Alice Cooper – Dirty Diamonds

I’ve done films, I’ve done books and I’ve done gigs. It’s about time I reviewed an album! Radio 2’s album of the week is Alice Cooper’s “Dirty Diamonds”. Stylistically it’s a follow-up to “The Eyes of Alice Cooper” but there’s so much difference between the two that Alice can hardly be accused of being unoriginal. After the darkness of “Brutal Planet” and “Dragontown”, Alice seems to be going in a more light-hearted direction. Dramatic ballads and death metal cautionary tales found themselves replaced in “The Eyes…” with driving, punkish rockers and ballads that were a mix of the affectionate and the creepy. “Dirty Diamonds” goes one step further, going back to the themes of the early albums, when “Alice Cooper” was a band as well as a man. Hard, garage blues rockers tell comically tall tales of decadence and pop-ballads are used to lampoon everything in sight, from “Perfect” (a song about shower-cubicle superstardom) to “The Saga of Jesse Jane” (the first-person ballad of a transvestite murderer).

The hard rockers rock as hard as they need to, and the orchestration on the title track gives it a wonderful ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ feel. Better still, the ballads are back to the comic-book creepy Alice Cooper of old – those days before macabre chills gave way to a preachy edge in “The Last Temptation”. From “The Eyes…” the writers (Alice, the band and various friends) have kept a great talent for instantly recognisable hooks and lyrics that border on poetic genius with a streak of Milliganesque madness:

“She’s an overnight sensation in the mirror on her wall.
She gets a standing ovation at every shower curtain call.”

Even when doing creepy or affectionate, the lyrics are spot on and a joy to listen to again and again.

Although the photography in the cover booklet is brilliant, there is an unfortunate feel to the way it’s put together. The back photo of the jewel case and the sleeve have a strange sense of being knocked together like a cheap compilation album – don’t let it fool you that this is a reflection on the music. The production may be deliberately grungy, but that’s never allowed to bring down the tracks that need a certain amount of perfectionism – this album never wastes an opportunity and manages to marry a garage sound with musical complexity.

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~ by Scary Rob on 6 July, 2005.

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