There’s a lot that’s right about Alice Cooper’s latest, Welcome 2 My Nightmare, and at the same time an awful lot that’s wrong. What side to come down upon has been tricky as I’ve been mulling over the release this past week. Let us spread these bits of evidence out and see if a pattern emerges.
The idea that Cooper needed to go back to one of his most famous albums for some kind of adrenaline shot is disheartening, but it might be more disheartening for listeners to find that the recording is a sequel mostly in name only. Musical motifs and nods abound, but one has so little to do with two in a more substantial sense that to continue on with the premise that this is a sequel is deceptive. Besides, Cooper already made a sequel and it was called The Last Temptation.
Some of the songs are really good, and the overall feel of the album is set to “fun” as the participants are not really here to gross you out. You should fully be aware there would be songs about blood and death and hideous beyondness, but the tongue is planted so deeply in cheek, it might as well be coming out of the side the face, and would you have expected any less from Cooper? As per his own admission, lead single “I’ll Bite Your Face Off” is a hybrid of the Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Woman” or “Brown Sugar” fused with a Hammer vampire flick, and is a nice little rock ‘n roll tune. Even though disc-opener “I Am Made Of You” is a big old Christian rock power ballad, it is a rather good one and reminds the listener that every now and then, when the greasepaint comes off, Mr. Vince Furnier can work the Adult Contemporary fireworks barge as effectively as anyone (for example, “You And Me,” his monster soft rocker from 1977’s Lace & Whiskey).
Other positives associated with this disc are that, on a few tracks, the original Alice Cooper band is backing him up. Very cool. Also, original Welcome To My Nightmare and Lace & Whiskey producer (as well as Pink Floyd’s The Wall and Kiss’ Destroyer) Bob Ezrin once again mans the controls. It shows on some tracks, but fails on others, mostly due to the weight of awfulness on those others (more on this in a moment).
Even his initially perplexing duet with pop-rap phenomenon Kesha is better than I would have suspected. Is it one for the ages? No, but when I saw the team-up on paper, I groaned audibly. I said things like “attention grab” and “hopelessly desperate” but, in a way, the two performers sorta-kinda-somewhat make sense. Cooper shocked with horror imagery while Kesha shocks with frank sexuality and a Electro-dump persona, and still both ply their wares in the pop music marketplace. The song itself has been described as owing a lot to Kiss’ disco paean “I Was Made For Loving You,” but I also hear a little “Beat It” in the lineage, and while the track comes up ultimately inconsequential, it is a pleasant rocker while it is on.
Less pleasant are songs that seem more suited for some homemade band submitting music for a Halloween compilation and failing dreadfully. “Caffeine,” “Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever” and the insipid “Ghouls Gone Wild” are not ironically bad. They’re just bad. As a reviewer who strives for objectivity, I listened through the full album intently, but these three tracks really tested my resolve to keep from advancing the songs away from me. “Ghouls Gone Wild” is the worst of these howling dogs, a track so pointedly novelty-oriented, it makes “Monster Mash” sound like a Nobel-prize-winning thesis on occult mythology. The worst part about these three is that Copper has proven throughout several decades that he can do better. Hell, he does better on this very album. Bob Ezrin’s production can’t help reanimate this zombie turd, I’m afraid.
In the digital age where album art is not that important, nattering about how ugly this CD’s design is might be like complaining about how much your iced tea is not like coffee. Still, I can’t help myself. The design for the original Welcome To My Nightmare was done in part by Drew Struzan who went on to paint iconic movie posters for Harry Potter, Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Welcome 2 My Nightmare looks to have been designed by some kid during lunch recess from computer camp. If people still bought music on the basis of what the “album cover” looked like, they wouldn’t give this the time of day.
Parts of this two-headed beast are worth its cost and will make longtime Alice Cooper fans grin from ear to ear. Other parts will have them plugging their ears completely. To an extent, the positives outweigh the negatives. I understand why this disc had to be called Welcome 2 My Nightmare; otherwise, we likely would not be bothering to discuss it right now, yet I can’t help but think that without this self-imposed pretense (and with some judicious editing from its fourteen-track list) this could have been a record that had the stuff to rise from the crypt and stand on its own. As it stands now, it is fun but flawed.
Welcome 2 My Nightmare is available from Amazon.com