Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Alice Cooper – School’s Out

The last of their 3 near-perfect albums (Billion Dollar Babies is still pretty hot, but was already showing the band’s fracturing, especially with the addition of outside musicians), School’s Out blasts out the title cut with one of the greatest guitar riffs of all time (written by Michael Bruce and played by Glen Buxton)! In a truly masterful move, Alice took a line from a Bowery Boys movie in which they were basically saying “wise up” – y’know, “school’s out, you should know this by now” – and made it a yearly anthem.

Every teenager in the country was singing along with the “no more teachers, no more books” nursery rhyme and rockin’ out to the shrieking lead guitars, high energy and amazing lines like “we can’t even think of a word that rhymes”! Right up there with “Eighteen” and “Be My Lover” as an amazing hit single and one of their most memorable songs of all time!

They don’t let up on “Luney Tune”, another teen anthem that has a bit of an off-kilter beat, but still rocks. It tells a story of getting locked up for being a rebellious teen and committing suicide in the loony bin – typical Alice! Bassist Dennis Dunaway - one of the best in the biz - helped to co-write this one, which makes sense as he was one of the weirder ones even in this group!

The band’s movie-musical side is blatantly obvious in their tribute to West Side Story, “Gutter Cat Vs. The Jets”. Stealing the movie’s main musical theme, they twisted this from a love story to dirty sex as Alice sings lines like “she made my eyes bug out, my tail stand up, I was even in heat for a mutt”! But they retained the Jet’s theme, which is a damn good song! This set up the story that worked as psychotic theater live, as the band literally fought each other on stage during the following “Street Fight”.

“Blue Turk” is practically a jazz tune, complete with horn solos, which almost makes it sound like their version of an MC5 experiment, though a lot more controlled than that band’s freakouts! Alice’s lyrics are sexy/scary – “you’re squirming wet baby” along with “earthworms rule your brain”. These cats were demented!

Starting as an actually quite pretty piano-driven tune, “My Stars” then barrels into a heavy, shouted rocker that continues to switch back and forth from near a-rhythmic timing to hard rock! “Public Animal #9” is pure teen angst – talking about “cheating at the math test” and “carving dirty words in our desks” and giving “a month of cigarettes for just a couple of lousy beers”. Fantastic r’n’r in every aspect right through to Alice’s guttural growls at the end!

Written by phenomenal drummer, Neil Smith, “Alma Mater” is surprisingly un-rocking, overall, but tells a tale of a kid who was obviously popular in high school and is afraid of becoming a nobody in the real world and of his classmates forgetting him. But the “so long, everybody, I hope that I will see you again” does have some fun oomph to it and I’m sure that there were plenty of Cooper fans who could relate as well as plenty who hated this character!

The “Grande Finale” is indeed that – a 4-1/2 minute, horn-driven instrumental that sounds like a finale to a show or a movie, even incorporating themes from the rest of the record – pretty fitting for this band, as their concerts were as much theater as anything else.

The packaging on the long player was pure genius (which the CD unfortunately cannot emulate), even considering what you would expect from this group! The cover folded open like a school desk top, with graffiti and “carved” initials from the band throughout, and the vinyl itself came in paper panties as opposed to a dust cover! Utterly perfect!