17 December 2017

Alice Cooper (Band) - Killer

 
Alice Cooper is a legend that really doesn't need any introduction, if you're new to the game then you've got a little bit of catching up to do.  But I do feel that as I'm reviewing one of the classic Alice Cooper Band records, that a small history lesson is required.  Back in the 1970's, Alice Cooper was the devil incarnate to a lot of people at the time, his on-stage antics at the time have long since became the stuff of legend and he was on a bit of a roll.  Killer is the fourth album to be released in a three-year period, and the second to be released in 1971 after their commercial breakthrough Love It to DeathKiller was produced with Bob Ezrin and upon its release, it reached 21 in the USA Billboard Top 200, with two songs ("Be My Lover" and "Under the Wheels") also making an impact in the US Billboard single charts as well.  So, Alice (and his band) was in full flight at the time, trying to branch in new directions, and starting to enjoy one of the most successful periods of his musical career - but how well has Killer aged?  Well, let's find out......

01 - Under My Wheels

"Under My Wheels" is a stone-cold classic, a song that is still performed in his live shows.  It has a horn section, it has a glam rock sensibility, it has an OTT introduction, and it's also one of the best songs that the band ever released.  "Under My Wheels" is a beautiful song about heading out for the night, the anticipation of what is to come, and it contains a youthful excitement that still resonates all these years later.  I love this number, it's one of my favourite Alice Cooper songs and I could listen to it for ever (I would probably go mad, but at least I would have a great soundtrack along the way).

02 - Be My Lover

"Be My Lover" is (for want of a better phrase) a song about getting your end away, young lust and sort of autobiographical in a sense.  It's all about Alice picking up a lady at his show, with both the boy and the lady talking about how long it's going to take to get to paradise.  It's a fun song, one where the lady makes the first move and it's one that has aged better than a lot of its contemporaries.

03 - Halo of Flies

"Halo of Flies" is Alice's attempt by the band to prove that they could perform King Crimson-like progressive rock suites, and was supposedly about a SMERSH-like organisation.  SMERSH was a Russian umbrella organisation for three independent counter-intelligence agencies in the Red Army formed in late 1942.  It has an Eastern European feel to the music, with a Hard Rock undertone that gives it a 60's vibe as well.  It's another song which I could imagine would be gratefully received by the Alice Cooper audience if it was given an airing, as it has aged incredibly well.

04 - Desperado

According to two sources, "Desperado" is about two subjects.  According to in the liner notes of A Fistful of Alice and In the Studio with Redbeard, "Desperado" about his friend Jim Morrison, who died the year this album was released.  Alternatively, according to an NPR radio interview with Alice Cooper, "Desperado" was written about Robert Vaughn's character from the movie The Magnificent Seven. Either way, it's a beautiful song which brings another side of Alice to Killer, with its acoustic guitars, string section and light touches that resonate to this day.  It's one of my favourite songs on this album, it's another stone cold classic.

05 - You Drive Me Nervous

"You Drive Me Nervous" is a song about a lover who fears their partner, with nothing going right.  It's a flat out, riff laden, rock & roll classic! It's a simple creature, one that doesn't stay around for too long, but that still leaves its mark upon you.  There is not much in the way of depth here, but it's still one of my favourite on this album.

06 - Yeah, Yeah, Yeah

"Yeah, Yeah, Yeah" is a glam rock tune, with lyrics that are really open to interpretation.  It's a simple number in some ways, with a lighter sound compared to other track on Killer.  It's a good song, but not one that I would go out of my way to listen to outside the confines of Killer


07 - Dead Babies

"Dead Babies" was a controversial song at the time, a lot of people just read the title and thought it was a sicko piece designed to cause an instant reaction of disgust.  But that isn't the case, it was conveying an anti-child abuse message, with harrowing lyrics about the dangers that some children face with parents who don't give a shit.  It's a hard-hitting number, one which is not designed to give the listener comfort, but to give the listener a warning.  For that reason alone, it's one of the most important songs on the album, but the music is also classic Alice, with a Hard Rock riff that stays in your memory long after it has finished.   

08 - Killer

Alas, all things must come to an end, and Killer ends with its title track.  "Killer" is a song about a man who is facing his punishment for taking another person's life, with a typically macabre ending that is filled with sounds of horror as the hangman performs his deadly deed.  It would have been used to kill the Alice character on stage during their live shows at the time, something that must always happen as Alice is a bad lad.  It's the perfect ending to this album, filled with OTT riffs, screams, a brilliant drum performance by Neal Smith and a sense of drama that should always be part of an Alice Cooper album.

At the time, the Alice Cooper Band were on a roll, their next two releases were School's Out and Billion Dollar Babies. Two years later, they would release Welcome to My Nightmare, which is another of my favourite Alice Cooper albums, which was the first solo Alice Cooper album which as effectively ended the Alice Cooper Band.  But that was in the future for Alice Cooper as far as Killer is concerned, so what are my final thoughts?  Like a vintage wine, Killer has aged incredibly well.  Except for one track, I could see each of these still making it into an Alice Cooper live show, to be honest, each song still sounds that good forty-six years later.  If I was asked to pick a few Alice Cooper records for people to start with, this would be on that list (along with Welcome to My Nightmare, The Last Temptation, School's Out & Billion Dollar Babies), it's one of his best and rightly hailed as a classic.

9.5 out of ten - Almost perfect, almost......

Top track - Under My Wheels (but Desperado was so close as well)


You can purchase Killer from Amazon here.

You can visit the Alice Cooper website here.

You can follow the activities of Alice Cooper on Facebook here.

You can stream Killer on Spotify here.

You can stream Killer on Deezer here.

You can stream Killer on Tidal here.

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