Part V: STOOPID TRASH & THE LAST TEMPTATIONS OF A WELL-FED FRANKENSTEIN
On July 25th, 1989, the once again re-personified ALICE COOPER released the chart-topping TRASH. This was a new kind of Alice, something a bit different than the persona he took on for the MCA Records albums CONSTRICTOR and RAISE YOUR FIST AND YELL. *(I remember the day I bought TRASH, I didn’t even know it had been released, accidentally seeing it in the K Mart cassettes section, and knowing just by the album’s cover that, mmm, something was going to be different – – – and it was.)
With Epic Records now his label, Alice, with an entirely new band *(and a virtual glitterati of various guest performers and writers, including BON JOVI, JOE PERRY, STEVEN TYLER, JOAN JETT, STIV BATORS, DIANNE WARREN, RICHIE SAMBORA, as well as appearances from his just prior cohorts KANE ROBERTS and KIP WINGER [who’d struck his own particular success in the world of Hair Metal]), a wonder-producer in Desmond Child, and the dearth of commercially viable and mainstream musicians and guests, released the single “Poison,” which had taken the world by storm. Hair Metal *(Cock Rock, as it shall be henceforth referenced), especially those god-awful power ballads, was at its absolute peak, and with TRASH, Alice had climbed there and staked the flag at the summit.
The album steered clear of any horror, was stripped down to a Guns-n-Roses type Cock Rock *(minus the grit – – – TRASH is incredibly smooth in it’s production), and Alice wiped away any traces of makeup, going on to do the sell-out world tour ALICE COOPER TRASHES THE WORLD *(released on video). His usual stage show was put aside for one that featured him being just him, almost as if it were Vincent performing, as opposed to Alice. The live show was incredibly stripped down – – – one song involving the straight-jacket and makeup forcibly applied by some seriously sexy nurse *(played by his daughter CALICO) – – – but no executions or anything of the sort. no stabbed baby dolls – – – he’d stepped back from that a bit in order to achieve his ultimate goal, which was indeed the aforementioned *(if you’ve been following the series) come back of gargantuan proportions.
Granted, his MCA Records period leaned slightly towards a Cock Rock vibe at times, but there was still a theatricality, and experimentations within those two great and grisly-grit albums *(elements of Speed Metal, Post-Punk, etc.). TRASH is mostly Cock Rock power ballads, and the general concept seems to be nil – – – there is none. Alice said something at the time about it having to do with lust, love, casual sex, broken hearts, and the AIDS epidemic. While “Poison” may be a catchy-as-fukk song, and sound like classic Cooper, the album as a whole left me wanting for more of what he’d previously done – – – and I’ve never been the world’s biggest Cock Rock fan.
However, he was bigger than ever – – – his goal had been achieved, his new sound being the peak of that genres peak, a mountain of which was about to come crumbling down with the oncoming sounds of the morbidly dull and listless “Grunge Movement,” and unexpected, sudden rise of prissy pop-punk radio popularity. *(Welcome to the 1990’s.) Interestingly enough, a documentary called PRIME CUTS was released around ‘90, wherein longtime producer and friend Bob Ezrin described Alice Cooper thusly: “He is the psycho killer in all of us. He’s the axe murderer, he’s the spoiled child, he’s the abuser, he’s the abused; he’s the perpetrator, he’s the victim, he’s the gunslinger, and he’s the guy lying dead in the middle of the street.” This is accurate. In 1991 he portrayed a great cameo role as FREDDY KRUEGER’S sick & abusive foster father in the film FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE.
HEY STOOPID was released on July 2nd, 1991. The title track is Alice’s “anti-suicide” anthem, apparently, and follows, musically, a much similar template to TRASH. It’s still Cock Rock, but this time it has a bit more grit, is a little harsher in its non-commercial moments, and thematically primarily focuses on topics of dangerous sleaze and shady characters, some of which he’s written about before. Steven appears in the album’s best song *(and full on return to those classic horror elements), “Wind-Up Toy.” and both “Snakebite” and “Dangerous Tonight” allude to the serial-killing monster never named on RAISE YOUR FIST AND YELL *(though there is theory that SNAKE is in fact the killer’s name, however).
Alice’s appearance in the Penelope Spheeris directed hit WAYNE’S WORLD (1992) brought us the ZODIAC MINDWARP-penned “Feed My Frankenstein” *(now an Halloween Holiday classic), as well as Alice appearing as the genius he actually is, albeit played up a bit for laughs, with the Wayne & Garth characters bowing and worshipping him with chants of “We’re not worthy.” It brought Alice to yet another generation landslide of fans. HEY STOOPID, incidentally, also featured a new band, and was comprised of even more guest appearances by the likes of SLASH, OZZY OSBOURNE, VINNIE MOORE, STEVE VAI, JOE SATRIANI, NIKKI SIXX, MICK MARS, ZODIAC MINDWARP, DESMOND CHILD, and DICK WAGNER. It was lushly produced, with just the right amount of sleaze, and a pinch of the much missed horror element, by Peter Collins. *(On a sidenote, for whatever reason, I love the bizarre, cheap-sleaze album cover for this one.)
