Not pushing it too far is probably best
Alice Cooper has nothing to prove. Having cemented his place in the firmament of rock ‘n’ roll stardom decades ago, the king of shock rock has continued to issue a steady stream of albums that are often filled with as many surprises as his stage show. In the 1980s, he may have followed the zeitgeist with intriguing, New Wave efforts and then proceeded to an Alice Lite era, but his consistent relevance to rock earned him those “We’re not worthy!” chants on Wayne’s World. As a follow-up to Welcome 2 My Nightmare, Cooper’s well-received, Bob-Ezrin-produced 2011 effort, Paranormal brings Ezrin back; and true to the producer’s tendencies, this is as much his album as it is Cooper’s.
Ezrin wields sonic bells and whistles that recall not only his classic work with Cooper and Kiss but more prog-rock outfits like Pink Floyd. Cooper doesn’t sound like a young man here, but then again, he never did: Few of us bought an Alice record to marvel at his range or ooo and ahhh at his vocal acrobatics. We did, however, turn up to witness his nasty lyrics and vivid imagination. Though he didn’t intend Paranormal as a concept release, the songs drip with references to the otherworldly and trademarked Alice venom.
Backed by an all-star cast that includes U2’s Larry Mullen Jr. (giving the kind of performance that could spawn hopes for an Ezrin-Bono collaboration in the future) as well as Roger Glover of Deep Purple (their latest had knobs twiddled by you-know-who), Cooper tears through the material with a passion normally reserved for much younger men. This probably won’t be his last visit to the studio (he’s not quite 70), but if that ends up being the case, Paranormal would be considered an admirable and definitive finale.
With “Fireball,” “Paranoiac Personality” and the title track blazing a trail from the speakers to the center of your cerebral cortex, this album isn’t about disappointment or fear. Instead, it’s about the quelling and conquering of each. With religious hypocrisy, death and, of course, the supernatural on the menu, few if any AC fans could feel like they’d been done wrong.
We may never know if Cooper intended to reunite the living members of his original band for a reunion album, but they’re represented here via the songs “Genuine American Girl” and “You and All Your Friends,” either of which would do Johnny Thunders’ Heartbreakers or the New York Dolls in their prime proud, while not quite fitting with Ezrin’s high art concept. Not pushing it too far is probably best.
A collection of live cuts is presented as well, perhaps intended to sweeten the deal, though we don’t really need them. That said, Coop can still shred our ears with “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and “Under My Wheels.” Placing that classic material next to the current stuff suggests that our favorite pastor’s kid will continue to hold his own.