On June 6th of 2000, Alice released his heaviest album yet *(his new label being Spitfire Records), BRUTAL PLANET, to a new and angry, confused generation. BRUTAL PLANET brings Alice’s ghoulish nightmare visions to a full post-apocalyptic taste of vicious reality. With a host of new and terrible characters, and wretched real-life situations pulled right from the headlines, this concept album takes place on an alternate Earth, of sorts, the no man’s land of the “Brutal Planet” itself. Produced by Bob Marlette *(who also supplied bass and keys), and including Eric Singer *(of KISS & LITA FORD) on drums, the album details such themes and atrocities as domestic violence, psychopathy, bigotry, school shootings and the horrors of war. With the competition of the time, MARILYN MANSON, ROB ZOMBIE and the like, Alice knew this one had to be his roughest yet, both musically and lyrically. *(Though Alice’s quickly tiring Born-Again-isms often come shining through this dire morality play). The Brutally Live Tour *(of which there is a dvd) brought back ALL the theatricality, and then some, that Alice primarily eschewed during his 90’s performances. Stand-out songs include the title track, the MANSON-esque “Cold Machines” *(Alice and Marilyn were not getting along at the time), and the brilliant “Pick Up The Bones.” The concept/lyrics/theme went along perfectly with the unique Industrial Rock sound that dominates the album.
Next up was DRAGONTOWN, released September 18, 2001, produced by Alice and Bob Marlette *(again supplying bass and keys). DRAGONTOWN is the sequel to BRUTAL PLANET, focusing on the absolute worst place on that planet of brutality. “Sister Sara,” about a fallen nun, is the standout tune to my ears, as well as the opener “Triggerman,” and the all too true “Sex, Death & Money.” This album is harsher than it’s predecessor, and brings back characters from the previous album as well. DRAGONTOWN, overall, is not quite as entertaining as BRUTAL PLANET, it’s lyrical content positively rife with an over-abundance of Born-Again-isms. Many people tend to mistake this as the third part of a trilogy they believe started with THE LAST TEMPTATION, but Alice has refuted this repeatedly. As stated last article, THE LAST TEMPTATION *(almost) completes Steven’s tale, which started with WELCOME TO MY NIGHTMARE in 1975. BRUTAL PLANET and DRAGONTOWN are a mutually exclusive combo in sound and concept, as well as over-the-top showmanship. *(I did get the chance to see a just before Halloween show in 2001, for this tour, and it was absolutely amazing – – – he pulled out all the creeper classics, some long-lost song-surprises, and a riotously bloody and entertaining theatrical performance that was, in fact, jaw-dropping to behold.) In my opinion, though, DRAGONTOWN just lacked a certain something that BRUTAL PLANET seemed to revel in – – – perhaps it was the multitude of Born-Again doctrines he was slipping into the tales – – – it was a little too much of a different kind of excess.
However, September 23, 2003, THE EYES OF ALICE COOPER was released, an album which stripped all the thundering Industrial clamor and heady Christian concepts away from the music, and returning to a sound not far off from that of the original ALICE COOPER lineup *(some members of which would appear here and there to their varied capacities). Produced by Alice & Mudrock, themes and concepts are blown to the wind for simple songs that cover a wide range of topics, backed by a sturdy band well-honed to the original sounds of Alice. He honors the greats of “Detroit City” *(including IGGY POP, with whom he’d had a minor feud during the early ‘70’s), the brilliant “Between High School And Old School,” a song dealing with being a middle-aged misfit, and the classically haunting and genuinely creepy “This House Is Haunted.”
Alice had realized that, with bands like the WHITE STRIPES *(I REALLY loathe Jack White, on a side note) and Sweden’s THE HIVES totally cashing in on those early-Alice type sounds, that perhaps the inventor should retrace his steps back to his own roots. THE EYES OF . . . does that to near perfection. So he continued in that vein with DIRTY DIAMONDS. Another sturdy rocker, the title-track almost comes off like a sequel to “Halo Of Flies”; “Pretty Ballerina” takes us back to the ghostly and surreal aspects of his sound. There are some other standout tracks as well, all presented with a sneer and a smirk. This one was produced by Steve Lindsey, and featured one guest *(that naturally kept in line with all of the odd and seemingly out of place guests he’s had appear on various albums here and there): rapper *(and underarm deodorant commercial pitchman) XZIBIT. This was actually his highest charting album since THE LAST TEMPTATION, eleven years earlier. But a new idea was already brewing. The tours for both EYES OF . . . & DIRTY DIAMONDS were also somewhat stripped down, as well. Still theatrical, but not as over-the-top grand.
On July 1st, 2007, ALICE & MARILYN MANSON had finally come to peace, or at least acceptance of each other, even performing a duet together at the Bucharest Music Festival in Romania. Their whole beef with each other was, naturally, of both a religious and image-personification nature.
ALONG CAME A SPIDER was Alice’s 25th album, and a special one at that. Released on July 29, 2008, this was his first concept album since DRAGONTOWN – – – but reached way back to the beginnings of his career, with mentions of various characters like “Mary Anne,” “Gail,” and even “Steven.” In fact, ALONG CAME A SPIDER is actually somewhat of a sequel to the second half of RAISE YOUR FIST AND YELL. It tells the tale of a long-time institutionalized character named “Spider” *(a mistake I must fix, I unthinkingly referred to the character as “Snake” in a previous portion of this series), whose ultimate goal is escape, and track down a series of women with perfect legs, for which to create a female/human spider – – – his own personal Black Widow *(must be a leg man, I’m thinking – – – I am, and find the idea rather sexy, honestly – – – but I’m also working on a new piece of fiction, entitled “Bewilderbeast,” that involves spider/human females, though in a much different way).
