Review Summary: The world is an asylum. We just live in it.
One of the unsung heroes of the classic rock era was From the Inside
. Not as shocking or obscene as Alice Cooper’s previous works, the little known record hit the shelves during the year The Cars and Van Halen broke into the mainstream. Combined with the lack of shock value and Alice Cooper’s stint in rehab, it’s easy to see why listeners weren’t as eager. When the face of fear removes his mask, listeners are left with Vincent Furnier: a broken man whose celebrity brought substance abuse and strained relationships. Critics didn’t know what to make of the album at first. Some saw it “too self-indulgent,” others saw it as a mixed bag, but none saw From the Inside
as it was; nothing more than an underappreciated masterpiece. As time rolled on and listeners had more access to music, a handful retraced their steps to one of Alice Coopers most personal albums. Nevertheless, it’s time we come to appreciate From the Inside
as one of Uncle Alice’s best.
“How you gonna save me now"” roars Alice Cooper as he’s dragged into the cold oblivion of the asylum. Hugged in the vice grip of a strait-jacket and tossed in a squishy room, Alice is padlocked in a cell and left to his own devices. From the Inside
shows us a different horror story. Not one of beheadings, snakes, or electric chairs. We’re introduced to the horror that is the human mind, or addiction rather. Alice Cooper removes his makeup and shows his true face. He’s vulnerable for the first time, and he’s left to the hands of doctors and nurses to fill the hollow. Each song is a chapter in the diary kept by Alice Cooper during his stay. We learn of his friends, enemies, and day-to-day life. The texture is dreamlike as Alice processes this uncharted realm. ‘Wish I Were Born In Beverly Hills’ and ‘How You Gonna Save Me Now’ adopt the grandiose closer to Cooper’s previous work. ‘Beverly Hills’ has the catchy hook and powerful vocals among the likes of Billion Dollar Babies
. ‘Save Me Now’ pioneers a power ballad structure shrouded in the usual darkness of an Alice Cooper song.
Input from former Elton John members aided in giving the record a softer edge and bigger production. Choruses are more of a spectacle like in ‘Serious’ and ‘Wish I Were Born…’ The instrumentation is a lot smoother and poppier than previous installments. The atmosphere is very reminiscent due to Alice reflecting on life outside of the asylum. The dreamscape is perhaps the most impressive in songs like ‘How You Gonna Save Me Now’ and ‘The Quiet Room.’ ‘Jackknife Johnny’ and ‘Millie and Bobbie’ introduce the seedy inmates of the asylum and wear their sins on their sleeves. “Dear Johnny, your excuse was lame/All your friends sleep in boxes while you sleep in chains,” sings ‘Jackknife Johnny,’ a shell-shocked vet who lost it all. “God made love crazy so we wouldn't feel alone,” hails Millie and Billie, a tainted love so strong Donald was the price to pay. “But such torture his memory brings,” they sing, “all sliced up and sealed tight in baggies,” as a lighthearted beat plays in the background.
Part of the reason I was inspired to review From the Inside
was for the records amount of unfair criticisms. Ahead of its time is a phrase I rarely use, but in the case of the record, I find it justifiable. Critics and fans didn’t know how to interpret From the Inside
. It wasn’t as hard or edgy as his previous work, nor did it rely on shock value. It simply wasn’t Alice Cooper, it was Vincent Furnier. Fans and critics glossed over it for that reason. They wrote it off as “too intellectual” and patiently awaited its follow up. Alice Cooper’s writing is something understated. Although songs like ‘Eighteen’ and ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy’ teased his ability, From the Inside
entirely relies on it. Colorful characters, vivid imagery, and a strong narrative build the album to the standard it is. Although the music was tame for an Alice Cooper album, the lyrics were phenomenal. Dreamscapes are one of the many elements introduced in From the Inside
artists seldom used. It’s hypocritical how an artist is bashed for showing complexity in an era defined by the likes of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. From the Inside
is a brilliant narrative achievement for Alice Cooper. It’s one of my personal favorite albums and comics in my collection. It’s the only album to beg the question what do you see when Alice Cooper removes his makeup.