Alice Cooper – Welcome 2 My Nightmare (2011)

When I think of Alice Cooper, I really want to imagine the comical and welcoming persona that he has created over the years. He never ever seemed to take himself or his accomplishments too seriously. I mean how can you when your concerts involve staged decapitations? I want to imagine the over-the-top glam persona who mocked himself before you could. You know, the Wayne’s World Alice Cooper? “In fact, isn’t Milwaukee an Indian name?” “Well yes, Pete it is.” I want to hear some of his relatable, albeit simplistic, anthems about summer vacation, turning eighteen, and, yes, nightmares. Basically what I’m getting here is that I want to think of just about anything other than Welcome 2 My Nightmare, which hit the stores day.

It’s not good. I’ll tell you that upfront. However, the man was recently inducted into the Hall of Fame and did this as a celebration and sequel to his most famous album, Welcome to My Nightmare. Out of respect for the legend (and really nothing else), I will begrudgingly proceed with a track by track analysis.

“I Am Made of You”
Haven’t really listened to an Alice Cooper album in quite some time but I am willing to give a chance. So what do we open with? Literally the exact piano sampling from Cooper’s earlier song, “Steven.” Okay? I actually checked to see if I was listening to the right album at this point, wondering if maybe I had downloaded a greatest hits by mistake. I was quickly reassured that I had not when he started singing in Auto-Tune. Yes, that’s right, Alice Cooper in Auto-Tune. I don’t know if there is such thing as good Auto-Tune, but this was definitely bad Auto-Tune. To give you some idea, I would place it somewhere between Rebecca Black’s “Friday” and the Bed Intruder Song. It’s usually a pretty bad sign if the album loses you in the first thirty seconds. The rest of the song does little to win me back.

Alright, 0 for 2. It just seems a little funny, if not embarrassing, to me that Alice Cooper, who will turn 64 in a few months, is writing songs that try to speak to the modern youth and their, yep you guessed it, caffeine addiction. The song is so overly simplistic that the only person who could possibly enjoy this would be a tween who finds the comradery with someone else who has consumed caffeine. It just made me cringe every time the chorus came around to hear him rhyme caffeine with amphetamines, as if it were clever or something.

“The Nightmare Returns”
Out of nowhere, we get a song that I like! It goes back to some pretty eery piano playing and vintage Cooper singing. You know, when he sounds like he is taunting you in that little “come out to play-eeee-ayyy” voice? Yeah, you know. I can’t catch a break though as the song comes to a screeching halt and ends after seventy-five seconds.

“A Runaway Train”
Now, I have occasionally been a fan of some concept albums. However, I think it works better for your music when you have songs with a common thread (a la Sergeant Peppers) instead of a legitimate production with characters and story arcs (a la Mr. Roboto). Here, as advertised, we start getting some characters, some other people talking and a song that feigns some old school rock n’ roll. As if a guy in his sixties isn’t already campy enough, this songs starts pushing boundaries of cheese I didn’t know existed (and not for the last time on the album either). It seems to want to rock out but never fully does.

“Last Man on Earth”
Keeping with the tone of the last song, we get Alice Cooper playing some sort of character. I don’t know what his story but I sure do get sick of him in a big hurry. He dons some “that’s a bituvah crumpit” type of voice to show what a masculine brute the singer is. Mixed in with the accordion a “score” style, this is starting to sound more like a bad high school production of Les Miserables than a rock album.

“The Congregation”
Okay, now I have to confide something that will eventually come out during my tenure with this blog; I am an avid Green Day fan. Fuck you, I am. So maybe it’s just me talking but this song sounds like downright plagierism of the Green Day song, “East Jesus Nowhere” off of their last album. It follows basically the same tune, riffs on the muted power chords during the low parts and even brings in a choir to sing sudden “Hey!”s throughout the verses. I mean I like Green Day but even I am feeling a little embarrassed for Alice Cooper if this is what he is resorting to. Maybe I’m imagining it. You listen to both and be the judge.

“I’ll Bite Your Face Off”
Before I even write this, is there any way in the world that a song with this title could possibly be good? I know it’s Alice Cooper showing how much attitude and taboo he is still capable of, but let’s be serious here. If “Blowin’ in the Wind” had been named “I’ll Bite Your Face Off,” you would have fucking hated it. I just knew it going in. Cooper delivers an overly lustful (ironic for a guy who is probably well into the Viagra years) song that just makes me chuckle every time he sings the chorus (guess what he says). Ironically enough, there is a pretty well executed piano solo about three minutes into the song that gave this album a brief bright spot.

