Welcome 2 My Nightmare
Bigger Picture, 2011
REVIEW BY: Ken DiTomaso
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/23/2011
There’s something to be said for first impressions, and I must confess, rarely do I have a first reaction to an album as negatively as this one. The album’s low points are so glaring and distracting that they completely overshadowed my initial reaction to this album, and I was ready to write it off as the worst thing that Alice has done in a long time. However, my first impressions were somewhat misguided and this album does have just enough good material to recommend it.
So, a little background: In case you couldn’t figure it out by its (ridiculous) title, this album is the official sequel to Cooper’s classic concept album Welcome To My Nightmare. It marks the long awaited return of famed producer and collaborator Bob Ezrin to Cooper’s music. I say “official sequel” because Cooper’s conceptual follow-up Goes To Hell (released in ‘76) felt like a sequel in spirit, taking aspects of the first and expanding and changing them with a different theme but similar style, whereas Welcome 2’s sequel qualities feel pretty forced. The majority of the tracks have nothing to do with the concept, and the handful that do go way overboard on call-backs to the original (which generally utilize the recurring “Steven” theme). Similar to Cooper’s reunion with Ezrin, the surviving members of the original Alice Cooper band (Dennis Dunaway, Neal Smith and Michael Bruce), as well as his late ‘70s guitarist Dick Wagner, have returned to collaborate on several of these songs. They do a fine job and boost the ‘70s rock vibe that many of these tracks go for. After all these years, they feel somewhat more faceless than they used to, but no matter, their presence is still very much welcome.
Unfortunately, this album is almost ruined by a handful of absolutely abysmal tracks. “What Baby Wants” features none other than modern pop anti-sensation Ke$ha. To say that this song is bad is a major understatement. If by some miracle of nature her voice and public persona don’t make you want to kill yourself, the lyrics she sings surely will. Cooper and Ezrin add in a whole bunch of modern touches in the production such as an ugly auto-tuned bridge, and they just make the track more obnoxious than it already was. I can virtually guarantee that Ke$ha and Cooper’s fanbases do not overlap; nobody interested in Alice Cooper will like Ke$ha’s parts and nobody who likes Ke$ha would have ever bought this album in the first place. So why does it even exist at all?
The other lowlight, “Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever,” is almost worse. Partly a disco parody and partly a take on modern “club” music, it annoys on almost every front. The second Alice begins to sing-speak (I hesitate to say “rap”) the verses “Here you are / In the club / With your bottle / Full of Bud / You've got grill / You got bling / But player you don't know a thing,” I reflexively reach for the skip button. It’s utterly loathsome and fails both as a parody and as a song.
“The Nightmare Returns” seems to be a direct rip on “Years Ago,” but it’s only a minute long and it’s not awful, so it can stick around. “The Underture” haphazardly slaps instrumental themes from this album and the original together, handily demonstrating how much melodically weaker the new melodies are from the old ones. It feels much more like an overture-type album opener than a reprise-based closer, and it ends the album on an underwhelming note in spite of its grandiosity. However, taken on its own, it’s still a fun medley.
Thankfully, most of the rest of the album is actually fairly good. “Caffeine,” “A Runaway Train,” and “The Congregation” are great rockers, featuring that ‘70s vibe that Cooper is so good at delivering. “Ghouls Gone Wild” and “Last Man On Earth” add some positive diversity to the album, being Coop’s take on surf rock and show-tunes respectively. Both work great and are among the best tracks on the album. “Something To Remember Me By” is as solid a ballad as any he’s done. Most of the other tracks don’t do much in the way of memorability and reek of Cooper-by-numbers, but they’re enjoyable while they’re on so I can’t fault them too much. Even “I Am Made Of You” which begins as an auto-tuned nightmare turns out to be a decent song if you can just get past that embarrassing sound effect.
Welcome 2 My Nightmare is a maddeningly inconsistent album. Its diversity works both for and against it. Most people will find something to both really like and really hate among these tracks. As a sequel it utterly fails, but as an inclusion into Cooper’s late output, it does a fair job. Just keep away from those dance songs at all costs.