Album review: Alice Cooper, Dirty Diamonds (2005)

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, AUG. 18, 2005

By Steve Newton

The shrink-wrap sticker on Dirty Diamonds claims “this is the classic sound of Alice Cooper!”, but that’s what they said about the ’70s shock-rock pioneer’s previous CD, 2003’s pointless The Eyes of Alice Cooper.

The classic sound of Cooper is what he was doing between 1971 and ’73, when he released a string of albums–Love It to Death, School’s Out, Killer, Billion Dollar Babies, and Muscle of Love--which have rarely been equalled in terms of guitar-rock musicianship and subversive songwriting. Sure, at the time the Coop was doing his best to drink the Budweiser brewing corporation dry, but his booze- and drug-addled band still managed to deliver dynamic dual-guitar backdrops for his cheeky, antisocial rants.

Whether due to his habitual self-abuse or not, Cooper totally lost the ability to make amazing albums in the mid-’70s, so I wasn’t expecting much from his latest. But then the bass-and-drum buildup of Dirty Diamonds‘ opening track, “Woman of Mass Distraction”, leads into the kind of simplistic yet memorable riff-mongering the original Alice Cooper Band displayed on radio hits like “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and lesser-known ditties such as “Raped and Freezing”. “I’m a shock-rock Romeo, I like to leave ’em shattered,” sings Cooper on the track, establishing that the mascara-adorned codger’s raspy vocal style has lost much of its potency.

On the follow-up track, the poppy and lyrically lame “Perfect”, he switches gears vocally, going for a super-clean, Beatlesque approach. “She can shake it just like J-Lo when the bedroom lights go down,” croons the Coop, “but when she hits the dance floor she’s a hip-hop hippo clown”.

I preferred it when he’d ruminate on madness, suicide, and having unprotected sex with the dead.

By the third song, “You Make Me Wanna”, it’s clear that Cooper’s current guitarists, young guns Ryan Roxie and Damon Johnson, aren’t above tossing in licks that reference the tones of original ACB pickers Glen Buxton and Michael Bruce. But that number, and the title track that follows, are formulaic, forgettable boogiers.

Things pick up again with “The Saga of Jesse Jane”, a comical cross-dressing throwback to Killer’s gunslinger epic, “Desperado”. Unfortunately, nothing afterward is nearly as interesting, and throwaway tunes like “Steal That Car” and “Your Own Worst Enemy” leave you pitying the poor Coop, who makes a desperate attempt to connect with today’s youth by including a bonus track featuring rapper Xzibit.

How the mighty have fallen.

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