Alice Cooper: Album Review

Album – Detroit Stories

Alice Cooper is a man who should need no introduction, but just in case I shall give a brief one anyway! The Godfather of shock rock is as much known for his incredible stage show as he is his biggest hit singles, including Poison, I’m Eighteen and School’s Out. However, selling well over 50 million albums worldwide since his debut all the way back in 1969, the man is one of the longest tenured rock musicians still going today, and is a huge inspiration for a lot of modern rock music. Having a whopping 28 studio albums out in that time, his latest being Detroit Stories that came out last week, the guy is nothing if not hard working and consistent. And having some of the best musicians in the world backing him for the last nearly 10 years now helps, too. So, without further a due, let’s check out Detroit Stories!

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Alice Cooper’s Official Facebook

Opening track Rock and Roll dives straight into the verse without a second to spare, Cooper’s still great vocals singing over a pretty nice, bluesy riff from the guitar and bass, a simple drumbeat behind it. A short pre leads to an awesome chorus, call-and-response vocals that are infectiously catchy and a similarly simple yet effective instrumentation. The openness of the verses leads to a couple of cool, almost jazzy runs from the bass and guitar which sound great, too. The second chorus leads into a fantastic slower solo from the guitarist after a great little drum fill. Their guitar work here isn’t the most technical I’ve heard from his usual band by far, but it fits the song perfectly and provides plenty of emotion. Another verse and chorus lead to an awesome outro solo, one that reminded me a lot of Freebird, actually. A good song to start off the album!

Go Man Go bursts straight into a punk rock riff, the tempo picking up the pace pretty considerably and the feel being that of an old-school Ramones song. The verse soon comes in with more call-and-response vocals, the backing shouting the songs title between each of Cooper’s lines. The chorus is again very simple but I would say it’s even more catchy than the first song, the base vocal line being easy to sing along to and the instrumentation behind it holding down a solid rhythm. There is another, shorter solo from the guitars but this one is faster and more technical, another great showcase of her talents. Another short chorus takes this song to the end and I think I preferred this to the first, it felt like it may have even been a better opener for the album too, given its faster pace.

Out Love Will Change the World again sounds very old-school, the opening riff and verse almost sounding like something Madness would come out with. In fact, all of it does, chorus included. If you like Madness, you’ll love this song. Hence why it also made the playlist, because I LOVE Madness. My only issue with this song, if you can even call it an issue and is more around the band as a whole, is that the whole presentation and stage show is so dark, with decapitated dolls and electric chairs and the like, but then the music comes out sounding like this. It’s such an odd juxtaposition, and is one of the big reasons why I want to see him live, to see if it fits or is as weird as I feel it would be. Either way, another good song.

Social Debris picks up the pace and the heaviness again, sounding like the closest to what I would say is the ‘typical Alice Cooper style’ of all of the songs so far. The riff is great, the verse driving and lyrics throughout are massively catchy. The solo is another fantastic one too, easily the best yet, full of fast, technical playing. The bridge coming out of the solo is great too, everything coming together here to just make a solid, great rock song. There isn’t much I can say about it because it again is pretty simple, but if you like rock, this is a good song for you. Playlisted.

$1000 High Heel Shoes has a very similar feel to it as the opening track did, a bluesy, jazzy type of number. However, the female-choir-style backing vocals on this sound incredible, adding so much depth and awesomeness the song just on their own and add some awesome style to it, completely different from a lot of other modern music. The addition of the horns in it was also fantastic, it sounding so good holding the rhythm through the chorus and even better as a backdrop for the guitar to solo over. This is my third time feeling this in a row, but this is my favourite song on the album so far. Playlisted.

Hail Mary is good but feels pretty similar to a couple of the other songs on this album such as Social Debris, but for my money it isn’t quite as good. The same can be said about the next song, Detroit City 2021. Thankfully Drunk and in Love changes up the formula a little again, going full on sludgy blues. A slow, slide-guitar riff that sounds ripped straight from an early ZZ Top album is always a welcome listen, and Cooper’s great vocals over the top only add to the quality. There isn’t much to this song from the compositional standpoint but from a sheer quality standpoint it is great. Plus, any song with a harmonica, much like whistling, gets massive props in my book!

Independence Dave Opens straight into vocals and a constant drum roll through the verse, backed up by some quick, occasional guitar stabs. It again was a nice change of pace again. The chorus and riffs have a very jazz feel to them again but, while the backing vocals sound pretty good singing throughout the chorus, I do have to admit that it is the least memorable chorus out of the songs I’ve heard so far. It isn’t bad at all, and maybe the vocals just needed to be higher in the mix to pack more of a punch, but it just felt a little empty. The song as a whole gives off a lot of Extreme vibes, another band that I love so I’m not surprised I enjoy this song! It’s short, sweet and to the point, a good punk rock song.

I Hate You opens on an Angus Young style guitar riff, but unfortunately that is where the good stuff ends. This song is NOT good. The lyrics aren’t even charmingly bad or childish, they’re just sheer cringiness. I can’t tell who the other vocalists are but none of them sounded particularly great. I’m on the fence as to whether one was Dave Mustaine or not, as I know Cooper is his Godfather so they are clearly close. Outside of the lyrics there really wasn’t much to this song, either, the instrumentation was pretty basic. The first bad song on the album, but 10 songs in isn’t bad!

Wonderful World is another slower song, this one having more of a new-wave, almost Depeche Mode type feel to it at times. It’s okay, but not really my sort of style, and I prefer some of the other slower stuff on the album. Good chorus, though, I’ll give it that! Sister Anne picks up the pace again and opens on a great riff, another AC/DC feeling one, but outside of this the song is a tad bland. It gives off some Quireboys vibes, and not just because they have a song called Sweet Mary Anne, and they are one of my favourite bands of all time, but this just didn’t do a lot for me even despite that, somehow. The soloing though, between the guitar and the harmonica, were both great. I think I’m just beginning to get a little done with this album now. It’s been fantastic so far for the large part, but 50 minutes and 15 songs is pretty darn bloated. Maybe cutting out one or two would have done it the world of good!

Unfortunately, the final three songs kind of suffer from the same bloatedness as I have just spoken about. All are pretty good songs, Hanging by a thread being another slower ballad while the final two, Shut Up and Rock and East Side Story being two rock’n’roll anthems. However, none of them did anything all too different from the songs that have already been on the album, and the ones previous have done it better. They are just kind of typical filler songs, which is a little more excusable with an album so long. Heck, at least it didn’t close on a slow song, that’s always a bonus at least, right?!

Overall: This was very enjoyable! There were a good few damn good rock songs on here, and a few songs that were pretty left-field for anyone who only knows the man’s hits. However these softer ones, like Love Will Change the World, were that welcome a mix up that they sounded awesome, and were some of the highlights of the album. It is truly incredible that a man who has already been in the music industry for well over half a century still has the drive and creativity to produce an album at all, never mind one of such high quality. He is truly one of the best to ever grace the rock world.

Overall: 7.5/10

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The review by musician, blogger & author – Joe Griffiths

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