By 1994, the musical landscape that infested radio airwaves consisted of dullard, lame Grunge *(PEARL JAM, SOUNDGARDEN, NIRVANA – – – all the crap), equally as lame “punk” *(GREEN DAY, RANCID, etc.). Cock Rock had been sodomized into virtual non-existence by the comeuppance of Grunge, then the even worse Post-Grunge *(already starting to sloth it’s dull head, slowly but surely, into an even more boring form of its predecessor, and onto the airwaves).
Regardless, Alice released THE LAST TEMPTATION on July 12th, 1994. This was his first full-on coherent, actual concept album since DADA, and brings back the Steven character, as Alice takes on the role of “The Showman,” a malevolent entity of sorts, who proceeds to show Steven the worst aspects of a carnivalesque sideshow located in an unnamed Necropolis of some kind. Alice described the general theme of the album as such: “a young man’s struggle to see the truth through the distractions of the ‘Sideshow’ of the modern world,” the subject matter dealing with faith, alienation, temptation, and the painful quandaries of modern living.
Again, another great album cover, put together by NEIL GAIMAN. In fact, the marketing techniques used for this album could be considered pre-viral, I suppose. Marvel Comics released a three-issue limited edition series *(written by GAIMAN & ALICE) to tell the full story on the album, as well as expound upon it a bit. The first issue was given away with a purchase of the album on release day *(which I had indeed picked up that day). THE LAST TEMPTATION has a bit of that grit back, and is a total return to the horror that’s really always been Alice’s bread-n-butter. It also *(mostly) completes the “Steven” trilogy: WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE, GOES TO HELL, & THE LAST TEMPTATION. Surreal and haunting, gorey and honest, it’s really not a bad album. He only went with one major guest musician, CHRIS CORNELL of SOUNDGARDEN, with whom he wrote the song “Unholy War.” The album also eschews most of the Cock Rock buffoonery for a sound more akin to his classic experimentations and occasional surrealism. Dark Horse Comics eventually released the three comics that accompany the album as a trade paperback.
And that would be the last recorded material to be released by Alice for the next six years. In all reality, THE LAST TEMPTATION’S title even implies the end of a career. He was still touring, and the first time I saw him was in summer of 1996, with my sister, my friend Bill *(mentioned many times throughout the ROSETTA BONES), and his horrid porcine girlfriend. ALICE COOPER opened for the SCORPIONS, essentially performing a makeup-less and very stripped down *(but awesome nonetheless) show. Wait, he did get straight-jacketed and forcibly made up by a nurse *(CALICO), who he then strangled – – – but that was about it. *(We had great seats, 3rd row center, and while performing “Poison,” Alice pointed at my sister [along with a thousand other women], which sent her all swoony – – – it was cute.)
Also in 1996 he played King Herod in a production of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR, and appeared in an episode of That 70’s Show. In 1999, the four disc box-set THE LIFE AND CRIMES OF ALICE COOPER was released, on April 20th *(4-20 Day, Hitler’s Birthday, and the same day the Columbine incident happened). One of the Columbine shooters, Eric Harris, included a quote from the song “Devil’s Food” on his AOL profile: “Man has ruled this world as a stumbling, demented child king long enough” – – – Alice’s response when questioned about it was “It is a song about a Black Widow spider, nothing more.” Otherwise, the set is full of B-sides, unreleased tracks, songs from movies, and a rather lengthy, mini-biography called Alcohol and Razor Blades, Poison and Needles: The Glorious Wretched Excess of Alice Cooper, All-American, written by Jeffrey Morgan, editor of CREEM magazine. Of course it leaves many of the hardships, addiction-afflictions, and agonies that Alice endured during his career up until that point *(like being a base-head for years, the divorce, etc.).
But six years was a long time to wait for a new album – – – would there even be one? Between the title of his third and final Epic Records release, and that of the box-set, put out by Rhino Records, the rise of imitator MARILYN MANSON, ROB ZOMBIE, among so many other things – – – like his new found love of Golf and turn toward full-blown Born Again Christianity – – – I really wondered if there’d be another album, or if this was it. If Alice were to come out with a new album it would have to compete – – – it would have to be brutal.
Vincent Daemon, writer, editor, musician, photgrapher, film/music buff and historian, and rabblerouser, can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/vincent.daemon.1 as well as his spontaneously updated blog of writing news and nonsense THE WRITINGS OF A DEPRAVED MIND http://vincentdaemon.blogspot.com/Some of his music can be painfully experienced at http://www.reverbnation.com/vincentdaemonsageofdesire3 His email is firstname.lastname@example.org