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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Alice Cooper

Brutal Planet

Review by Gary Hill

Quite probably Alice's strongest release in years, and possibly one of the best ever, this disc is a concept album that musically seems to take the classic Alice sound and bring it up to date with a hard (even brutal) edge. The album really seems to fully integrate those two types of sounds, which is something that he seems to have been struggling with in recent years. Much of this CD will stand tall among the considerable Coop catalog.

The lyrical picture that Alice paints for us here is not a pretty one, but his best moments never have been pretty. His cohorts in crime this time are China, Phil X, Ryan Moxie, Eric Singer and Bob Marlette. Long time collaborator Bob Ezrin both produces and helps with some of the writing chores. This disc would be a great introduction to Alice for a younger crowd while definitely pleasing the long time fan.

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Track by Track Review
Brutal Planet
Rocking in with very hard and dark tones, Mr. Cooper sets the scene right off the bat. "We're spinning 'round on this ball of hate, There's no parole, There's no great escape, We're sentenced here 'til the end of days." The cut deftly combines the Cooper sound of old (Alice's sneering vocals and female backing singers) with a very modern hard-edged rock texture. Serving almost as a guide to this latest nightmare, Alice shows us the sights. "Here is where we starve the hungry, Here's where we cheat the poor, Here's where we beat the children", and on it goes. This is a great opening track to an extremely powerful album.
Wicked Young Man
In this cut, Alice introduces us to one of the residents of this brutal planet. Another hard-edged rocker, this one feels just a bit like Rob Zombie. The wicked young man described in the title, although a racist, is, "too violent for the brotherhood to ever take me in.". He makes it clear though, "It's not the games that I play, the movies I see, The music I dig, I'm just a wicked young man."
Fast paced and frantic, this is a rocker designed to pull you to your feet. The vocals are all Alice. From the lyrics the place described in this number isn't much, but it is a sanctuary from the outside world for our narrator. I dare you not to sing along to this one.
Blow Me A Kiss
Another modern type hard rock cut with a classic Coop texture all over it, this definitely is not a love song. "Blow me a kiss, Then blow me away."
Eat Some More
With a very hard intro, a bit like a cross between Black Sabbath and Rob Zombie, the whole song is in this sort of mode. The vocals are in trademark Alice style, and the lyrics seem to address our society's wastefulness.
Pick Up the Bones
Apparently this song was prompted by a horrific scene that Alice saw on CNN. In an area of violence in the world, a man was shown picking up pieces of his dead relatives in the aftermath. That true scene inspired this number. The track is one of the best on the disc, and certainly the most poignant. Musically and lyrically, this is a very haunting song. It is the first slow tempoed number on this album. When Alice sings, "The ear of my brother, the hand of a friend, and I just can't put them together again", the listener can feel the devastation and frustration. He goes on to say, "Pick up the bones and with them goodnight, pray them a prayer, and turn out the light." Apparently no fictional horror can match that of truth.
From the same fertile mind that brought us the immortal question, "Is dis love, or is Dyslexia", comes this piece of word play. The cut starts off slow and spooky. After the first verse, the number starts building in a rather prog metalish mode. Then the crunchy and catchy chorus enters. The number alternates between these modes throughout its length.
Another that starts off rather Rob Zombieish, lyrically this is pure Alice. We are given a tale of someone helping a person to get what they want in life. He tells them, "I'm your only friend, I'm on your side sincerely, Don't you with you had it all, Don't you deserve to have it all, Kneel down and tell me what you need, Fame and money all for you." Later comes the chaser, "There is one thing, I mean everything has a price, I really hate to repeat myself, but nothing is free." This is a potent cut that fits well into the Coop catalog.
It's The Little Things
"You can burn my house, You can cut my hair, You can make me wrestle naked with a grizzly bear, You can poison my cat, Baby, I don't care, But if you talk in the movies, I'll kill you right there." This song is a fast paced hard rocker in a fun sort of dark mode. It is classic Cooper, and even includes two classic Alice quotes in its chorus - "Welcome to my nightmare, No more Mr. Nice Guy."
Take It Like A Woman
With an old-school Alice ballad format ala the Lace and Whiskey era or "Only Women Bleed", this cut is a great one that really brings back the Coop sound of old. It is a number about a woman who is brutalized taking it "like a woman". It seems to represent her going through the ordeal, losing her life, but keeping her dignity. This number is quite strong.
Cold Machines
Demonstrating the alienation of our faceless society, this is another that falls a bit into the vein of Zombie. "You don't know my name, You don't know my number, You don't know my face at all, We walk right past each other every single day, Like cold machines, We're marching on and on."
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