First Impressions: Alice Cooper's "Welcome 2 My Nightmare"

Though a long time classic rock lover and devotee of subsequent shock acts KISS and Rob Zombie, I'm not quite as legitimate an Alice expert as I'd like to be - that credit goes, in spades, to my buddy David Jones - but I am, nevertheless, a big fan gratefully familiar with the band/solo act's history and plenty of albums (primarily the earlier stuff, a la "Pretties for You" and "Killer"), all the hits (of course) and even the legendary Coop's exciting and informative radio show "Nights with Alice Cooper" out of Phoenix, Arizona which I first heard on 96.7 The Wolf with Grand Canyon gateway town Williams "under my wheels" on my way back across country in early 2009.

Anyway, I'm taking a page out of college chum Jason Hubsch's virtual book (reviews and more of which can be read at JSin Online) and casually blurbing, track by track, my first listen of Cooper's new "Welcome 2 My Nightmare" - technically another solo album but featuring members of the original Alice Cooper lineup (plus many more). And... here I go sparing no further time.

I Am Made of You
An unexpectedly soft - and, what's this, autotuned? - intro that makes me tingle with anticipation for what face-melting may lay ahead. And really, the autotuning doesn't bother me here - not in the least. Like Ke$ha, who will of course show up later, Alice is using the technology creatively as opposed to as a crutch, and fresh off a second theatrical viewing of Nicolas Winding Refn's "Drive", which features the hauntingly electronic vocals of "Nightcall" by Kavinsky & Lovefoxxx over its fantabulous opening credits, I am loving the execution here, which becomes accompanied by a sailing guitar solo (also, wow, "fantabulous" is apparently recognized by spell-check). According to Wikipedia, which I will occasionally refer to for factoids throughout this listen-through, Alice compares this track to his 1973 hit, "Hello, Hooray". I see it. Or, hear it, rather. So is this a tribute to the fans? Whatever the case, I'm digging it big time, crossing my fingers no modern distractions interrupt the mood.

...Or maybe that interruption will come from the second track? "Caffeine" isn't super bad; it is actually rather humorous in that good ol' Alice way... but after said tingling from the preludial "I Am Made of You" I was hoping for a better payoff. So this is now a single? A seemingly odd choice. I'm not vomiting on myself or anything, but I'll probably uncheck this track from iTunes so it doesn't play by default in the future (hark, impurity!). I suppose the concept does ultimately inform a fear of sleeping - the very act that is about to get us in a heap of tempting trouble - but it feels like throwaway filler.

The Nightmare Returns
Excellent, not only is this one's piano evocative of melodramatic horror, it carries over from "I Am Made of You". Concept! We're still in the introduction phase, aren't we? Loving the slow build carried on by this brief segue track. Er... I've already forgotten about "Caffeine", apparently.

A Runaway Train
Ha, I always get a sick kick out of songs - the ilk of which are nary heard anymore - that put a jovial tone to unfortunate and twisted scenarios. Crash. The nightmare begins.

Last Man on Earth
Each song thus far has featured a distinct sound. The story is being told as much through the lyrics as it is through the varying musical approaches. Wikipedia tells me this tune is similar to "Some Folks" from 1975's original "Welcome to My Nightmare". Perhaps I'd agree, had I thought to remind myself what that album was like prior to this undertaking. I have no excuses.

The Congregation
Here it is. Rob Zombie featured on an Alice Cooper track. The Gruesome Twosome! Zombie is portraying "The Guide", a character formerly voiced by none other than Vincent Price. "The Congregation" feels more like the Cooper sound so many fans have come to expect, and a sound of this sort is welcome at this point, six tracks in to a daringly deviant effort. The notion of narrative and characterization via music continues as Zombie's brief portion - not your typical gruff Zombie singing, as I probably should have expected - brings with it a more overtly daunting guitar. Outside that, I'm definitely jiving with the carnivalesque playfulness of all this - our main character is probably clawing his face off in fright while his could-be torturers simply taunt and mock to ostensibly cheery sounds.

