Friday, September 28, 2012

Alice Cooper - Constrictor

This review is inspired by my returning to school after over a decade of not being able to continue my education. Most of the themes and views on this record are going to reflect my views between the ages of ten and twelve, as well as now. There's also a lot of me in this review, and I cover every song lyrically, to one extent or another.

Constrictor was the first Alice Cooper album that was mine, and not my parents. Neither of my parents have ever heard this album from what I know. I can't say the same about the album that followed this, but I owned it before hand. This album (Constrictor) was released in 1986, but I know I didn't get it until 1989. I believe my mom chose it as a freebie for me when she first signed up for Columbia House. I can't remember what cassette she got for my sister, but I have a nagging feeling it was a Tiffany album.

This was Alice Cooper's first real Metal album, and most of that is thanks to guitarist Kane Roberts. I was only ten at the time and had no clue what this Metal was yet. All I knew was that it was Alice Cooper, and there was this guitar sound that was totally new and unreal to me. Well, that's not entirely true. I've owned a copy of Raise Your Fist And Yell since it first came out in 1987, and it was even more Metal. But, this album is different than that, and like I said, I had no parental influence other than my mom handing me the tape.

If Constrictor was released today, I would want to call it Love Metal. The musicianship is totally Metalesque, especially in an 80's kind of way, but it's more in touch with a romatic side of the world and life. I could totally see HIM covering this entire album, barely altering anything, and making it totally Love Metal. Which brings me to how my views of this album have flipped right around over the years.

In between the ages of ten and twelve I was always grounded to my room. My mother was an out of control Nazi, and was hell bent on grinding me into her subserviant bitch. However, that didn't really matter because I spent most of that time being the "Weird Kid" at a Catholic school in one of the most pretentious areas of the city, so I didn't hang out with many kids. My life was a living hell of loneliness, and if it wasn't for this album along with a handful of other Alice Cooper cassettes I would have taken a flying leap out of my second story window. Metal saves lives.

I picked the CD up pretty early in the 90's. I owned it no later than 1994. But the problem is that I had, and still have, some wounds that run really deep, and this album is directly connected to them. So, even though I had the album, I really didn't listen to it much. I still don't pull it out that often.

However, that brings me to the modern era for me, and my first day of going back to school, and how I put this album on for one specific song and ended up writing a full review.

I decided to go back to school to become a Web Technologies Specialist, which was inspired by time in college for Journalism (1997-1999), where I discovered website design. I have finally (in 2012) said "fuck it, I'm going back to school for this now." I want to be the great Canadian success story, but the song I needed to listen to was The Great American Success Story, which I'll get to later. So, this album went in, and then the power of this album flowed back into me. Along with a bunch of mixed up thoughts, like how my views on ninety percent of these songs has almost completely changed in the twenty-three years since I first got this cassette.

A big lightning strike and a wicked awesome guitar barage open up this album, which then moves into a solid paced Hard Rock riff. Teenage Frankenstein, is a song that is meant to appeal to a younger audience, at least in concept, and as the "Weird Kid" it was kind of a theme song for me. The first verse for example sets up the idea, "I'm the kid on the block / With my head made of rock / And I ain't got nobody / I'm the state of the art / Got a brain a la carte / I make the babies cry / I ain't one of the crowd / I ain't one of the guys / They just avoid me / They run and they hide / Are my colours too bright / Are my eyes set too wide / I spend my whole life / Burning, turning", but the second verse drives home a mentality I still carry to this day. "Got a synthetic face / Got some scars and a brace / My hands are rough and bloody / I walk into the night / Women faint at the sight / I ain't no cutie-pie / I can't walk in the day / I must walk in the night / Stay in the shadows / Stay out of the light / Are my shoulders too wide / Is my head screwed on tight / I spend my whole life / Burning, turning". You can remove the teenage part of the song and it still fits for so many people I know, including myself.

