Dada

Alice Cooper

Warner Brothers Records, 1982

http://www.alicecooper.com

REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/19/2001

Shocking...before I even listened to this album, I assumed it would follow in the footsteps of the other inconsistent early 80's releases by Alice Cooper, but no! This is a hidden gem...the ultimate Alice Cooper cult album! And I say cult because very few people have bought or listened to this album...despite its high quality, it was totally ignored by consumers upon its release in 1983...along with Special Forcesand Zipper Catches Skin (the two previous studio works), this album was a complete commercial failure. I guess the mainstream was so sick of the uneven material in addition to the unpredictable genre hopping and strange image makeovers that characterized the previous few years, that they didn't want to give this album a chance, which is a total shame, for Dada unexpectedly turns out to be one of Cooper's finest albums, and his best 80's record by light years.

Anyways, first of all, the sound and production are excellent, as well as the song writing, and I'm sure the fact that Alice got Bob Ezrin once again to produce this record had a lot to do with it...it's all very fresh, interesting stuff, and the old Alice is back here, growling and actually even singing again!

Ezrin also brought back the multi-instrumental bombast that he's so good at, this time incorporating heavy use of electronic equipment like synths, keyboards, and sequencers, but it is used very well without being cheesy (unlike Special Forces). There isn't actually any live drumming on this album at all; it's all done with programmed beats and drum machines, but it surprisingly sounds fine. The punk rock leanings of the last few albums are completely gone, and even though it's not a "soft" sounding album, you won't find any hard guitar rock here at all.

Even the creepy, dark subject matter which we loved and missed has returned! Definitely the darkest, eeriest album since Welcome To My Nightmare...in fact I would go so far as to say that this is the undiscovered 1980's version of that classic 70's Cooper milestone.

Alice tackles very broad territory here lyrically, with the lyrics being superbly written, oozing with the sarcastic, dark humoured cynicism, clever wordplay with double meanings, oblique observations from society's edge, witty parody, and unsettling gothic horror that he is known for. The first song, "Dada" is pretty much a creepy gothic sounding instrumental song using virtually only electronic instruments...pretty cutting edge for 1983, and it makes quite the ominous prelude to the rest of the album with a heartbeat style ummm, beat, and distorted echoey drum smashes along with a cheesy horror movie style electronic organ melody while buried in the background you can hear a strange conversation between Alice, who sounds like an old man, and what I think is Bob Ezrin, pretending to be some kind of therapist...nutty, wouldn't ya say?

"Enough's Enough" is a pretty bitter stab by Alice towards a father figure...I'm assuming that he's portraying a character because in the interviews I've seen, he's always spoken highly about his own dad. Could he be revisiting Steven, the twisted character central to Welcome To My Nightmare's theme? Who knows? It's quite a lovely song, with a unique kind of stop-start feel to the guitar riffs and interesting drumming, which is strange since usually drum machines tend to be very monotonous. I love the theatrical sounding choruses...great melodies and production giving it the necessary feel of grandeur. Very dark lyrics.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

"Former Lee Warmer" is a dark, scary ballad (hmmm, is there a trend here?). For me, this is the standout track of the album, and one of the finest of Alice's career. I've always loved Alice's soft ballads, but I really wish he wrote more darker sounding ballads like this one. His vocals and personality absolutely shine on this track. And as if the awesome creepy melody wasn't enough, the instrumentation and arrangements are godly; there is so much variety just within this one song, with a tinkling piano, appropriate use of keyboards, synthesized (but not hokey sounding) flutes and horns, acoustic guitar, a bit of electric riffing around the solo, and timpani! The diversity of this intricately composed song is amazing, and worthy of being in a fine stage musical. The haunting melody and twisted lyrics about an incapacitated old man who's totally reliant on others are bound to make a lasting impression on the listener...Alice's songwriting hadn't been this strong in years.

"No Man's Land" is a very strange, yet hilarious song about a psychotic killer who works as a mall Santa during the day. I'll tell ya, leave it up to Alice to come up with stuff like this! "Scarlet and Sheba" sees our loveable ghoulish storyteller back in sleaze mode as he shares with us a fine tale of decadence about having a threesome with two dominatrixes. Once again, the dynamics of the music are fantastic. Mechanical sounding beats and a mesmerizing Eastern flavoured electronic melody will transport you straight into a Turkish harem, while the verses and choruses sound like theatrical dance pop, if you can imagine that!

I know I said before that "Former Lee Warmer" may be the album highlight, but it would certainly have to share that light with "I Love America". The sheer brilliance of this parody of the typical culture of middle class America cannot be conveyed strongly enough. (Sample lyrics: "I love that mountain with those four big heads / I love Velveeta slapped on Wonderbread / I love a commie...if'n he's good and dead, yup / I love America / I love Old Glory and homemade pie / I think them Russkies should be sterilized / I love my chicken Kentucky Fried / ...Finger Lickin' Good! / I love America".)

Now, if you laughed just reading that, Alice's performance will have you howling. He sounds like a white trash redneck! At one point between verses he does a remarkable imitation of the stereotypical hustling used car salesman on your local TV station. And about halfway through, the song takes a sharp left turn by going into a version of the "Battle Hymn Of The Republic", complete with cowboys and Indians sound effects. As you can clearly see, when he's hot he functions at a level much higher than we're used to seeing in mainstream rock. Simply genius.

"Fresh Blood" is also quite neat, a poppish, almost Duran Duran style funky keyboard tune (complete with extensive female backup singing) about a vampire in the big city...I could just picture the video for this song if they had made one, with Alice stalking the streets at night with a typical 80's hair style (mullet of course!), and wearing a short sleeved blazer with huge shoulder pads and a skinny tie!

Dada ends with the depressing "Pass The Gun Around", a morbid tale and regretful look at wasteful lifestyles, from dawn to dusk alcoholism (Alice himself was suffering a major relapse at the time this album was recorded), non-stop television watching, spending money on useless things, to one night stands.

This is Alice Cooper's unknown classic. The subject matter explored within is all the more disturbing due to Alice's own breakdown during this period. It's dark, surreal and deadly close to biographical. The whole album blends beautifully and is incredibly well produced. The songs are all strong, and the music is very inventive and diverse from beginning to end. Real eccentric and creepy too. Even the synthesized tracks have a great punch which had been lacking in his previous few albums.

Unfortunately, this lost treasure is destined to remain one of those hugely overlooked classics of our time, unless you, the reader, decide to make a difference! Dada ranks as one of the funniest, scariest, enjoyable, and amazing albums I own and it would make a great introduction to Alice Cooper for anyone not too familiar with his work, especially since it would be his last good album until the mid 90's. Dada is one disc that honestly deserves to finally be given the spotlight. Definitely do not pass it up.

Rating: A-

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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.