Flush The Fashion

Alice Cooper

Warner Brothers Records, 1980

http://www.alicecooper.com

REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/15/2001

Before I get down to the nitty gritty on this album, let me first share with you a theory that I have, a theory that quite a few people seem to agree on. Now that we are at the beginning of the 21st century, we can look back and it seems that despite the 1980's yielding a lot of great music, it also seems to be a decade in which more total crap was created than at any other point, disturbingly enough by most veteran bands and artists.

It seems that just about every great rock band that rose to prominence in the 70's started to change their sound and image to stay up to date with the times, but for some reason, in 99% of the cases, the music didn't just suffer, but it became downright awful, which is very bizarre considering these bands put out great quality music year after year, album after album, throughout the 70's, and unfortunately, Alice Cooper was no exception... I guess at some point the well has to run dry, especially after such a long string of great records spanning nearly a decade, so it seems oddly prophetic that above the title of Flush The Fashion it says: "Alice Cooper '80"...take it as a warning.

Flush The Fashion is also the first of a quad of "cult" albums by Alice: all of these early 80's albums were total commercial failures, yet they contain a number of undiscovered gems. So, first of all, he once again got himself a bunch of new back up musicians but these guys just don't have quite the same technical or songwriting talent as his previous backing musicians. The production is not too bad, but it's a bit tinny with not enough low end, and doesn't have nearly the same depth of layered sound as before. Overall it feels like a much thriftier work than past releases.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

He also noticeably changed his image with this album for the first time since the late 60's I'd say. Gone was the shock ghoul horror look, and he replaced it with a very typical early 80's look, with the short hair and subtle makeup to look more androgynous, which many bands at the time seemed to be doing at the time (painful memories everyone? Ok, insert collective groan here.), and he also started to wear a lot of military clothes...I think my brother summed it up best when he said that Alice looked like Adam Ant during this period! Of course, with such a drastic change in image, obviously the musical style changed as well...that means disco was out, new wave was in.

Yup, you got it: in a nutshell that means poppier melodies accompanied by prominent use of cheesy, cheap sounding keyboards (which I guess were high tech back then...man I feel old!), synthesizers, and drum machines for an over-all colder, more mechanical feel...and on much of the songs, Alice sounds very emotionless, like a robot (goes with the military look I guess). Like I said, very 80's.

Commercially, this album didn't do too horribly, but I think that's because it was still coasting on the success of From The Inside before people realized the big change here. "Clones (We're All)" was a small hit, but this is the one that had his fans crying sell-out, with it's typical of the time totally cheesy-yet-funny-enough-to-be-interesting-and-cool A-ha style keyboard riff. I think it's a great song and it's easily the best one on this album...kinda reminds me actually of Gary Numan's hit "Cars", which came out a year earlier.

You know, upon first exposure I really didn't like Flush The Fashion, but on further listens and despite the big change in style to a sort of post punk new wave sound, this album isn't bad at all. The melodies are very catchy and well developed, and some of the songs are so strange that it's actually quite enjoyable upon further listens. Just listen to such bizarre punky-rock-dance-pop nuggets as "Grim Facts", "Model Citizen", "Headlines" (a hilarious stab at the pursuit of celebrity), and the truly strange "Aspirin Damage" (which I'm surprised he didn't get sued over). This is also the first album since the 1969 debut Pretties For You on which Alice abandons his gut-wrenching growl and does a weird sort of talk-singing.

I still think the stripped down arrangements and tinny 80's production are not up to Alice's standards however. Most "hip" bands at the time adopted the punk aesthetic of everything having to be bare bones minimalist to be more "authentic", and I guess Alice felt the need to adapt himself to this new mentality in order to remain relevant. He was living on borrowed time though because this album yielded his last minor hit song ("Clones") until that godawful Trash album 9 years later. It's a very decent entry in his extensive discography, but I certainly don't recommend it as a starting point.

Rating: B-

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© 2001 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 Warner Brothers Records, and is used for informational purposes only.