The one song on this album I've never cared for was Give It Up. It's musically decent, and enjoyable, but the lyrical content, is a bit of a bring down, when you want to keep going. "Just when you got it made / And all your bills are paid / You stumble and fall into your grave / Ah, too bad". I just don't need that type of downer, even though it's true. Musically the song is decent, but kind of standard for the time.

Thrill My Gorilla, is one of those songs I don't know how to take. "Sukie honey, weren't you right there with me / I seem to remember chasing you from tree to tree / Those prehistoric nights are coming back to me / We must have been the first / To go down in history / Where were you when the monkey hit the fan / Thrill my gorilla / Where were you when monkey turned to man / Thrill my gorilla / We lay on our skins, original sins / Ah, ah, ah, ah yeah / We touch, we feel / We scream, we squeal / Thrill my gorilla / Thrill my gorilla". Clearly you can't take this song serious, but at the same time you kind of want to. To be honest I would have loved to have heard the Ramones do a cover of this one. This song has their type of vibe to it.

As a kid Life And The Death Of The Party had little to no meaning to me. As an adult I love this song. It's so dark and beautiful. This is truly a Love Metal song, and could easily be Goth Metal, if say Type O Negative had covered it. "You walk into the room, everybody stares / The talking stops, there's a silence there / The room is yours, you own it now / You're in control and everybody down here knows / You got a place in my heart, I don't want you there / But you come and you go, like a millionaire / You take a walk right across my soul / You're in control and everybody down here knows / You're the life and the death of the party / You got my heart right by the throat / You're the life and the death of the party / When the stage lights rise / You start and stop the show / You love me bad, you love me good / You're unimpressed, that's understood / I lost it all, you knew I would / You're in control and everybody down here knows / You're the life and the death of the party / You got my heart right by the throat / You're the life and the death of the party / With your head held high /You start and stop the show / It's just one night / It's just one time / It's just one hotel room / It's just another dream / That can't come true / You're the life and the death of the party / You got my heart right by the throat / You're the life and the death of the party / When the stage lights rise / You start and stop the show". Aside from the part about "being in my heart" and not wanting them there, I would say that this song also reminds me of a certain editor I know, but not in the negative context that it seems to be protrayed here. Like I said this song is Love Metal.

Simple Disobedience is one of those songs that is just as relevant today as it was twenty-five years ago, maybe even more so today. "Now all your complex little schemes that form your master plan / Are scrambled up and that is something you just don't understand / A cyclone of confusion rips right through your holy troops / The very thing that weakens you gives power, gives me juice / And all the hungry outlaws have taken up a stance / Simple disobedience / Yeah, all the hungry outlaws have taken up a stance / Simple disobedience / Take your laser microscope and try to find an answer / No antidote or drug to cure our special strain of cancer / It spreads its revolution wide from cell to cell to cell / Your kingdom's like your body, it dies and goes to hell". Now even with all this raw anger waiting to spill out, it's the guitar work that really makes this song powerful. Kane Roberts' fills, and just general playing is so mean. This was a great way to end side one of the cassette, or vinyl picture album (I still own this one).

The second side starts up with The World Need Guts. This is another song that should be considered a theme for the times. "Hey you! / Crying 'cause your best friend's splattered against the wall Hey you! / Some maniac butcher's tryin' to hack away your balls Oh yeah! / Back 'em off, brother / Oh yeah! / Terminate the mother now / You know you gotta get hard / The world needs guts / The world needs power / Show me some blood / Show me some cuts / Show me some scars / The world needs guts / The world needs us". However, I don't care for this one like I do with Simple Disobedience. I find this song to be a little typically 80's Metal for my liking.

