Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Alice Cooper – Easy Action

Y’know, despite being aware of all of the West Side Story references that Alice always throws into their songs and albums, I just realized that this album title is from the movie as well. One of the Jets is called Action cuz he’s always so hyper, and at one point one of the other cats tells him to cool down – “easy, Action”. I had always thought this was something more along the lines of slang for a slutty girl or something! Shows where my mind always is!


This album cover shows the band from the back, and for those who did not know that “Alice Cooper” was a band, these 5 topless, super-long-haired people probably looked fairly risqué. But, when you see the back photo, it’s obvious that this is an all-male, wildly dressed r’n’r combo.

From the opener, “Mr. & Misdemeanor”, it appears that the band is striving for a slightly more “normal” sound, though they sing “here’s new Pretties For You” in the first minute or so of the song. This is piano-dominated and it doesn’t veer off into any tangents as Alice (the person) sings with a tougher, meaner edge.

They follow this with an almost psych-pop song, “Shoe Salesman” – again, a lot less extreme than anything from the first album, though the lyrics are as weird as ever. This is poppy, though – more so than anything to date.

But they are back in the wackiness fold with “Still No Air”, with references to “Today Mueller” and pre-references to several School’s Out tunes, with mock fights, guitar licks and West Side Story cops. “Below Your Means” also sounds more like a return to Pretties… style material. Time changes fight with each other as the guitars interweave until the whole song shifts to steady beat for a wild guitar jam. The tones are not quite as sick and demented as on the previous outing, but they do try to be original in their arrangements and their sounds.

This record’s glorious rocker is “Return of the Spiders”. Driven like a wild locomotive by drummer extraordinaire Neal Smith, who doesn’t let up for a second for almost 4-1/2 minutes. The guitars slash and burn and crash and blare across the speakers as Alice rants about “the reaching hand…coming after you”. This is probably the wildest, most out of control, speed rock that they ever recorded and it is beyond incredible! Fantastic playing all around. Really breath-taking in its hard rock perfection! This is right up there on my list of the greatest r’n’r songs of all time!

There’s an almost sinister sound to “Laughing at Me” but while it is somewhat evil it is nowhere near a musically crazed. Again, this harkens to some of their later dark mood music of their more commercial albums. “Refrigerator Heaven” is more upbeat but also almost cartoonishly eerie in its arrangement. It does remind me of something that would play in the background of some 30’s animation or something…

There is a pretty, piano-dominated ballad in “Beautiful Flyaway” – still unusual but in more of a psych-pop manner. The record closes with an extended, heavy jam “Lay Down and Die, Goodbye”, which moves from hard rock to sparse weirdness. Glen Buxton’s leads are absolutely demented here as the rhythm section smashes and crashes before moving to a minimalist section of atmospheric dissonance. It finally wraps up with a short lyrical piece known from some early live bootlegs, “I’ve written home to mother…”, and then closes with a harsh cymbal blast.

These two albums make their later works sound perfectly normal in comparison, but for those who are not afraid of a little psycho noise in their heavy rock, these are for you!