The Hang of Music: Reflecting on Changes

This is an album I’ve been meaning to listen to for a while. As you’ll see beneath the fold, I’ve had a rather tumultuous relationship with Alice Cooper, so I’ve been looking forward to listening to how he/they started out.

Enough! On with the show, or off with his head! Whichever’s the case, I have “Pretties For You”.

I think I should start off by saying: I Don’t Like Alice Cooper. Not the band, I mean, but the man himself. I dislike his values, and the concept of an aging rocker hobnobbing and playing golf in his spare time kinda irritates me. It also doesn’t help that he’s a born-again christian, and sees his faith as a rebellion. That makes me want to gag.

He’s also a republican, who considers politics in music to be “treason against rock and roll”. He’s got a right to his opinions, but one of the main purposes of rock is to provide a voice for people, to stick it to the man, and you don’t do that by ignoring the man. For someone who does what he can to be subversive, Alice Cooper seems to be trying extra hard to not be seen to be subversive. Or maybe it’s the other way around.

Enough rage, have a cat!

Whatever. For that reason, it took me ages to get around to listening to Alice Cooper. And to my surprise, once I put that stuff behind me and listened to “Killer”, I actually managed to enjoy his music. Well it’s not that surprising: I have that with a number of people – Eminem is a horrible human being, but funny and knowing enough that I quite like him. I just wouldn’t ever want to meet him. So here I am, listening to his* debut album. And it is surprising for a few reasons.

Here is the first reason: God, his voice has changed a lot across his career! In fact, his everything seems to have. He barely sounds anything like himself. “Reflected” is a perfect example – only 4 years after he released this album, the song was re-released on Billion Dollar Babies, as “Elected”. Have a listen. The latter sounds much more like the man who sung “School’s Out” and does stage shows where he gets executed on stage.

Instead, a lot of this just reminds me of The Who. “Ten Minutes Before The Worm”, for example, just makes me think of “BO-O-RIS THE SPIDER!”, and the previously mentioned “Reflected” sounds more like “I Can See For Miles” than “Killer”. In fact, the first thing I thought of to say about this album when I was listening was “Gosh, this sounds rather a lot like Deep Purple.”

But really, I think he missed the mark. I know I’m gonna seem like an snob now, but the main reason that this doesn’t work as such is that, **sigh**, the songs are too short. Long songs are a genre staple, whereas roughly half of the songs on here are between 1 and 2 minutes long, and don’t even try to blend into the next track. I hate to sound like a fascist, but it is kind of a requirement.

Speaking of structure, it occurred to me whilst I was listening that this album was made in ’68, and as such was released onto vinyl. Which means that it was divided into “Side One” and “Side Two”, but fucked if I could find where the divide lay – even Wikipedia failed me! I suppose it’s not that important, but it’s irritating, as now I cannot comment on whether it even bothered to make a transition from one side to another.

WHY HAST THOU FORESAKEN ME?

Ah well. ‘Tis a minor grievance, but I don’t like not being able to know that of which I speak.

This is an album which makes me want to listen to the next one – in this case, Easy Action. Not because it’s good, although I have to admit that it is, in many ways good. The songs are solid enough, and the production especially so – it sounds incredibly clean for an album of the time, and every instrument can be easily distinguished from the rest.

But that’s not why I want to listen to Alice Cooper, Part Deux. I want to listen to it so I can see how quickly he established himself as the Alice Cooper most people know, and some people love.

The thing is, I think that as of this album, the man himself doesn’t really seem to have established himself as an individual. All of it, while being or seeming quite well done, just feels really derivative. There seems to be a lot of people on this record, and not very many of them are Alice Cooper.

* Or should I say “their” – at this point, Alice Cooper is only the band name. Well, sort of…

** MUST NOT READ THE OTHER REVIEWS ON THE PAGE!

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Posted on August 11, 2011, in Music, The Hang of Music and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Yeah “Pretties for You” is pretty….rubbish 😦 And the band was pretty awful at that point, and probably Alice was drunk off his face… I think I read a review of it where they said “You change chord too often” and they replied “it’s how we roll’!?
    I think “School’s Out” and “Killer” were the first albums that were really good and made it big for him, and the first number one was “Billion Dollar Babies”. I think I prefer the later stuff like “Welcome To My Nightmare” and “Trash” though.
    As far as short songs, you can get a brilliant song out of 2 minutes, I don’t think it’s the length that lets Alice down on this album…just the quality of music is horrendous! But everyone has to start somewhere.
    As for Alice as a person…I love him! He always seems so relaxed and charming on interviews and not anything like the person you describe, and “school’s out” is pretty much sticking it to the man, right? But you’re entitled to your opinion….i guess… πŸ˜›

  2. Hey Jess! I hope that you enjoyed the review, and I’m glad you agree that it’s not his best.

    I just wanted to clear up a few things that I said, the first one being the song length thing. On second reading, what I meant wasn’t very clear. I don’t hate short songs, in fact I really like them. Hell, I listen to The Buzzcocks, and most of their songs are under 2 minutes. It’s just psychedelia. Most psychedelic stuff only really works when it’s either a long song or an intro to another song.

    The other thing was about Cooper himself. All of the things I said, except my response to them, were taken from direct quotes from his wiki page. I know, because before writing this review, I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t being unduly harsh. But all the things I said about him are things that he’s said about himself.

    Quotes:
    (On “Rock against Bush) “[that’s] treason against rock n’ roll!”

    “Trashing your hotel room is easy. But being a Christian, that’s a tough call. That’s real rebellion!” (This has a “citation needed”, though. Make of that what you will.)

    He has a tendency to look down on politics in music, and thinks his christianity is tougher than other rock antics. Those are facts. My opinions on them are that both are baldercrap: the first is lazy and sneery, and the latter is self-righteous. I also think it’s hypocritical to want to seem rebellious, but not actually dissent against anything. I also have an irrational hatred of golfers, but that’s also just my opinion πŸ˜›

    I’m sure that he is a nice person to talk to, but I don’t agree with his values. Maybe I should have included these quotes in the text, but I thought I’d already spent long enough talking about him, and not enough about his music, which is the important thing.

    Damn, this was a long reply… Sorry about that.

    Quotes are from the easily found http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alice_Cooper#Personal_life

  3. Haha, the long reply is fine- I’m gonna write something similarly long in reply! So sorry in advance!

    I’ve never heard him talk about his Christianity like that! I have heard somewhere about him being a re-born Christian, but never from him! When I’ve seen him on TV he’s always talking about his music, golf, cars or the restaurant he opened, never about his faith (unless you count the number of times he says he’s always been faithful to his wife, which is…nice, but you know…you sorta expect a married man to be faithful, famous or not!) Maybe that’s one of the only things I dislike about him! Although, he does apparently talk down about people like Rob Plant who has changed genre of music, instead of keeping to rock. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to change genre, but Cooper doesn’t. Apart from that he always speaks highly of most rock bands, especially on his radio show, so I can’t imagine him saying that alleged quote about rock not being as tough as Christianity …but I can’t say he didn’t say it either.

    As for the 2 minute songs, I think I understand what you mean, and I’m pretty sure we’re on the same wavelength…or close enough. I don’t think different genres of music need specified time lengths, but I understand what you mean.

    And yeah, I did enjoy the review πŸ™‚

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