I love songs about S&M, and Alice has always written some of the best. "Tie you up baby, really tight / In a lover's knot / I'm in the mood for my / Leather boots / With the leopard spots / Take you down to my side of town / Where I learned to love / Strap you down, honey / Pet you nice with my velvet glove / You dial my number / So let me take the lead / I'm the man, understand / With the smooth slight of hand / And all the magic you need / T-t-t-t-t trick bag, sit back and just enjoy the show / Burn you with desire / Trick bag, come on and let your body go / Gonna lay it on thick / So the memory'll stick". What's even better about the song Trick Bag, is that musically it was originally He's Back, but when Alice was asked to change the music for the theme song for Friday The 13th Part VI, as per studio request, he kept this really catchy number and altered the lyrics. I'll get to the album version of He's Back, shortly.

Crawlin' is your basic 80's sex song. It's hot, sexy, and more Rock than Metal. "Your dress is hangin' on a hook on the door / My jeans are lying in a pile on the floor, yeah / Flat on my back, tryin' to catch my breath / When we were rockin' tonight / I thought that we were gonna rock to death / But what's that in your eyes? / I'm no longer paralysed / Here we go again / Crawlin', you come crawling to me / I go crawling to you / We come crawling / You come crawling to me / I go crawling to you". It's a great song from a youthful mentality, from my current point of view, I love the music, and chuckle slyly at the lyrics.

The Great American Success Story is the whole reason I started this review today. I don't totally relate to every lyric, but I totally sympathize with the entire song. It's my song of the week this week. "He was born in a depressed nation / Started tough and worked his way right off the street / Thumbed his nose at a graduation / Wheeled and dealed, his education was complete / He's got all his hair, but his life is a wreck / Always been a brat, he don't get no respect / He's got the time, he's got the money / You better get out of his way / You better watch out for him, sonny / Back to school / He's gonna take that plunge / Gonna jump back in there / Back to school / He's gonna shape his mind / Gonna shed old skin there / Back to school / Spent some time in appreciation of finer arts / And the human body mysteries / Scoring high in procreation / Got an 'A' in the study of female anatomy / He thinks about his teacher in his literary class / He's staring at her legs / But he's dreaming 'bout her face / He's got the time / He's got the money / You better get out of his way / You better watch out for him, sonny / Back to school / He's gonna take that plunge / Gonna jump back in there / Back to school / He's gonna shape his mind / Gonna shed old skin there / Back to school" The story behind this song is that apparently it was intended as the theme song to the Rodney Dangerfield film Back to School, but wasn't used, to which I'm thankful. I think this song was too serious for that. In fact this is one of the most serious songs Alice has ever released. There is no tongue in cheek, no twisted content, just pure straight ahead serious content. This song is almost the anti School's Out.

Constrictor ends with He's Back (The Man Behind The Mask). As I already mentioned, this was the theme from Friday The 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. As a kid I loved this song so much more than I do now, and the main reason is due to all the keyboard work on this song. As a kid I thought it was really cool, and I still think it sounds awesome, but now a days I'd much rather hear more guitar instead. The cool part is how well the lyrics sum up the concept of the movie, right down to the "baby." "You're with your baby / And you're parked alone / On a summer night / You're deep in love / But you're deeper in the woods / You think you're doin' alright / Did you hear that voice / Did you see that face / Or was it just a dream / This can't be real / That only happens, babe / On the movie screen / Oh, but he's back / He's the man behind the mask / And he's out of control". I would still love to see Alice perform this song live, because it is wicked cool and the only song from this album he ever breaks out. But, sadly he only breaks it out for the Swedish. That might have something to do with it being a number one hit there, and they didn't even get the movie at the time.

At the end of it all, I really do love this album, but I can respect that it mainly sounds dated, and in the grand scheme of Alice Cooper it's not all that exciting. There's a lot more keyboard work on this album than I care for, and the lyrical content is a bit repetitive. Then again, this was 80's Metal, so what do you expect. I'm not sure if I would suggest this album to anyone except for an Alice Cooper fan, but if you like 80's Metal this could be an album for you too. The best way to sum it up would be Dio (Holy Diver era) meets Motley Crue (pre Dr. Feelgood). If that interests you, check this one out.

7/10 - content

7/10 - production

8/10 - personal bias

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