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Don't get under his wheels, a Killer goes west
on 3 March 2013
Why did nobody tell me that Alice Cooper was like this? This album, the songs, the production belongs in the world of prog, like Ziggy Stardust, the Doors or Hawkwind. This album sports sinister screams and yelling crowd sound effects, 8 minute songs with spanish scales, and didgeridoo like guitar sounds. It has a Doors tribute, which sees Alice mimic Jim Morrison's delivery to tell the story of a sinister gunman, while Dead Babies gets a weight and menace from strings and a horn section. For years I was most familiar the heavy metal side of Alice, with tracks like Hey Stoopid. (Though I have to say the Alice Cooper: Trashes the World [DVD] is a blast and a great show). Then I picked up Billion Dollar Babies, just to find out that it plays like Pink Floyd's the Wall with a better sense of humour. It can't be a coincidence that Bob Ezrin produced both albums (and Killer too).
Killer is great album, with a menace and style. It mostly eschews the gothic macabre we normally associate with Alice for a western movie influence. This album has layers and cleverness. There is the gunman who envies his victims the peace he won't have himself and an attack on child neglect in the form a of gothic horror story. It also rocks, blasting off with Under My Wheels, which reminds me a lot of Suffragette City, right down to the sax solo. You Drive Me Nervous which kicks off side two, feels like a tough little garage rocker and wouldn't be out of place on a more modern album. The title track, rounds off the whole album with one of those fuzzy melodic guitar solos that you can just lose yourself in. That's what is great about seventies guitar music. It could be indulgent, but it was also an indulgence.
I have realised I was disappointed by the recent Along Came A Spider, not because it was bad, but because really it is a heavy metal album, that had no interest in the orchestral touches and garage rock punch of the early Alice Cooper Band material. But it's precisely those sort of albums that grow on me. I like to peel back the layers, hear the details. Concept albums also seem to work better when you don't lean on the concept too hard. I enjoy Bob Ezrin's softer touch on the production and am looking forward to seeing what he does Deep Purple's Now What ?! this April.
A few words about the medium. This vinyl pressing is a modern Warner/Rhino Remaster, apparently from the original master tapes. It's 180g and surprisingly free from any crackles and skips (a relief to a member of the digital generation like myself). The artwork looks great too. My turntable is nothing special, but the mix sounds clear and weighty to me. I expect a better machine could make even more of it.
So, if like me you have picked up the famous Alice Cooper albums and are wondering if this early period is for you, I'd say give it a try. If you know what you are looking at and fancy a vinyl copy of this album, I can thoroughly recommend.