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Alice Cooper

Along Came A Spider

Review by Gary Hill

Alice Cooper is a performer who has (in the opinion of this reviewer) always had a problem with consistency. Sometimes it’s represented with an album that has some awesome music, but a few songs that leave you scratching your head. Other times it’s shown in a series of albums where some are masterpieces and others are fairly forgettable. When Alice Cooper is on, he is brilliant in a way few artists ever achieve. Other times he’s just plain mediocre.

This album is one of those masterpieces – beginning to end. It’s the strongest disc he’s done since Brutal Planet. In some ways it’s stronger than that album because there is a lot more musical variety to it. The disc is theatrical, but never hits you over the head with it. It’s a concept album and Mr. Cooper seems to do well with those. Something about the long form allows him to properly tell a story.

The story Mr. Furnier (the name Alice Cooper was born with was Vincent Furnier) has given us this time is a love story. If you know anything about Cooper, though, you know it can’t be that simple. This is a tale of a serial killer who has one fatal flaw. He falls in love with his final victim and it changes who he is forever. Cooper tells this in a way that is very much “real world.” It seems like it could have been ripped from the pages of the newspaper. This is not a pretty tale, but it is a believable one. This is also an incredible CD that will certainly make it into my list of best discs of 2008.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Prologue/I Know Where You Live
The prologue section leads us into the story. It’s a woman’s voice talking about finding the serial killer’s diary and how it was all planned out except for one thing. This track has a much older Cooper texture. It’s a hard rocker that feels like it could have come from Killer or one of the other older discs. It’s refreshing and includes some great moments. I guess with a title “I Know Where You Live” and the knowledge that this album is a concept one about a serial killer gives you a good idea of the voyeuristic nature of the lyrics. The guitar solo on this is extremely tasty.
Vengeance is Mine
A full change of pace, this is a powerhouse, much heavier track that songs like Guns N Roses a bit. Of course, that makes perfect sense since Slash himself guests here. And, it also seems obvious that the guitar solo is killer. There is a great bridge here where it drops back to more textural keyboard type sounds and Cooper intones some lyrics over the top. This is without question one of the standouts on the disc.
Wake The Dead
Percussion brings us in and then harmonica – yes, you read right, harmonica joins. When they move it out into the song proper it’s got almost a White Stripes sort of feel to it. I guess you might hear a bit of Slade on this, too or maybe Nazareth. The harmonica returns for a couple short instrumental interludes later.  Percussion with voice ends this.
Catch Me If You Can
Cooper turns it heavier again with a song that calls to mind Brutal Planet a bit. This is a powerhouse.
(In Touch With) Your Feminine Side

A bit rawer hard rock sound makes up the basis for this. The chorus on this tune is catchy. The guitar solo is especially meaty, too. This is a cool song that has a definite 1970’s rock sound to it.

Wrapped In Silk

A cool crunchy riff starts this off and gives the song a bit of a Buck Cherry sort of texture. They keep it pretty well stripped down for the verse, but the chorus has a bit more of a filled out arrangement.

Killed By Love
You pretty much know that every Alice Cooper album needs at least one ballad. Well, here we go. This is a straightforward one and it’s classic Alice Cooper.
I'm Hungry
With a verse that’s basically percussion with guitar and vocals, somewhat like “Smoking In the Boys’ Room” by Brownsville Station. The chorus is more high energy and anthemic. It’s also got just a bit of Spinal Tap on the chorus vocals. Another cool retro rock instrumental section is placed in this track. There is a nice Latin groove on the outro along with non-lyrical vocals.
The One That Got Away
“You look like you’d fit in my trunk.” Those words start this off and with the title and theme of the album that should give you a good idea of what this track is about. It’s hard edged and not as retro as some of the stuff here. Still it’s not as heavy as the Brutal Planet type stuff. There is a cool classic rock textured segment with a sound clip that sounds like a woman who is about to be captured by The Spider and we get just a hint of his voice in a short burst, too. Mr. Cooper ends the track with “hmmm, maybe some other time.”
Salvation
We get another ballad here. While the last one was guitar based, this one has a keyboard dominated structure – at least for the verse sections. Lyrically it’s a looking at the consequences type of piece. “What did I do? / I did what the voices told me to do.” The chorus is a harder rocking grind that’s guitar oriented. This song kind of shows the killer thinking back and what he used to be and wondering when he changed and if there is “any chance of salvation.” Interestingly, Alice Cooper (or should say Vincent Furnier?) is a Christian. We pretty much never get any hint of that in his music. This track showing the killer wondering about his eternal salvation is the only piece I can think of with that kind of a lyrical theme. It’s not preachy, though, but just a logical piece of the story.
I Am The Spider/Epilogue
As you might guess from the title, should this be a movie, “I Am The Spider” would be the theme song. It’s a powerhouse piece of epic proportions. Musically this one is a bit more like the Brutal Planet stuff, but with more of a symphonic epic metal feel to it. There are symphonic overlayers and some weird sections where it drops down for some sort soliloquies from the killer.  There is a space and then we get the epilogue. It’s sort of the flip side of the coin to the opening of the disc – setting it up like a bookend. We get the killer talking about the diary. This seems to tie into Cooper’s history, too. We get a reference to “Steven,” who is the central character from Welcome to My Nightmare. In the end this leaves more questions than answers, but that’s what makes a great story. You wind up sitting and thinking about for a long time after it’s over.
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