Review Summary: Alice Cooper's twenty-sixth album manages to be a sequel that doesn't suck!
Sequels are a controversial subject in most forms of media and the music world is certainly no exception. Queensryche’s second Operation: Mindcrime is just about worthless when compared to the flawless original and Rob Zombie’s second Hellbilly Deluxe doesn’t quite have the same kick as its inconsistent but ultimately more energetic predecessor. The original Welcome To My Nightmare came out in 1975 and was not only a borderline perfect masterpiece on a musical and lyrical level but also proved that Alice Cooper was able to have success without the involvement of his original bandmates. Despite massive hype and trepidation, this album fortunately avoids the traditional sequel pattern and manages to be a pretty enjoyable affair that not even the likes of Ke$ha can ruin…
With the original Nightmare having been such an eclectic affair, it’s no surprise to say that this album had no chance of ever sounding anything like it. In fact, some songs such as “A Runaway Train” and the amusingly titled “I’ll Bite Your Face Off” wouldn’t have been too out of place on his last few albums thanks to their garage rock aesthetics and 70s feel. However, this album does manage to share the original’s spirit of variety as it showcases several different genre experiments. You’ve got a number of slow piano driven songs, borderline metal on “When Hell Comes Home,” surf rock on “Ghouls Gone Wild,” and even electronic tinges on the goofy “Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever” and “What Baby Wants.”
Alice himself is in pretty good form as his vocals continue to give the material his signature stamp. Some particularly memorable moments include the use of Autotune to creepy effect on “I Am Made Of You,” a nice Tom Waits impersonation on “Last Man On Earth” and some comedic interjections during the closing segment of “I Gotta Get Out Of Here” that reminds one of a similar sequence on “Give The Kid A Break.” Like several other albums that Alice has put out since the late 80s, a good deal of this release’s hype has been centered on the massive number of guests that are featured. In addition to having more guests than any other effort to date, it also appears to be a reunion of sorts as Alice pairs up with such figures as classic producer Bob Ezrin, Nightmare guitarists Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner, bassist Kip Winger, and even the other three surviving members of the original Alice Cooper band.
But the album’s most surprising cameo is by Ke$ha on the borderline electric pop of “What Baby Wants.” While friends can attest that hearing about this appearance had me quivering in fear, it actually manages to be a pretty satisfying song thanks to her only delivering a few sporadic lines and cutting down on the effects that cause so many annoyances on her own material. And it probably helps that her persona is being used as a demonic femme fatale rather than as a voice of overcompensating satire…
But even with all the styles to play with and all the guest musicians to keep track of, the lyrics are still central to appreciating the concept behind both Nightmares. For the most part, this second installment does have a similar formula as the original with both showing a series of morbid events while developing a rather ambiguous narrative. Unfortunately, this album’s story isn’t quite as effective as the one that appeared on the original. While the original album consistently went into some legitimately disturbing scenarios to go along with the camp, this album seems to go completely into camp territory as it seems to go into rather cliché themes and never feels quite as personal.
Going along with that, it is also rather hard to tell if this album is even related to the first Nightmare outside of the general theme at work. It may just be a matter of interpretation but there don’t seem to be any references to characters such as Steven nor to any continuations of other past events.
But whether the story is related or not, there are several musical motifs that remind one of and allude to past songs. “Last Man On Earth” is similar to “Some Folks” with its old-timey feel while “Something To Remember Me By” is a sweet ballad in the vein of “Only Women Bleed” and “I Never Cry.” They even managed to quote reference a few songs from the past while still remaining fresh as “I Am Made of You” prominently uses the piano melody from “Steven” while the minute long “The Nightmare Returns” uses the creepy anticipation from “The Awakening.” In addition, the closing instrumental medley known as “The Underture” is four and a half minutes of pure fanservice as it references melodies from a slew to classic songs to great effect.
All in all, this album ended up being a lot better than anticipated. With everything that is going on here and all of the appearances that could be interpreted as desperate gimmicks, it comes together quite well and avoids being a train wreck altogether. It’s predictably not as incredible as the original or even recent releases like Brutal Planet or Along Came A Spider, but it’s still a very fun ride that’s worth looking into. If anything, this album does provide a nice sense of optimism for the future. After all, wishful thinking indicates that it could lead to a full-on reunion with what’s left of the original lineup. I’d also recommend looking into the story of Steven if you haven’t already; it may very well be one of the gripping that rock ‘n roll has to offer.
"I Am Made of You"
"Last Man On Earth"
"I’ll Bite Your Face Off"
"When Hell Comes Home"
"What Baby Wants"
Originally published at http://suite101.com