This is my absolute favorite of Alice’s 2000’s output, as the sound, theatricality, and the tale all blend together to give the fan who’s paid attention for years something truly unique and special to ponder upon. The new label was Steamhammer Records, the album is incredibly well thought out by Alice, and was produced by Greg Hampton & Danny Saber. A ten-minute short film, as well as a series of evermore sinister trailers for the album appeared online as part of the viral marketing campaign leading up to the album. The tour that followed was one of his most lavish and grandiose yet, as he played out the full scope of atrocities on the album *(his daughter CALICO – – – stunningly beautiful she is, performed a good portion of the characters mutilated, tortured, or escaped), on the stage, as well, including a vividly surreal mechanical spider costume. As I stated, to the Cooper fan who has paid attention to all his lyrics and themes over the years, this album is amazing, a real Halloween-vibe treat. You can even play the second half of RAISE YOUR FIST AND YELL and hear it flow directly into this Monsterpiece of sonic horror. *(SPOILER ALERT: Pay close attention to the end of the album, the whispers, as “Spider” may actually be “Steven” – – – interesting.)
There was a proposed sequel to ALONG CAME A SPIDER, apparently to be titled THE NIGHT SHIFT, but Alice passed over it for an altogether different album sequelization: WELCOME 2 MY NIGHTMARE. Alice and Bob Ezrin *(who came back to produce) decided on the NIGHTMARE sequel, as Ezrin explained he “just wasn’t really into” the NIGHT SHIFT concept. *(Fukkin’ Ezrin, grrr.)
September 13, 2011 saw the release of WELCOME 2 MY NIGHTMARE, and a whirling dervish of his most trusted musicians, from both then and now, appearing to perform on the album, including DENNIS DUNAWAY, NEAL SMITH, MICHAEL BRUCE *(all original lineup members), DICK WAGNER, STEVE HUNTER, DESMOND CHILD, KIP WINGER, VINCE GILL, ROB ZOMBIE, JOHN 5, and even KE$HA *(yes, in keeping in line with that one out-there guest on almost every album – – – she’s sleazy-sexy, she’s kinky-weird, and does a great job on the song “What Baby Wants” – – – she makes that perfect TWILIGHT ZONE guest appearance). The album is goofy, hard to describe, no two songs sounding the same, but musical allusions to the original album abound. Especially on the closer, the full-force instrumental “The Underture,” which magnificently blends the sonic high points of both albums into one surprisingly effective and well orchestrated piece. Song characters both old and new, even character references to other albums, complete this surrealist second half of the nightmare. And overall, it’s a decent album, though I still think ALONG CAME A SPIDER the better of the two, and really hope Alice eventually goes with the NIGHT SHIFT sequel to that at some point.
To trace back a step *(though this fits perfect with ultimate point of this series, if there actually even is one), on September 29, 2009, Alice released the single KEEPIN’ HALLOWEEN ALIVE, a loud, fast, stripped down, fist-pump sliver of a punk-infected Song for the Season. The B-side was instrumental only, called the “Cooper-oke” version, and part of a contest to see who could do the best Alice impersonation, chosen by the man himself. Back to the song, it’s one of Alice’s best, easily, and perhaps next to the MISFITS “Halloween,” may be the penultimate Halloween song, being everything Alice has ever been in two and a half minutes.
There are so many things I’ve had to skip over and jump past in order to bring you essentially 26 or so mini-album reviews and a full musically-oriented career retrospective of one of the Greatest Rock-n-Roll showmen to have ever lived. Alice Cooper/Vincent Furnier is a good man with a good heart. Once he finally got fully sober and clean, he became a recovery sponsor to many an ailing star, in particular DAVE MUSTAINE of MEGADETH, who considers Alice his “Godfather.” He’s been a restaurateur, founding COOPERSTOWN, located in Phoenix, Arizona. He was given the Key to the City of Alice, Michigan. Apparently he’s a damn fine golfer, and does every golfing event for charity. He’s also a true father and family man to his wife and kids, most of them having been involved in his performances or recordings since 1975, to one degree or another. He’s never cheated on his wife. His daughter CALICO even has her own musical project. He’s won more awards and honors than I could possibly list, and stayed true to his faith since becoming a Born-Again in 1994, while ultimately staying true to himself. He’s still a ravenous horror aficionado *(obviously). Really, the man has done more for all aspects of rock-n-roll than just about anyone else *(aside from IGGY, of corpse). His songs have been covered by everyone from IRON MAIDEN, to the FLOWER LEPERDS, to GG ALLIN, to GWAR, and everyone in between, including PAT BOONE. He survived being a HOLLYWOOD VAMPIRE *(the name of his drinking club from the ‘70’s, still going strong today – – – minus Alice, naturally). He even did a 2010 ep, ALICE DOES ALICE, that gives tribute to all of his past *(and passed away) Hollywood Vampire compadres. He’s also always made sure the original lineup was financially secure, helping them over the years when he could, paying funeral expenses, etc. He’s made more movie and tv appearances than I could most likely find, and did in fact earn the respect of such old-school Hollywood types as GROUCHO MARX and MAE WEST, who saw his act as vaudevillian.
And that, my dear readers, is The Strange Case of Shock Rock’s Grand Master. Up until this point, anyway. What more is to come? Who can say. However, Alice does not plan on ever retiring from music. He said in a funny little quip once: “Mick Jagger is six years older than I am. Once he goes, I figure I’ll have another six years at least. I am not going to let him beat me in longevity.”
Thank you for reading, and everyone have a magnificent Halloween Holiday, whether you’re curled up next to a loved one watching horror movies and divvying candy out to greedy monster kids, or you’re curled up sick in some dark alley because you ate the wrong candy.
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