Once you're nearing your fourth decade as a recording artist, your audience has every reason to expect you will never again make an album that hits the ball out of the park 13 out of 13 times. Hell, they'll be happy if you lumber around the bases even once like you mean it.
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So it comes as no small shock to find Alice Cooper back at the top of his game -- and we don't mean VH1's Fairway to Heaven. By assembling his best two-guitar assault since Bruce and Buxton made six-strings sound like school detention bells, and by insisting every rhythm track was recorded live, the Coop has scored a coup with The Eyes of Alice Cooper, his hardest rocking opus since the demise of the original group back in the Mesozoic era. Punch up any track on this digital baby -- the motor city tribute with MC5 brother Wayne Kramer or the Beatlesque single "Novocain," for instance -- and try imagining it didn't originate on a moss green Warner Brothers label.
While this album lacks the thematic cohesion of Billion Dollar Babies or the menace of Killer, it does recapture those albums' lighter moments, when Alice was the lovable schlub getting bitten by dogs and punched by reverends. "What Do You Want From Me" finds him wooing a lassie with QVC junk and a promise to burn all his porno. Undeterred, he further vies for the loser-of-love title on "Bye Bye Baby," on which a jet-setting femme fatale rejects him in three time zones.
Since the new school of rock is serving up the kind of hot lunches he used to, Cooper's more than willing to pilfer the Vines one-hit wonder riff for "Between High School and Old School" or snarl like Johnny Rotten on "Man of the Year." Even his obligatory Halloween number, "This House Is Haunted" seems fresher.
So if you've felt that Alice's last outings were more adroit than Detroit, might I suggest removing disk four of your Alice Cooper boxed set (so long "Hey Stoopid," Slash cameos and multiple versions of "He's Back") and shove The Eyes of Alice Cooper in its place. And tell disk two it's next!