Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Music Album Review: Welcome 2 My Nightmare by Alice Cooper

“Welcome 2 My Nightmare” surpasses the original album released 26 years prior, and shows that music doesn’t have to be serious; it can be pure entertainment and fun.
Alice Cooper released “Welcome 2 My Nightmare” three months ago. It’s his 26th album and is the official sequel to “Welcome to My Nightmare” which was released ironically, 26 years ago. Three years ago Alice Cooper released “Along Came a Spider” and was considering doing a sequel to that album, but when producer Bob Ezrin (who also sequenced The Fragile by Nine Inch Nails and has worked with well respected artists like Pink Floyd, KISS and Peter Gabriel) didn’t like the idea of a sequel to that album proposed they do a sequel to “Welcome to My Nightmare” instead, Alice Cooper liked that idea more. Alice Cooper was touring extensively while the album was being prepared for release and expected it to be released next year, but released it in September instead.

The album starts off with “I Am Made of You” which is a great intro, showing the homage to the past while using modern influences too. How? Well the tune in the beginning is from the track “Steven”, arguably the best song on the original “Welcome to My Nightmare”, but you can clearly hear Alice Cooper using modern auto-tune in this track, which divides me personally as I hate auto-tune, but it doesn’t take too much away from the track. It’s a great opener, and it does its job well, which is set you up for the rest of the album.

After the intro track, we’re treated to “Caffeine”, which shows pretty much all sides of Alice Cooper in one track. On one side you have a decent hard rock/metal track, but you also see the silly side to the shock rock legend, which is that he’s simply, singing a song about needing caffeine. Yes, that’s what this song is about. And the chorus is “Caffeine! Caffeine!” in a squeaky voice. It’s incredibly cheesy but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that at all. If you haven’t followed Cooper’s career much you need to realise that this guy has never taken himself seriously. Ever. He’s an entertainer and plays the part so well.

“The Nightmare Returns”, track three, basically sets up track four, “A Runaway Train”, and is Alice Cooper describing his incapability of sleeping. “A Runaway Train” which shows tribute to country music and has a drum beat similar to a train on tracks. It’s a decent track, it shows another side to Cooper that he doesn’t show too often but in all honesty Alice Cooper plays what genres he feels he can pull off, and trust me, he can pull of loads, and he proves he can do country well here.

But track five, “Last Man On Earth”, is my favourite song. It’s so fricking cool, it shows so much swagger and glamour, and Alice Cooper’s vocals are brilliant. The song follows Alice Cooper off the “Runaway Train” from the earlier song, where the train crashed. If you think Alice Cooper is a has-been, he’s lost it, he’s a relic and can’t go anymore, seriously, give this a listen and it will prove you wrong. This song is easily as cool and smooth as his seventies stuff. In fact, this song is proof that Alice Cooper’s “Welcome 2 My Nightmare” project is a success.

“The Congregation” is apparently inspired by The Beatles according to Cooper himself but it reminds me more of the general glam-rock sound of the seventies, a sound and era that Cooper was attached to quite closely. If you listen properly you’ll hear a cameo by Rob Zombie, whose very good friends with Cooper. It’s a good song, very catchy and it continues to use modern and old influences in this hybrid album. “I’ll Bite Your Face Off” is track seven and is so far the only single off the album. It’s an odd choice if you ask me, but then again Alice Cooper doesn’t always choose his singles well in my opinion. But it’s a decent traditional seventies rock song, a nod to The Rolling Stones according to Cooper himself, it’s as decent as most of his singles over the years have been. I don’t know if Alice Cooper will release any more singles off this album, purely because he doesn’t chart anymore, he makes music for fun and for his fans rather than to make money. That being said, “Welcome 2 My Nightmare” is Alice Cooper’s highest charting album since 1994, when he released “The Last Temptation”, and in the US since 1989 when he released “Trash”, so that’s great news.

One of the best songs on the album for me is “Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever”, which mixes allsorts of different genres from glam rock, goth rock, shock rock, disco, techno and dare I say it, rap. It’s odd to describe, it just sound fantastic. It sounds complicated, what with all the genres Cooper incorporates but it’s simply good sounding music, and John 5, once of Marilyn Manson and currently of Rob Zombie, gives a helping hand with a fantastic guitar solo at the end to top off what was already an awesome song.

I could talk about all the songs in honesty but the feeling is very similar throughout the album, but there are three more songs I will talk about. First is track eleven, “When Hell Comes Home”, which is arguably the heaviest song on the album, what with it’s heavy bass and Alice Cooper’s dark lyrics and sinister voice. It’s definitely one of the more serious songs on the album.

However contrasting the sincerity of this track, track twelve is “What Baby Wants”, which is a duet with, I can’t believe I’m about to say this, Ke$ha, which is a lot better than it sounds trust me. I hate to say it but you can trust me, it’s a good duet, the contrasting styles and music backgrounds all count for nothing in this song because Alice Cooper is in a silly mood again. And when I say silly, I mean that affectionately, because in the end music is entertainment and there’s very few entertainers in the music industry as good as Alice Cooper. The song is about Alice Cooper and his encounter with the devil, although the devil is actually Ke$ha, and he must sell his soul to her. It’s silly and fun and Ke$ha, kudos to her, she plays her part very well and her vocals aren’t as bad as I feared when I heard about the duet. One more thing though, there’s an auto-tune bridge towards the end of the song and it’s cringe-worthy, but once again, in a good way. Kind of.

Lastly, the album ends with an awesome outro, called “The Underture”. This song is basically a Broadway-esque exit to both “Nightmares”; mixing the music of both albums into a quite simply beautifully crafted outro. It mixes great songs from both albums, like “Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever” and “I Am Made of You” from this album and songs from the original album like “Steven”, and the title track, “Welcome to My Nightmare”. I can’t sum up how great the outro is in words, if you’ve heard both albums by the time you reach this point it’s a great way of wrapping everything up.

 “Welcome 2 My Nightmare” was a lot of fun to listen to. Is Alice Cooper the best hard rock artist in the world? No, I don’t think so. But I never thought he was, I’ve always seen Alice Cooper as an artist who consistently brings the goods at a good level throughout his career. He did in the Seventies, he did in the Eighties, and while the Nineties or Noughties weren’t too kind on the man, this could be another surge of interest and popularity for the guy, who’s now in his sixties. I wouldn’t rule it out. Alice Cooper still has it. Doing sequel albums are a risky business; you’re paying homage to your former self, while trying to reach a high level you may not be able to reach again, never mind excel. And that’s what Alice Cooper does here. Yes I said it, “Welcome 2 My Nightmare” is better than “Welcome to My Nightmare”. Is this album as good quality as other albums being released at this time? No it’s not, but the nostalgia is there, the purity is there, the beauty, is there. And most importantly, this album is so much fun. It’s so much fun to listen to an album where you can hear the entertainment value, where you can hear how much of a ball Alice Cooper had going back into the studio with the same guys he released music with 26 years ago, and with artists who he has met along the way. Alice Cooper as a person is in a great place right now, and you know something? His music is too. “Welcome 2 My Nightmare” in a nutshell, surpasses the original album released 26 years prior, and shows that music doesn’t have to be serious; it can be pure entertainment and fun.

Rating: **** stars
Stand out tracks: "Last Man On Earth", "Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever", "The Underture"

Here's the music video for the only single released so far, "I'll Bite Your Face Off":

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