Dirty Diamonds

Alice Cooper

New West Records, 2005


REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl


Alice Cooper, the now 57-year-old shock rock legend, continues his blistering output with Dirty Diamonds, his fourth album of new material in only five years and 24th studio disc overall. It has received favorable reviews so far, and while I don't think it's quite as strong as some of his recent releases, I do see it as a pretty solid continuation of his songwriting abilities.

Unfortunately, however, the bulk of the guitar riffs and chord sequences are far too generic by Alice's usual standards, even though some contain great hooks that are very catchy. I'll admit that stuff like "Woman Of Mass Distraction" is a run-of-the-mill and a DUMB example of cock rock which he normally doesn't stoop to -- but months before the album came out, Cooper mentioned that he had written an "AC/DC-style tribute," and in that sense I guess he succeeded, though it's not a style that suits him. Alice Cooper just doesn't sound natural when he sings stupid songs like that.

On a related note, his lyrics are pretty average throughout the album. He recently explained that he's fond of writing "absurdities based on strange people and behaviors in society," and while there are moments here and there that show some of his quirky sense of humor and keen observations on society, the lyrics just aren't as clever or witty as normal, a place Cooper rarely falters.

"Perfect" is intended as a Beatle-esque pop song with Stonesy guitars but is not particularly memorable, while "You Make Me Wanna" is also on the uninspired side - it's an "Under My Wheels" knock-off with boring riffs and annoying verses. The "woo-hoo-hoo" bit in the chorus is pretty dumb too; I understand that he wanted to re-capture his early '70s sound, but nothing he did back then was this bland.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Another one I'm not so crazy about is "Run Down The Devil," which, although certainly catchy in parts, sounds like a Dragontown leftover with its jarringly downtuned riffs that don't appear anywhere else on the disc. "Your Own Worst Enemy" is also a bit on the blah side of things in terms of riffs and arrangements, though like most of the songs, at least the chorus is memorable.

But like any Cooper album, there are plenty of gems to be found. Despite the main riff's striking similarity to "Paranoid" and a main chorus that sounds kind of sneeringly silly, the title track chugs along nicely, and you gotta love those antiquated '60s spy movie muted sax blasts paired with flutes in the middle section! If only there was more of that sort of stuff going on.

The highlight of the album, "The Saga Of Jesse Jane," is fantastic, and is the one song on the album that I can't stop listening to over and over. Every Alice album has one or two really bizarre musical novelties, and this is the song this time around. I'd mark it as one of his career highlights. "Steal That Car" is a great, energetic ear candy of a rocker, while "Pretty Ballerina" is a very apt choice for a cover. It's a gorgeous song (I had never heard the original by The Left Banke before this), with its eccentric psychedelic melody, plinking harpsichord, and flute solo. Yet for some reason, most Alice fans have been trashing this song as a terrible addition to Dirty Diamonds. I just don't understand that at all -- it sounds like a natural companion piece to the Steven suite on Welcome To My Nightmare, though hardcore purists of the original Alice Cooper band don't like anything Alice related beyond 1973, so their opinions are invalid.

There's also the sad blues ballad called "Six Hours," another musical surprise. and the first single, "Sunset Babies All Got Rabies." And how about the wonderful "Zombie Dance"? The smoky, southern, swampy atmosphere is yet another sound that he's never tackled before, and I think it turned out great. The album closer, "Stand," features rap superstar Xzibit. This is another track that has been consistently derided in reviews as a sad example of Alice Cooper desperately stooping to enlisting a popular hip-hop name to appeal to a younger audience, but in reality the producers of the Official Soundtrack of the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece simply asked a whole bunch of music stars to contribute vocals to to the songs they had written for the album, whose gimmick was that all the songs feature an odd pairing of musical artists.

A weaker effort overall than usual, but considering how much wonderful music Cooper's given us recently, I'm not about to judge him too harshly for a few missteps here and there.

Rating: B

User Rating: B+


© 2005 Roland Fratzl and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of New West Records, and is used for informational purposes only.