Alice Cooper - Along Came A Spider
Produced by Danny Saber, Greg Hampton & Alice Cooper
After two albums of fun garage rock as Alice tried to recapture his '70s sound he now goes back to the art of the concept album, something he's attempted with varying levels of success on six previous occasions.
Complete with some ridiculously over-airbrushed promotional photos Alice tells the story of a serial killer named 'Spider'; a typically creepy Cooper tale of death and insanity with the occasional bit of tongue-on-cheek humour. It all sounds like a perfect premise for another classic Alice album, but unfortunately it doesn't quite live up to the promise.
Essentially, trying to tell a dark story with light music just doesn't work. The music doesn't necessarily need to be heavy. The Last Temptation, Welcome To My Nightmare and From The Inside all accurately conveyed their sinister motif, and none of those albums were heavy. But the style does need to suit the subject matter and on at least half of this album it doesn't.
A suitably tantalising police report opens the disc then the main riff to I Know Where You Live kicks in and sounds exactly like half the riffs on the last two albums; raw, bright garage rock. It certainly doesn't suggest the song is going to be the egotistical bragging of a twisted serial killer. Once the song gets going the clever lyrics take over and the right feel is achieved and it's actually one of the best songs on the album, but that opening riff throws things off for a short while.
Vengeance Is Mine, also the first single, is more the ticket. With a sound that would sit happily on the Dragontown album, with some blazing solos and a properly evil Alice vocal it's exactly what would be expected on a Cooper killer concept album. Unfortunately it all but stands alone in this respect. Album high followed by album low, Wake The Dead is far too upbeat to carry the intent of the lyrics, is severely lacking in real guitar in favour of fuzzy effects, a rolling bassline and drums that sound like a machine. It sounds like a remix of an Alice Cooper song, rather than an original.
For most of the album Chuck Garric's bouncing basslines are up-front in the mix and without wishing to detract from his playing itself, the forcefulness of the mix works against the songs. For instance the delicacy of Killed By Love is completely overpowered by the bass, and the guitar is relegated to the background on the weak (In Touch With) Your Feminine Side and I'm Hungry. The same would be true on Wrapped In Silk if its riff wasn't that much more interesting.
For a concept album there's very little flow to the songs, particularly around the middle of the album where the songs are both weaker and more generic. Aside from some obvious spider references Wrapped In Silk (which really belongs on The Eyes of Alice Cooper), (In Youch With) Your Feminine Side and I'm Hungry could be any macabre-worded Alice song from any number of other albums and add very little to the storyline.
Things get back on track both in terms of song quality and story with The One That Got Away, where the cleverness of the lyrics from the opening pair of songs actually contribute to understanding what's happening in the story, after quite a lull in activity on that front. Salvation similarly reveals the turmoil in Spider's mind, stylistically harking back to Welcome To My Nightmare, and slow, menacing I Am The Spider wraps things up beautifully, with a brilliantly creepy revelation in the Epilogue.
The story has a good premise but really isn't fleshed out in enough detail and can in fact be told in its entirety with I Know Where You Live, Vengeance Is Mine, Catch Me If You Can, The That Got Away, Salvation and I Am The Spider, plus the prologue and epilogue. Even then Vengeance Is Mine and Salvation could still be dropped, but don't deserve to be because they're strong tracks. Coincidentally these are the best six songs on the album as well.
The album as a whole feels like Alice couldn't decide on the right style for the album and has carried forward the sound of The Eyes of Alice Cooper and Dirty Diamonds when really he needed to explore something else. Not the worst Alice album and not the best. It's worth investigating for fans for the six great tracks, but another Welcome To My Nightmare it's not.
“ very little flow ”
Tracklist: Prologue/I Know Where You Live / Vengeance Is Mine / Wake The Dead / Catch Me If You Can / (In Touch With) Your Feminine Side / Wrapped In Silk / Killed By Love / I'm Hungry / The One That Got Away / Salvation / I Am The Spider/Epilogue
Photo(s): Gabrielle Geiselman | www.gabriellegeiselman.com
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