Thursday, June 4, 2015

"School's Out" by Alice Cooper (July, 1972)

Dad's Take:

I like Alice Cooper as much as the next guy my age, but I have to admit, I was surprised to find him on our list. It's almost like the schlock of his act is being taken seriously. Not that that's a bad thing. Thing is, he's fun, and he did some pretty good songs.

It's funny that this one follows Bowie in the list, because Alice Cooper is, in many ways, the dark side of the Bowie coin. It's really clear when you listen to the two albums back to back. Alice Cooper emphasizes the male posturing and the projection of danger, where Bowie lets the feminine side of rock and roll out of the closet, but Alice still hides his strut behind a Bowie-like androgeny, only less pretty. The second song on the album, "Luney Tune," even reminds me a bit of "Suffragette City" and explores some of the same themes as Bowie does with his Ziggy Stardust alter-ego. Also like Bowie, Alice Cooper helps to usher in the weird cheeseball that was the last 2/3 of the seventies.

The stand-out tune on this album is no surprise. "School's Out" was a huge hit. Even those of us who liked school were sucked in by those dorky lyrics of rebellion, the anthem for the end of the last day of school for the rest of the decade. "My Stars" and "Public Animal No. 9" are vintage Alice as well.

This album doesn't take itself too seriously, and yet it pushes the limits in its own way. The Marilyn Manson of my generation comes off as a comic book character now, but at the time, he actually scared people with his act, like Manson would later. But behind it all was a highly image-conscious performer who understood how to commercialize his image, and who had a tight band to help him do it.

This isn't straight-up rock. The music is surprisingly creative. Just check out the instrumental break of the Broadway parody "Gutter Cat vs. the Jets," a song that always makes me laugh. That's followed by the Batman-like (the sixties version) music of the "Street Fight" between those gutter-cats (there are even meow sound effects) and the Jets. West Side Story goes rock, and it's funny and weird and entertaining.

The rest of the album is like that. Seventies hard rock meets Broadway show tunes, with some surprising instrumental bits that are inspired as much by Fosse as they are by Ozzy, even when they rock. It's corny, schlocky, cheesy, stupid, smart, bombastic, dorky, subtle as a stubbed toe, and a whole lot of fun.

A classic? Sure, why not? It illustrates the period when it was made very nicely, and isn't just another cookie-cutter rock album.

Brad's Take:

Alice Cooper is one of the most well known classic metal guys around. I immediately recognize him when I see him in a magazine or on TV. He's just one of those house hold names. He was like the Marilyn Manson of the 70s. But listening to his album School's Out, I came to the realization that I don't really understand why he is so popular anymore. I only know (and like) just one of his songs. At least from this particular album.

"School's Out" is probably the only song I could ever name off the top of my head, before (and after) listening to this album. That song was the only one that stood out to me across this whole album. Maybe because it's the only one I knew, or maybe because it was the only one I enjoyed, but something about this album just didn't do it for me. I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that it didn't sound any different than the other "stoner metal" from around this era, like Black Sabbath, but with a dash of David Bowie's weird experimental spacey stuff. Despite only recognizing one of the tracks, I felt like I had listened to this album a dozen times already.

I really don't have much else to say about it. Nothing surprised me, except for the fact that this album even made the list of "classic albums." It must only be because of the massive title track. Unless I'm completely missing something and it just went over my head. 

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