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UCLA Daily Bruin
(February 10, 1972)
Originally Published: February 10, 1972
Author: Jacob Wiesel
Crimson strobes casting horrendously gloomy shadows upon the wall. Green and yellow streams of light punctuating the flaming perversion. Alice Cooper strutting to and fro as her bespangled legions wail and glisten in crumpled masses.
The visuals were the same. The music was as demonic as ever. It seemed as though a little bit of Hell had splashed itself across the stage. Yet there was a difference. A subtle, almost imperceptible variation on the spectacle. From three hundred feet away it was painfully obvious that this time, unlike all the other times, the mobs had come to watch the freak show, as opposed to becoming part of it. There was, however, a lot to watch.
Alice is a institution, a paragon a perversion. Outside of the music, and outside of Alice herself, there are visions of madness as staged by Alice Cooper. On stage, there is a deranged, mincing faggot hacking a doll to pieces, limb by limb, with an axe. After which, he/she places the severed head atop a microphone stand and begins to sing at it with remorseless irony, "Dead Babies can take care of themselves."
Then, as if to placate the monstrously outraged puritan ethic in all of us - an ethic which cries out for condemnation - a pair of hooded, torch-bearing executioners drag the wretched creep up the thirteen steps of a gallows. The noose is placed about his neck, the lever is thrown and a gangling, emaciated twit is suspended before us. He hangs there, displaying a pair of bulging eyes and a broken neck, as ample penance for the atrocity he committed.
Indeed, separate from the spectacle by a distance of a hundred yards, a viewer would perceive it all to be a plastic rendition of what most purveyors of perversion have come to know and love. It was only a microcosm of weirdness, one that just barely held together for Alice herself.
This sudden transparency of reality was revealed to most (to those who knew Alice, at any rate) long before seeing this manifestation of malice with their very own eyes at the Palladium recently. Long before those festivities, another facet of the Alice Cooper phenomenon - a decay within a decayed structure - had been brought to light.
Alice's fourth album, Killer (WB 2567), suffers from the same sort of pestilence that has flattened her stage act into a two dimensional curio. Mind you, this problem is not overt or an superficial level. For to most listeners, Killer sounds as though it is a natural progression.
The musicianship, as supplied by Messers. Neal Smith, Michael Bruce, Dennis Dunaway and especially, Glen Buxton is positively marvelous. The very energy and pulse that is Alice Cooper's musical forte is still there, most evidently so on "You Drive Me Nervous" and "Be My Lover." Nor is there any deficiency when it comes to their verbal ferocity. One need only listen to "Dead Babies" and "Under My Wheels" for confirmation of this fact. Even Alice herself is in fine vocal form, to the point of including in her repetoire a-spine-tingling impersonation of the late Jim Morrision via "Desperado."
But, all told, there is a change which transcends the nominal theatrics and musicianship. In a word, it's attitude. For nearly six years, Alice Cooper (and/or The Spiders) have struggled and worked hard to attain the status and following they so rightly deserve. During times gone by, they have appeared onstage so falling-down drunk that the audience had no choice but to accept this additional weirdness as part of the show. At other times they have performed in dives that were so low that the greatest response they gleaned from the audience (which numbered three) was a from a dog in attendance who pissed on an amplifier.
Certainly, they deserve their recognition and all that goes with it. But, it was the adversity and hardship that promoted and strengthened their flamboyance. Their antis became progressively more insidious and disgusting, so that for one brief moment, while they were onstage, (faced with an ungrateful audience,) they could partially get back to these moronic unfans.
In a sentence, they were driven by their own failure. But now, who can they get back at? Whom are they trying to offend? Certainly not the record buying public which has so thoughtfully vaulted them into the coveted rants of the Top Ten. Nor can they rank-out at the concert going public which has lined their pockets with gold. So, who can they outrage? At no one in particular, except, perhaps, themselves.
Killer opens with "Under My Wheels." It is a direct, lyrical inversion of their last LP's opening tune, "Caught in a Dream." The first portrays the I'm-on-top attitude of the victor, and the latter, earlier song, reflects the motivational frenzy of the underdog. This may be a natural outgrowth of their success, yet, the result of this victory, this subconscious change in attitude, is one that poor Alice had foreseen and sung about in past tunes. "...I thought that I was living but you can't really tell. Gotta get away from this success smell."
The inversion from unsuccessful madmen to respected super-stellar entertainers is something that would normally spell unbounded euphoria for its recipients. But for Alice Cooper, it might spell their doom.
In the words of that great surreal philosopher, Howard Kalin, "I'm so commercial I could die!"