By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Photo by Elliot HolcekerALICE COOPER The Life and Crimes of Alice Cooper (Warner Archives/Rhino)
When "I'm Eighteen" hit the airwaves at the end of 1970, I was 19, but I could relate. Like the song said, I didn't know what I wanted, except maybe to drive well-adjusted humans from my presence, a purpose for which the music of Alice Cooper was ideally suited. I first heard the rocking horror of Love It to Death, Alice's breakthrough album, at my one-year high school reunion, where I ended up in a bathtub full of beer cans and ice -- a precise metaphor for the next 20 years of my life.
For a few seasons, Alice was on my shoulder like a guardian demon. His violence-packed Killer blasted away the "Heart of Gold" and "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" crap that was lilting from every dorm window at my Spokane college in 1971. Killer came out the very month that an LSD-crazed local, fresh from taking a sledgehammer to the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, used a rifle to slay a janitor in my campus church, then got himself gunned down by cops on its steps as I walked to lunch two blocks away. The next album was School's Out -- a title I interpreted by procuring liquor for underage collegians. Billion Dollar Babies arrived just in time for me, as campaign manager for a friend, to blare its nihilistic "Elected" as our theme for the student-body-president race. Donning Alice-inspired Uncle Sam garb, I enlisted flag-waving dancing girls who shot me with red-loaded water pistols as I screamed promises of free beer to the masses. We lost. I graduated magna cum laude and became a dishwasher. In 1974 I moved to Hollywood, a burg packed with establishments similar to the "Institute of Nude Wrestling" pictured on Alice's sleaze-themed Muscle of Love, which had just been issued.
Listen to: Alice Cooper Real Audio Format Poison Under My Wheels You Drive Me Nervous
Then Alice and I began to drift apart. Mainly this was because Alice had drifted from his band. The noisy, musically eclectic geeks he'd grown up with were replaced by slick twiddleheads such as Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter, the very dudes already responsible for luring Lou Reed into corporate-rock slavery. Almost as bad, Alice began singing romantic ballads -- though I had to admit "I Never Cry" was about as pretty and poignant as pop music gets.
Till now I had stopped listening to Alice almost entirely, and the evidence on the second half of the whimsically packaged four-CD box Life and Crimes suggests I didn't miss much: session-whore rock, blimpish social commentary, attempts to impersonate Brecht and Elvis and Winger, more and more infuriatingly competent ballads. Thanks to Cooper's versatile rasp and unflagging professionalism, the selections are rarely awful, and there are a few amusing moments of binge-rock ("Serious," 1978), soundtrack creep ("Prince of Darkness," 1987) and magnificent songcraft ("Poison," 1989). But, fuck, this was the monster of my youth, and here he is, nakedly revealed as a sober time-server in the cause of prepackaged rebellion. Toothless. When he used to be more than a show. I thought.
But then, I was a kid. And if all this doesn't sound much like a review, I guess it isn't. It's just an attempt to show how subjective the reactions to a reissue box can be. Alice Cooper has managed to grab a succession of largely non-overlapping audiences over 30-some years -- an undeniable achievement. Problem is, most of the potential buyers of Life and Crimes will be completely indifferent to big chunks of it, or they'll hate what I love and vice versa. Four individual Cooper CDs of their choice will be a way better buy.
One more thing, since the times demand it: No, Alice Cooper didn't make me antisocial; he was just there to act out the alienation I already felt, and to scoff at the hypocrisy I already hated. Like Marilyn Manson, really. Only one thing scares me about 18-year-olds now. They seem to know what they want.
COOL BREEZE East Points Greatest Hit (Organized Noize/A&M)
Straight outta Hotlanta in a busted-ass Oldsmobile, a hardscrabble rube wants to take us on a tour of the "dirty South." Thank the Lord, 'cause after endless servings of Yo! MTV Rapsstyle braggadocio, constant hyping of the pimp lifestyle, the fizzled-out East Coast/West Cost beef and hip-hop artists no longer distinguishable from clothing lines, it's refreshing to savor the simple pleasures of a Cool Breeze.
Flexing his Southern pride at every opportunity but never at the expense of other scenes, Cool Breeze (a.k.a. Frederick Calhoun) catalogs every street corner in his East Point hood with the precision of a tenured ghetto folklorist (special props to Waffle House). But this clearly isn't enough to win him the rap world's esteem, which for now seems just beyond his reach -- the specter of major Atlanta playas like Goodie Mob and OutKast are the local standard he can't help but measure himself against. But that's apples and oranges, or hamhocks and grits, 'cause Breeze is a rhymesmith with a treasure chest of unique-as-fuck beats and styles.