“Disco Boogie Bloodbath Fever”
The wheels are not officially off for the album but we are slowly getting there. For starters, writing a rock song that bashes disco and sings about true rock n’ roll? Could we get a little more cliche? Couldn’t he have picked a topic a little more current; like the disbanding of the Soviet Union? What’s even worse is that he sings the song like one of those Hulk Hogan child rap albums released in the eighties. I realize that it’s supposed to be a joke. The choir chanting “oh no” in the background make that abundantly clear. Still, if I want a laugh, I’m not going to reach for my Alice Cooper album.

“Ghouls Gone Wild”
By now we are nine songs in and I am really starting to get annoyed with my listening experience. Maybe it’s the fact that the four songs leading up to this have been excruciating, but this one actually songs pretty good. Cooper ventures into new territory for both the album and his career, belting out his own version of an eighties pop punk anthem. There is absolutely no edge to it and another tiresome theme, but it actually sounds pretty good. A lone victory for the dwindling release.

“Something to Remember Me By”
Suddenly we have two in a row. After going well out of his comfort zone, he slides right back in to familiar territory. Not so much his pounding stadium rock, but his soft and sometimes unsettling acoustics. My favorite Alice Cooper song has always been “I Never Cry,” and maybe it’s just how much this song reminded me of that one, but I actually enjoyed listening to it. With a decent enough acoustic riff, Cooper does possess an ability to sing these slow songs with a sort of wounded sadness that makes me want to close my eyes and sing along. For my sake, I will not.

“When Hell Comes Home”
After a brief detour, we are back to what constitutes the majority of this album sounds like. It’s a distorted hardcore mash where Cooper does some sort of skit skat talk-sing about murdering his father. No, seriously, the song is about murdering his father. With lyrics like “he’ll be dead as a stone” you’ll get the picture pretty quickly. I should mention at this point that Cooper only sings very few times on this album. What he does the rest of the time, I really can’t call that singing. It’s more like talking rhythmically with tons of “attitude.”

“What Baby Wants”
You know what I was thinking at this point with just three tracks to go? You know what this album really needs? Ke$ha. And who should show up on this track? Yes, sir. All jokes aside, what is Alice thinking here? Like Ke$ha. I know the guy never took himself too seriously and you could draw endless comparisons between the twos over-the-top style and refusal to actually sing on their songs, but still. I won’t see this very often, but, Alice, you’re better than this. The “Whip It” sounding rock imitation beat doesn’t help much either.

“I Gotta Get Outa Here”
Now you’re speaking my language. The song really isn’t bad. I felt the same way about “Something to Remember Me By.” To hear him just strip away all of the gimmicks and characters and all the pork and just have him sing a song is really just refreshing at this point. He’s a pretty simple songwriter but it’s not bad. That is until the choir breaks in with “what part of dead don’t you get?”and Cooper has to carry on the dialogue of a character being unknowingly dragged away to Hell. We were finally getting away from the shlock but then dive head first back in.

“The Underture”
I thought Cooper was just being ironic by having his little show end with something entitled “Underture,” but it quite literally an underture. He gives nearly six minutes of bonafide rock opera. It is actually pretty impressive, pulling in elements of strings, electric guitar, organs and so forth. It actually feels like the most ambitious and, possibly, epic thing that Alice Cooper has ever done. If he had made this the overture and started the album with this, instead of Auto Tune, maybe it would have stood a chance.

There. I took the bullet. What I will say for the album is that it really offers a lot of different styles of songs (hardcore, instrumental, pop punk, acoustic, etc.). It seems that Cooper is finally starting to branch out as he hits his old age and, for that much, I admire him. I know that the album is not meant to be taken seriously for one second. Even when I approached it with low expectations and a laid back attitude, it still managed to make me bury my head in my hands how stupid parts of it got. But what does he care? He’s in the Hall of Fame and just wants to have fun. That’s the best justification I can offer for the unwanted sequel, goofy lyrics and Ke$ha appearance. I’m just not sure how much fun I had.