Friday, June 6, 2014

Music Review - Alice Cooper - Flush the Fashion

Back in the day of my fledgling Alice Cooper discovery (that would be the early 80s) I was able to buy all of the Alice Cooper band albums* as well as his first two solo albums in the glorious format known as cassette tape. After that I had to buy vinyl, currently a trendy hipster format but back then it was a format of last resort, and make a copy on cassette. Such was the case for Flush the Fashion.

In the early 80s there was no internets**, so you had to learn about new albums from radio shows or magazines like Tigerbeat and Guitar Player. There were no streaming album previews so you laid down your money and took your chances and I was totally unprepared for the contents of the four early 80s Cooper albums. Cooper is an innovator of the stage and the persona of the rock star but when it comes to the music, he mostly follows the pack***. Enter producer Roy Thomas Baker, he who has worked with Queen, The Cars, Foreigner and Devo. No doubt, Baker was an uber-hot producer in 1980 and he was wisely chosen to accompany Alice on a musical and personality switch to New Wave. Yessir, gone was the gruesome eye makeup, now replaced with short hair, angular cheek makeup and a choppy, synthesizer-heavy musical style.

But ya know what? It's still pretty good! Out of all his New Wave albums, Flush the Fashion is certainly the best and most even. In my most recent listen I was surprised again and again at how catchy and memorable these songs were. Sure, he used more than his usual share of covers but even these are treated in a Cooper fashion. "Talk Talk", like the entire album**** is light on bass and heavy on razor thin distorted guitars, choppy and energetic. "Clones (We're All)" is the futuristic single about loneliness and dysfunction, sporting a Cars-like lead synth line that will stick in your head. Another fantastic song is "Pain", a piano meets synth song that personifies pain with lines like "I'm the holes in your arm when you're feeling the shakes" and "It's a compliment to me to hear you screaming through the night." Chilling! Where "Pain" is stark and unnerving, "Aspirin Damage" and "Nuclear Infected" are tempered with humor, though both also offer some seriously solid guitar playing compliments of members from Elton John's backing band. Actually most of the songs on the second side incorporate humor though musically there's a reason why they are relegated to the second side.

Flush The Fashion is a much better album than I remember, a sincere attempt to change sound and style. However Dear Alice is soon to fall off the wagon and things go south.

Rank: Quality but not Classic

* With the exception of the Zappa albums.

** At least that were available to common folk.

*** Though I must admit that he has a keen nose for discovering new trends and jumping on before they get worn to the nubs.

**** And the entire recording industry at the time, possibly having to do with sonic limitations of the very popular cassette tape.

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