Review Summary: Hey Stoopid, go get this album!
The 80’s had been a bad time for Alice Cooper. Nondescript albums and failed attempts at flirting with other musical tendencies had left the Shock King dangerously close to losing most of the fanbase he had garnered in the 70s. Even the perfectly decent albums, like 1985’s Constrictor
, failed to convince or impress the fans, who longed for the halcyon days of Killer
. A comeback of sorts was made with 1988’s Trash
, an album that showed Alice revitalized and updated for the new decade, and flirting with the “in” sounds of the late 80’s, namely glam rock. In view of that album’s acceptance and success, the exact same template was used for Trash
’s follow-up, 1990’s Hey Stoopid
. The results were, again, above average, even if this album is not as highly regarded as its predecessor.
For Hey Stoopid
, Alice takes his cues from what was still popular at the time: the vibrant, gushy, shiny hard rock of bands like Poison, Warrant or Firehouse. It comes as no surprise, then, that Burning Our Beds
comes across as something Guns’n’Roses may have written at the time, or that the overall sound relies heavily on the huge crunchy riffs, sweeping keyboards and shouty backing vocals of glam rock, while endowing them with an extra dosage of class.
Experienced artist and master songwriter that he is, Alice surrounds himself with the cream of the hard rock crop this time around. His “regular” band is comprised of guitarist Stef Burns, bassist Hugh McDonald, drummer Mickey Curry and keyboardists Robert Bailey and John Webster. However, the album is absolutely littered with guest appearances. Shredding guitarists Steve Vai, Vinnie Moore and Joe Satriani each feature on two songs, and Feed My Frankenstein
is even graced with a Vai/Satriani tandem, resulting in a whopping solo; additionally, names like Mick Mars, Nikki Sixx, Slash and even the Madman himself, Ozzy Osbourne, put in appearances, making this a hard-rock all-star reunion of sorts.
As such, it’s surprising to acknowledge that the best tracks on this album are those where Alice and the gang are left to themselves. Of the album’s four clearest standouts, only two feature any kind of famous guest. The title track brings in Slash on the solo and Ozzy Osbourne on the bridge’s distinctive backing vocals, as well as pitting Joe Satriani up alongside Stef Burns; Hurricane Years
sees Vinnie Moore lend a hand as well. However, Love Is a Loaded Gun
and Might As Well Be On Mars
, arguably the two best tracks, see the band fend for themselves without any help from big-name artists. The results are no less than stellar, making these two ballads the standouts of the album.
This brings us to Master Alice’s specialty: the ballads. As shocking as he is, Vincent Fournier has always known how to melt a few hearts with his slow tracks, and this album is no exception. No less than four tracks are ballads, and they all work well, to a greater or lesser extent. Fournier and his cronies clearly know when and how to use a string section or keyboards on a track, while at the same time keeping it classy and sophisticated. While this is true of the more rocking tracks as well, it is on the ballads that it becomes more noticeable.
But Alice and co. don’t just shine on the slower tempos; in fact, the standard of songwriting is generally very high on this album. Tracks such as Hurricane Years
and Wind-Up Toy
are all above-average slabs of eighties hard rock, and even the songs where the verse sections are not that interesting are usually redeemed by a catchy chorus (Dangerous Tonight
) or an awesome solo (Feed My Frankenstein
). All in all, this is a near-perfect album in both the execution and the songwriting itself.
Of course, there are exceptions. Little By Little
and Dirty Dreams
are rather poor when compared to the rest of the songs, and for some reason I could never get behind Feed My Frankenstein
, even if it does have the best solo on the album and a funky robotic voice. I seem to be the exception, however, since this track has featured on the legendary Wayne’s World
, as well as enduring on Alice’s live setlist to this day. Me, I’m much more partial to the “hey hey hey hey’s” and thumping drums of the title track, the huge chorus of Hurricane Years
, the tongue-in-cheek atmosphere of Wind-Up Toy
the great solo of Love Is a Loaded Gun
or the sweeping, moving strings of Might As Well Be On Mars
. But it may just be me…
Another high point of this album are the lyrics. This has long been another of Alice’s strong points, and here he is as clever as ever. You need not look further than Love is a Loaded Gun
, a song about the desperate measures taken by a prostitute’s lover, that is absolutely tongue-in-cheek, yet also a little moving. Wind-Up Toy
is the usual misfit tale, a la Teenage Frankenstein
, while tracks like Hey Stoopid
and Hurricane Years
take a more reflexive point of view, perhaps motivated by Alice’s own struggles with alcohol. And then, of course, there are the heartbroken songs (Die For You
, Burning Our Beds
, Might As Well Be On Mars
), as well as the innuendo-laden moments of sexual bravado (Snakebite
, Feed My Frankenstein
, Dangerous Tonight
), always wrapped in Alice’s dearly cherished horror ambiance. All in all, another notch in this album’s already worn-out belt.
In summation, and despite the occasional weaker moment, Hey Stoopid
is heavily recommended to not only Alice fans, but hard rockers in general. This strong set of songs definitely deserves to be remembered for more than its clownish, cartoonish artwork and a stint on a one-time blockbuster comedy. So go out, get it, or stay home and download it. Just don’t let it die. It doesn’t deserve to.
Love Is a Loaded Gun
Might as Well Be On Mars