I'll Bite Your Face Off
A much more deserving single selection! Great, classic and sexy Coop-style lyrics ("She pushed me down on a burning bed/Thought I was in heaven, but instead/She turned her head and she softly said/I’ll bite your face off!") along with what Wikipedia accurately describes as a Rolling Stones-inspired sound that indeed reminds me of some of that iconic group's more energetic and popular songs such as "Jumping Jack Flash". And this bridge - it sounds like "Esther" by Phish. Huh!

Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever
Alice Cooper just said "bling" and "playa". Don't worry, though, it's hilarious. Disco? Try mosh!

Ghouls Gone Wild
We're touring the nightmare's various venues, and this one sounds strikingly like the rockabilly, much-covered "Summertime Blues" by Eddie Cochran. This album goes everywhere! I want to see these ghouls!

Something to Remember Me By
A relatively soft, bittersweet ballad, and one of the best tracks yet. This is the kind of tune that will keep me coming back for more and more of the nightmare. Is Alice disappearing deeper, taking a last opportunity to call out to his consciously earthbound loved ones with knowledge he won't return... or, at least, not as the same person?

When Hell Comes Home
After the welcomely geared-down interlude of that previous track, this sinister lick speaks to true nightmares with little hint of levity. Alice is perverting the ideals lamented in "Something to Remember Me By", and it works.

What Baby Wants
Now this one I've actually heard a couple times before - I just couldn't resist sniffing out a collaboration between two of my favorite artists, the Coop and none other than the contemporary, self-parodic proof that pop isn't entirely crap, Ke$ha. And to think this was originally to be a teaming of Coop and Christopher Lee (who was unavailable due to the recording of not just his own death metal/opera album about Charlemagne, but the sequel to his own death metal/opera album about Charlemagne)! "What Baby Wants" is one of the catchier tracks on "Welcome 2 My Nightmare". The relationship between our protagonist and the temptress Devil is just as characteristically sexy and intimidating as any of Ke$ha's more alluring solo efforts.

I Gotta Get Outta Here
Open-ended conclusions are the best kind, are they not? Are we awake, or are we dead? "I Gotta Get Outta Here" actually reminds me of a "Weird" Al Yankovic tune. That's not necessarily a bad thing; not at all... and it does become laugh-out-loud funny.

The Underture
The opening, paired with "When Hell Comes Home" being fresh on the noggin, recalls Rob Zombie's "Bring Her Down (to Crippletown)" from "The Sinister Urge". Depending on your interpretation of the prior track's events, this fittingly titled "Underture" wordlessly, dramatically takes Alice to the next chapter - breakthrough, revelation, acceptance, triumphant rebirth, beyond.

Under the Bed
Listed as a bonus track, "Under the Bed" functions perfectly as an epilogue to our cyclical story and another great reason to let "Welcome 2 My Nightmare" start over from "I Am Made of You" immediately (which I'll eagerly be doing in just a moment here). Cooper hasn't lost it. I guess those who purchased the album from iTunes got the bonus track "A Bad Situation". I'll have to hunt it down, maybe edit it in.

Poison (Live at Download Festival)
The real bonus, this live version of solo Cooper classic "Poison" is a treat. It brings a fresh, if not too impressively captured audio-wise, tone to the tune, and hearing the audience singing along plays as an enthusiastic tribute to Alice's legacy, mirroring what I'm viewing as this album's introductory tribute dedicated from the tireless rocker to his dedicated fans.

If not 100% memorable from a mere single spin only due to a few lesser tracks in its opening half, "Welcome 2 My Nightmare" features a worthy helping of solid songs that will surely see plenty of repeat play over the years (the coming days and weeks in particular, to be sure) from yours truly. As a whole it navigates vividly through darkly lurid fantasy, definitively playful yet unwary of touching on true horror. Though I'm sure to favor "I Am Made of You", "I'll Bite Your Face Off", and from "Something to Remember Me By" forward, the concept as a whole is rewarding. Yeah, even including "Caffeine". That latter stretch, from "Something to Remember Me By" through "Under the Bed", makes the album easily recommendable to any fan of real rock, classic Coop and concept albums. Dare I say, it occasionally brushes with shades of Roger Waters' knack for as much. Thank you, Alice!

Ke$ha, Alice Cooper, Tom Morello, Paul Stanley, Cheech Marin & Rob Zombie


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