Alice Cooper was the first headliner I ever saw live. Trash Tour, Whitley Bay Ice Rink, 7th December 1989, with support from Britny Fox and Great White. For any band to last almost thirty years these days is impressive. Given than Alice was on the go for a long time before I even saw him and you’ve got one of the greats who just won’t stop. Thankfully. To say that I’m jealous of our own Katie for getting to meet Alice recently is an understatement, but at least I got first listen to the new album out of all the members of our Crew!
I’ve given Paranormal more listens than I usually do for an album before review because, in complete honesty, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. There was something about it that just didn’t fit with what I was expecting of an Alice record and it took me a while to figure out what it was – a theme.
In more ways than one, Paranormal is a little incohesive… but bear with me, I don’t mean this as a criticism. With so many other past albums, there’s been a concept-type theme or failing that a general feel to the album musically. Paranormal has more the feel of a “best of” compilation in that there are songs which sound completely different but are all undeniably the work of Alice Cooper. I’d perhaps be going out on a limb here, but I genuinely think this is the most eclectic original album Alice has ever released.
The opening title track is a slow, spine-chilling number memorable for its simplicity. “Dead Flies” which follows is remarkably short at 2:22, but definitely a step up in tempo and vigour than the opener. The production, though, makes me think of much older material and this comes through on a few tracks on the album. It’s as if Cooper and company are trying to not only hit as many different types of music as possible, but are being influenced by all stages in his long career.
This is no more evident than with “Genuine American Girl” and “You And All Of Your Friends”, where Alice has partnered with the original Alice Cooper Band – not just in the recording, but also the songwriting. Note that these songs are on a second CD along with half a dozen live recordings of classic tracks so you may not get them with the cheapest versions of the album, which would be a crying shame.
If there’s a “modern” sounding song on the album, then it’s “Paranoiac Personality” by a mile. A great contemporary Alice song that’s bound to become a live classic with a wonderful bass hook. The first song on the album that I really loved (others followed after more listens!) was “Fallen In Love”. Any blues artist worth their salt would love to have this in their repertoire with its wonderfully self-referential lyrics (“I used to be a billion dollar baby in a diamond vest…”).
“Dynamite Road” is another song that seems to be right out of Alice’s usual comfort zone with all the metal cred of C.W.McCall’s “Convoy” with a hint of “The Devil Went Down To Georgia”. Another short number, it doesn’t outstay its welcome at under three minutes, which is a shame as it’s brilliant. One of the best guitar solos on the album and a complete departure for Alice himself.
Hey, wait. We’ve not had a brash number with a brass section yet, have we? It’s easy to picture Alice dressed in tops and tails à la Welcome to my Nightmare in this bopping number that harks back to the big music cinema hits of the 50s and 60s with “Holy Water”, another of the best tracks on the album which really hits from the off. It’s backed by the wonderfully raucous “Rats” – again an under-three-minuter – which barely pauses from beginning to end. With a guitar solo into the fade reminiscent of the late, lamented Chuck Berry this is an absolute belter of a song.
The end of the first CD couldn’t be a song any more different from “Rats”. “The Sound of A” is very trippy and seventies in feel, meaning that the album doesn’t finish with a bang or a whimper. More of a “yeah, maaaaan….”.
The six live tracks are decent recordings of songs every Alice fan will know, and it’s nice to know he’s back with the original band if only fleetingly. It’s the two songs they’ve written together that the second disc should be bought for. “Genuine American Girl” mixes rock with surf’n’roll and is up there with the best songs across the two CDs. “You And All Of Your Friends” ain’t half bad either, perhaps lending credence to the statement “original and best”. Certainly the original line-up has produced two of the best songs on a strong album.
Paranormal is a great album for those who haven’t got some rigid idea of an “Alice Cooper” album stuck in mind. It’s wide-ranging, widely-influenced, fragmented, eclectic, dated, modern, and hugely enjoyable.
Paranormal is available to pre-order now in a variety of formats, with a release date of July 28th:
Alice and his band (featuring the original line-up) will return to the UK in November, with special guests The Mission and The Tubes. Full UK tour dates below:
- 11 November – First Direct Arena, Leeds
- 12 November – The SSE Hydro, Glasgow
- 14 November – Barclaycard Arena, Birmingham
- 15 November – Manchester Arena, Manchester
- 16 November – SSE Wembley Arena, London
Header image by Katie Frost Photography.