that, however. The tabloids and some MPs (both Tory and Labour) had a field day warning of this artist who was “out to corrupt our children”. Cooper was thoroughly despised by the “respectable” elder generation in the early seventies, for a while, at least.

Unfortunately, in some ways, all that messing around with snakes and guillotines on stage detracted somewhat from the fact that Alice Cooper, in this era, put out some seriously good rock albums.


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