Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Alice Cooper

  • Easy Action [Straight, 1970] C
  • Love It to Death [Straight, 1971] B-
  • Killer [Warner Bros., 1971] B-
  • School's Out [Warner Bros., 1972] B-
  • Billion Dollar Babies [Warner Bros., 1973] B
  • Muscle of Love [Warner Bros., 1973] C
  • Alice Cooper's Greatest Hits [Warner Bros., 1974] A-
  • Welcome to My Nightmare [Atlantic, 1975] B-
  • Lace and Whiskey [Warner Bros., 1977] C+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Easy Action [Straight, 1970]
Pretties for You had its pseudo-decadent and -psychedelic charms, and so does this, only not as many, which makes very few indeed--"Mr. and Misdemeanor" (featuring Lucky Luciano and Kenny Passarelli) and a junkie shoe salesman to balance off all the tuneless singing, tuneless playing, tuneless tunes, and pseudo-musique concrete. C

Love It to Death [Straight, 1971]
Never would have figured this theatre type to come up with it, but he did--"I'm Eighteen," as archetypal a hard rock single as you're liable to hear in this flaccid year, or maybe ever. Almost as surprising, guitarist Mike Bruce surrounds it with the anthemic "Caught in a Dream" and "Long Way to Go." After which drummer Dennis Dunaway gives forth with "Black Juju," which lasts four seconds longer than all three of the above combined. B-

Killer [Warner Bros., 1971]
A taste for the base usages of hard rock rarely comes with a hit attached these days, much less "surreal," "theatrical," and let us not forget "transvestite" trappings, which is why some desperate rock and rollers have convinced themselves their prayers are being answered. But while this is the band's most song-oriented LP, it falters after "Under My Wheels" and "Be My Lover," neither of them an "I'm Eighteen" in the human outreach department. And only one of the three "theatrical" extravaganzas, "Dead Babies," works on record (never mind in the theatre). B-

School's Out [Warner Bros., 1972]
With its all-time ugly vocal, kiddie chorus turned synthesizer, and crazy, dropped-out thrust, the title hit is as raw and clever as it gets, but this album is soundtrack. Some of it's even copped--with attribution, yet--from West Side Story. For a while I comforted myself with the thought that West Side Story is more a rock musical than Hair, at least in spirit. But the orchestral homages to Uncle Lennie ruin the effect. B-

Billion Dollar Babies [Warner Bros., 1973]
The title's as perfect as the band's latest symbol--a $, its "S" transformed into a two-headed snake. No outrage Alice has concocted equals the frank, sweaty greed of his current success. Oddly, though, this blatant profit mechanism is his most consistent album--even the song about (mercy me) necrophilia is tolerable, just like the song about tooth decay. But without a "School's Out" or an "I'm Eighteen"--neither "No More Mr. Nice Guy" nor "Elected" quite makes the grade--there's nothing to tempt anyone back to the new improved filler. B

Muscle of Love [Warner Bros., 1973]
They went out on the road long enough to pick up their share of chrome (well, this sure ain't platinum), but though it must pain them to realize it, they're not machines. Or maybe it just pains them to realize that machines break down. C

Alice Cooper's Greatest Hits [Warner Bros., 1974]
Bet this favors passable-minus stuff from Muscle of Love--one cut a stiff, the other never a single--over the great stuff from Love It to Death because Alice-the-person had no publishing percentage on the latter. Too bad, because this is very spotty for a group that's done more than the Rolling Stones to beef up AM radio over the past few years. Nonetheless, those wise enough to have foregone album purchase up till now should stop their bucks here. A-

Welcome to My Nightmare [Atlantic, 1975]
The solo debut actually ain't so bad--no worse than all the others. "Department of Youth" is his catchiest teen power song to date, "Cold Ethyl" his catchiest necrophilia song to date, and "Only Women Bleed" the most explicitly feminist song to hit top forty since "I Am Woman." Alice's nose for what the kids want to hear is as discriminating as it is impervious to moral suasion, so perhaps this means that the more obvious feminist truisms have become conventional wisdom among at least half our adolescents. Encouraging. B-

Lace and Whiskey [Warner Bros., 1977]
Is this how Johnny Rotten is going to end up? Concocting mildly melodic garage MOR for an audience defined by its tolerance for condescension? I doubt it--but I'm not so sure about Stiv Bators. C+

Further Notes:

Distinctions Not Cost-Effective [1980s]: Vitiated Ozzy's shtick by refusing to play down his 120 IQ.

Everything Rocks and Nothing Ever Dies [1990s]

See Also