Alice Cooper: Killer
18/06/09 || Khlysty
Everybody and their girlfriend know today about Alice Cooper: he’s, like, 2.000 years old, he’s a Republican, he plays golf, he still turns out records that are mildly interesting, he still has a shocking grand-guiniol type live show and he’s uglier even than Iggy Pop (and, lemme tell you, THIS is a great feat, all things considered…). Well, what you might not know is that Alice Cooper, back in the early ‘70s, was a band –whose singer went alternately by the name of Alice Cooper AND Vincent Furnier. That band, during the first five or six years of that venerable decade, produced some of the toughest, rawest, rockingest, hookiest and catchiest hard rock EVER.
To clear things up A.S.A.P., no, this ain’t heavy metal; back then, I’m not even sure the term existed. This is hard rock and you have to live with it. BUT, this is hard rock that really went over to the Dark Side. Even when the band had not yet fully developed its crazy shock-rock live show (with hangings, beheadings, lots of fake blood and other sick delicacies), their music had a really dark edge, even when the band wrote straight-up Rolling-Stones-inspired mid-tempo rockers. Also, those being the funky-ass ‘70s, the band never shied away from experimenting with sound, texture, vocal tricks, effects, and other shit.
So, yeah, this is hard rock, but it’s hard rock that’s smart, catchy, dark, experimental and it predated lots of metal bands with its infatuation with all things ugly and nasty. The 1971 album “Killer” was chosen by me for the venerable Class 6(66) section of GD for one reason only: it fully displays all the sides of this band (containing simple rockers, dark riffery, experimental multipart songs, and one of the greatest song-titles of all time -“Dead Babies”. I mean, how lower can you go than this?), while they moved forward to establish them as one of the greatest hard rock acts of all time. Also, it’s great fun to listen to. So, there you go…
9. This is hard rock of the highest caliber imaginable. Two guitars fighting, soloing and generally filling every nook and cranny with riff-tastic playing; a bass with attitude and presence; a drummer who liked to out-Keith Moon Keith Moon, while keeping the backbeat with robotic rigidity; an organ moving in, out and around the riffs, creating atmosphere, sometimes taking center-stage (“Halo Of Flies”), other just being there just to add to the general dementia; and a singer who could be as melodic as he could be tougher than a bucketful of rusty nails. The band is full of attitude and character and that reflects on the music, which, while generally staying within the parameters of what ‘70s hard rock was supposed to be, has its own –very dark and nasty- personality.
10. One of the reasons that Alice Cooper became HUGE, was their collaboration with producer Bob Ezrin, who gave them clarity and lushness, without taking away the tough, dark edge that made the band so special. “Killer” sounds fresh and powerful, even by today’s standards, with great instrumental separation where needed, and a nasty sound when the songs call for it. Great production!
9. Michael Bruce and Glen Buxton, the two guitarists of the band, had everything needed to give this record a great hard rock guitar sound: they both knew how to keep the songs interesting, propelling them forward with great rhythmic work and interesting little solos here and there. Also, they experimented with feedback and bendy-note mayhem (“You Drive Me Nervous”), mood-setting interplay (“Halo Of Flies”, “Dead Babies”) and even with acoustics (“Desperado”). Great guitar work here, folks.
9. More chameleonic than his later efforts, here Mr. Vincent “Alice Cooper” Furnier shows that he can easily sing melodically, while in a moment’s notice he can become nasty, raspy and dangerous (listen to “Dead Babies”, for proof positive). His voice is an integral part of the music, giving it an edge and morbidity not easily found even today.
9. Here we have a bassist who HATES just playing root notes or some such shit. Instead, while keeping the rhythm, he adds a lot of little melodies and unexpected playing (his bass is almost contrapunto in “Dead Babies”). Great bass playing!
8. Instead of just doing the backbeat thingy, Neal Smith likes to colour his playing with interesting drumwork, that propels the songs to great heights. He’s obviously no Dave Witte, but he’s got character and passion.
8. “I’m a gambler and I’m a runner but you knew that when you layed down/I’m a picture of ugly stories I’m a killer and I’m a clown/Step into the street by sundown step into your last goodbye”.
“Little Betty ate a pound of aspirin she got them from the shelf upon the wall/Betty’s mommy wasn’t there to save her she didn’t even hear her little baby call/Dead babies can’t take care of themselves, dead babies can’t take things off the shelf”.
Like it, I do hope so, dear sirs…
7. The head of a snake on a red background. To the point
3. The name of the band scrawled on the background. Nothing fancy
10. A 1972 calendar adorned with the picture of Alice Cooper hanging from a gallows. Tasteful, to say the least…
Overall and ending rant
9. While re-listening to “Killer”, I was impressed by how dark and moody the general feeling of the record is. Alice Cooper (the band) really tried and succeeded in making a very interesting hard rock record here, which is tough and ugly, while always stepping up on musicality, production values and experiments. And, while metal wasn’t yet invented, one will find in this record a lot of ideas that would later be tapped by the metal guys (the dual-guitar attack, the morbid subject matter, etc). But, what will always get me is how FUN it is listening to “Killer”. This is a cool record and a great band. So, if you’re interested in finding the roots of our beloved music, you could do worse than buying “Killer” and wallowing in it like a pig in shit…
- Released: 1971
- Label: Warner Bros
- Website: www.alicecooper.com
- Alice Cooper: vocals
- Glen Buxton: lead guitar
- Michael Bruce: rhythm guitar, keyboards
- Dennis Dunaway: bass guitar
- Neal Smith: drums
- Rick Derringer: additional guitar
- 01. Under my wheels
- 02. Be my lover
- 03. Halo of Flies
- 04. Desperado
- 05. You drive me nervous
- 06. Yeah, yeah, yeah
- 07. Dead babies
- 08. Killer