CD Review of Along Came a Spider by Alice Cooper
Recommended if you like
Judas Priest, Kiss, Aerosmith
Label
SPV
Alice Cooper:
Along Came a Spider

Reviewed by R. David Smola

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A
ll the critics are abuzz about the new concept record by Alice Cooper. The lurid story follows the warped exploits of a serial killer who fancies himself a spider and features some guest appearances by Slash and backing vocalist extraordinaire, Bernard Fowler. Cooper has made some very good records in the last 20 years, including the spectacular The Last Temptation in 1994. That album featured a big sound supplied by three producers: Andy Wallace (he’s produced everyone from Nirvana to Faith Hill), Don Fleming (Sonic Youth and Hole) and Duane Baron/John Purdell (Ozzy Osbourne, Poison, Cinderella and L.A. Guns). That record also had Alice co-writing some of the tracks with Chris Cornell (Soundgarden, Audioslave), Tommy Shaw, Jack Blades, and Jim Vallance. Although Brutal Planet (2000) and Dragontown (2001) had their industrial heavy charms, and The Eyes of Alice Cooper (2003) and Dirty Diamonds (2005) were solid nods to the old Alice Cooper band days, Temptation is his most recent great album. Spider is good, because there is an adventurous spirit to the music which covers a lot of the territory he has explored over the last two decades -- but not great, because although he’s lyrically clever as usual, the subject matter is tired.

Alice has always re-invented himself every couple of records, exploring various horror-inspired topics, and thrown in some social commentary along the way. “Lost in America,” from Temptation, was a spot-on commentary and satire about the current teen culture. Exploring a serial killer’s mind is cliché and predictable in 2008, not what we would expect from the man who first wrote about necrophilia some 21 years ago in “Cold Ethyl” off of his greatest record, 1975’s Welcome to My Nightmare. His storytelling and apocalyptic visions for Brutal Planet and Dragontown were perfect foils for the industrial metal grooves. On Spider, “Wrapped in Silk” which features some delicious guitar licks from touring band members Keri Kelli and Jason Hook and the fabulously arena ready drumming of Eric Singer, just loses its edge when Alice sings of killing his prey and “bathing her in white.” Alice, although incredibly proud of his art, has always had a sense of humor about things.  Some of this stuff is presented in a serious vein where the tongue is clearly missing from the cheek. It isn’t the band’s execution or the music, because that is all very, very good – but he subject matter is supposed to be shocking and provocative; and it just isn’t. Spider is just another story about a serial killer, anything you could get out of watching Criminal Minds every week. “I’m Hungry” doesn’t come off as sinister, just kind of silly, even though the song musically could have fit into the Love It to Death sessions.

Alice Cooper

Album production by Danny Saber (David Bowie, Public Enemy), Greg Hampton (Travers & Appice, Tommy Bolin), and Cooper himself is clean and allows space for all the instruments to be heard and does a nice job of amping up Singer’s great drumwork. 

There is an excellent distribution of style on the record, from the hard rock sound of “Vengeance Is Mine,” featuring the unmistakable searing guitar work of Slash, to the 60’s garage rock sound of “Wake the Dead,” to the pleasant hair metal balladry of “Killed By Love.” Cooper is always evolving, but the subject matter of this concept record feels more like a step backwards then a move forward.

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