Alice Cooper “Paranormal” Adam McCann
earMusic Records 2017
The Sound of A is Everywhere
Alice Cooper has had a career in the music business stretching over 50 years, from nuggets of 60’s garage rock, through psychedelic musings to public enemy number one in the 70’s. At one time, Alice Cooper scared your parents and now, 50 years on, he scares your children. Alice Cooper is a musical chameleon and has regenerated himself so many times that you would expect him to be the next ‘Doctor Who’, from 70’s hard rock/heavy metal/vaudeville/shock rock (whatever you want to call it), Alice Cooper took a chance at early 80’s new wave before reinventing himself once more in the mid-late 80’s with a star studded cast and landed himself a string of hits such as; ‘Feed My Frankenstein’, ‘Hey Stoopid’, ‘Poison’ and ‘Hell Is Living Without You’. Following the millennium, Alice Cooper returned to his roots, blending his theatrical tongue in cheek lyrics with the Detroit garage sound where Alice Cooper and co. cut their teeth in the mid 60’s.
The latest album in Alice Cooper’s post millennial conquest is ‘Paranormal’ and it keeps well within the remit of vaudeville horror. Returning from Alice Cooper’s previous 2011 album, ‘Welcome 2 My Nightmare is veteran producer Bob Ezrin whose CV includes massive albums from Kiss, Pink Floyd as well as Alice Cooper with his trademark quality production, fantastic arrangements and orchestrations. Once more, ‘Paranormal’ features the standard guest slots with Larry Mullen of U2 filling the drumstool, Roger Glover of Deep Purple fame appearing on bass during the title track whilst Billy Gibbons adds his unique guitar tone to ‘Fallen In Love’ as well as the surviving members of the original Alice Cooper Band; Neal Smith, Dennis Dunaway and Michael Bruce appear during ‘Rats’.
Although Alice Cooper has stated several times that he does not listen to so called ‘modern music’, it would seem that this could be a little bit of a porky pie, a stretch of the truth with Alice masquerading a little behind his image. ‘Paranormal’ is summoned into life by the spooky title track, a track which manages to be eerie and creepy in the best way Alice Cooper knows how. ‘Paranormal’ has a hint of Ghost, if you take away the choral backing that Ghost use, but with the use of legato guitar passages and plenty of reverb knocking about on the record, but unlike Ghost, Alice Cooper adds that touch stereotypical vaudeville and theatre to ‘Paranormal’ just to make sure that you know his work isn’t meant to be taken so seriously.
As an album, the title track is relatively alone with its sound, but post track one, ‘Paranormal’ rams the pedal down with tracks that have that classic Alice Cooper sound; ‘Dead Flies’, ‘Private Public Breakdown’, ‘Rats’ and the single released to promote the album ‘Paranoiac Personality’, complete with gang vocal, would all fit perfectly alongside any of the Alice Cooper Band albums with ‘Rats’ and ‘Dead Flies’ some of the best work that Alice Cooper has released in years. These songs have that classic Alice Cooper sound with Alice doing what he does best, social observations about a generation landslide looking at their phones, all delivered in Alice Cooper’s unique lyrical way. However, Alice shows that he up to date with current affairs during ‘Dead Flies’ by focusing his song around the Rev. Jim Jones Massacre in Guyana 1978.
There are some songs on ‘Paranormal’ which add filler to the album. Alice Cooper conjures up an old cliché with ‘Fallen In Love’ in which Alice Cooper refers to more than a few of his back catalogue, such as ‘a dirty desperado’ and a ‘billion dollar baby’. ‘Dynamite Road’ has all the swagger of a Detroit City groove melded with a dark country rhythm which strays into Ted Nugent territory as Alice tells the story of racing with the devil. However, Alice Cooper manages to conclude the album with the superb ‘Rats’ followed by ‘The Sound of A’. ‘The Sound of A’ is almost like a lost song from ‘Welcome to my Nightmare’, it has fantastic arrangements courtesy of Bob Ezrin whilst Alice Cooper does his best imitation of John Lennon as he croons along to the creepiest Beatles song that Lennon never wrote with both ‘Rats’ and ‘The Sound of A’ leaving ‘Paranormal’ hanging on a high.
Alice Cooper is well established in the royalty of rock/metal and with ‘Paranormal’, Alice Cooper has released one of his best albums of the last 30 years. Yes, ‘Paranormal’ is clichéd in parts, but who cares? ‘Paranormal’ is actually very enjoyable and even the filler tracks don’t have you reaching for that skip button. However, at 69, the question is how much longer can Alice Cooper continue? If ‘Paranormal’ is to be the last album from the theatrical maestro, then it truly is not a bad way to bow out. (80/100)
Adam McCann / MHF Magazine