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Alice Cooper - Paranormal (Album Review)

Monday, 07 August 2017 Written by Simon Ramsay

Every time Alice Cooper releases a new album there is the hope it will equal his classic records. Why? Because he’s a rock star, a pioneering performance artist, wonderful raconteur and, of course, a mean golfer. How can anyone not warm to such an intriguing and endlessly entertaining character? Fortunately, we don’t have to work too hard to enjoy ‘Paranormal’, which is possibly his strongest release of this century.

The 27th record of Cooper’s career and first in six years, this is predominantly a return to his ‘70s roots while also interweaving flavours of everything from ‘Hey Stoopid’ and ‘DaDa’ to ‘School’s Out’ and ‘The Last Temptation’. Long-time producer Bob Ezrin may give the record a clean and bombastic sound that recalls Cooper’s commercial ‘80s albums, but overall this is a cracking old school rock ‘n’ roll effort that boasts some vintage Alice moments.

The proggy and theatrical title track, which features Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover, is both familiar and fresh as its evolving passages gallop from moody spookiness into a heart stopping, haunting rocker.

Paranoiac Personality, meanwhile, batters out a pounding chunk of sneering attitude and Dynamite Road is a freight train shuffle where Cooper’s rapid fire spoken delivery charts a race to the death with Beelzebub.

Elsewhere, Holy Water finds him in top hat-wearing, cane-twirling ‘Welcome To My Nightmare’ mode over a tune that’s Broadway meets pumped up gospel rock ‘n’ roll. On the other side of the coin, Rats is pure punky Detroit aggro and Dead Flies sounds like a track Hendrix has gifted Alice from beyond the grave.

Like much of Cooper’s latter day work there is filler here, but even his weakest numbers always possess elements that captivate. Fireball buries his voice beneath needless effects and lacks a killer hook, but its tale of a man who dreams about the apocalypse, only to wake up and find it happening, plays out over a wonderfully atmospheric soundscape. Private Public Breakdown, meanwhile, is a tongue-in-cheek account of an elected official with a messiah complex who’s having a very open meltdown and “making the secret service nervous”. Where does he get his ideas from?

Ezrin has again surrounded Cooper with well-travelled session men like guitarists Tommy Denander and Tommy Henriksen. Their understanding of what’s required allows them to deliver the goods with a familiar generic panache, but when musicians with more distinctive chops contribute to proceedings things get even better. ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons spices up the excellently aggressive swagger of Fallen In Love with his trademark Texan licks, while U2 drummer Larry Mullen adds a different feel than a standard rock ‘n’ roll tub thumper and is clearly having a ball playing good time music devoid of any preaching or pretension. Can’t imagine why.  

A couple of bonus tracks find the original Alice Cooper Band reunited for some throwback gems. Genuine American Girl is the pick of the pair and shows their magical camaraderie is still alive and kicking, sounding like the Beach Boys meets ‘70s Kiss with a dash of doo wop and some trademark black humour.

Cooper may not shock like he once did (although it’s surprising he’s taken nearly five decades to release an album called ‘Paranormal’), but as he approaches 70 years old his irrepressible, youthful passion for making music that’s sonically fiery and lyrically masterful is truly contagious. We’ve tried not to end on a cliché but it’s impossible to resist: we are definitely not worthy.

Alice Cooper Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Wed November 08 2017 - DUBLIN Olympia
Thu November 09 2017 - DUBLIN Olympia Theatre
Sat November 11 2017 - LEEDS first direct Arena
Sun November 12 2017 - GLASGOW SSE Hydro
Tue November 14 2017 - BIRMINGHAM Barclaycard Arena
Wed November 15 2017 - MANCHESTER Arena
Thu November 16 2017 - LONDON SSE Arena, Wembley

Click here to compare & buy Alice Cooper Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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