#15    SUMMER 2003



Why Not Start With Links?

(www.markprindle.com)) Queequeg gave you this link last ish but that was months ago so here it is again in case you didn't click on it. Mark Prindle rules. He and Andrew Earles are the best. Even I, Dolman the Great, am merely in third place. The interview archive is almost as good as the review archive -- somehow Prindle actually got King Buzzo to give three or four straight answers in his interview, instead of the usual zero -- and the non-straight answers are some of Buzz's most hilarious yet.

Oh, and Andrew Earles can be found at failedpilot.com. Buy some of those back issues of Cimarron Weekend while they last. No, you have to. I stress the word "have." It is, how you say, imperative? Please. Here's the link again: failedpilot.com. (Waitaminnit, this just in, props MUST also be given to Earles's Cimarron Weekend cohort Dave Dunlap! This is guy is just as good! Maybe even better! But as far as I know he has no wordage on the web. Yet another reason to get those back issues.)

More rockwriter links: There's J. Niimi, who's like the new Greil Marcus, in a way that you actually want to read. And of course Blastitude contributing partier Chris Sienko. Oh, and Jay Hinman has got a blog now. I've actually been reading Simon Reynolds's blog lately, and actually getting a lot of info out of it, and although his Wire-y style still grates it's at least more casual when he's blogging. Another Wire guy with a blog is Ian Penman -- in the stodgy Wire his style is pretty refreshing, but as a blog makes almost no sense to me at all. Oh, and on Hinman's blog, try and find a link he has to a some Australian guy's blog, where he talks about the Royal Trux albums one-by-one. Makes you wanna spin some Trux . . . then there's Aaron Burgess, music journalist, family man. He's a little tougher nut to crack than all these other class clowns, more the clean-cut wiseacre from the FBLA, but he does write reviews of Arab on Radar, and his son is cute.

The Official Hip Hop Lyric Archive: ohhla.com.

A great Alice Cooper biography! At :

J. Hischke writes in: "My nomination for the best site on the web. Just try to beat it. http://www.michaelkelly.fsnet.co.uk/karl.htm

Let's see, I grew up in an Iowa farm community, where my tastes were considered "adventurous" just because I bothered to read the Artist Top Tens in the Rolling Stone Year-End Special Issues. I first heard of Naked City and Godflesh when Mike Patton listed their albums in those pages, so I went out and bought both of 'em, which sent me and apparently two or three thousand other nerds off to a collegiate lifestyle that consists of reading about tons of records, and then buying tons of records, and then, while maybe listening to a tiny fraction of the records you just bought, reading about tons more records, and then buying those, and then, while maybe listening to 'em . . . you get the idea.
       A lot of artists put lists of records they think you should buy right on the liner notes of their album, like John Zorn did with Naked City's Radio album. Let me just say I was once grateful that Mike Patton introduced me to John Zorn, but now I really regret it. Like, "Damn, I wish I hadn't met that crack dealer when I was 15." Cuz when the drug in question is 'academic composition and improvisation" disguised as "a way for the consumer to consider himself different than/ahead of the herd while still being a total consumer," you just get led down a multi-colored primrose listen-but-don't-touch path of pre-arranged non-conformity straight to getting stuck in a really quiet bog where nothing ever happens. Except listening to weird saxophone playing while reading 'faves' lists by other 'non-conforming' artists.
Which is why I mention that, "Every Friday, Dusted Magazine publishes a series of music-related lists determined by our favorite artists." This project has already yielded voluminous results, which revise Warhol's Maxim to read, "In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes and/or have a 'faves' list published in some sort of magazine, most likely on the internet." Now that everyone's doing it, a lot of them aren't gonna be that interesting, or just tell you things you already knew, but Dusted has gotten enough interesting underground-lurking characters to do it that you're bound to spend some time there. And, you will get LOTS of ideas for records to buy. (I mean borrow, burn, or steal.)
      Don't miss the outright pretentiously ecstatic list by Comets on Fire mainman Ethan Miller, the intellectually terrifying one by the leader of Men's Recovery Project, and the "fuckin' killer" one by Aaron Dilloway from Wolf Eyes/Hanson Records, one of the most 'rock' pieces of 'rock writing' I've ever read that wasn't by Bangs, Meltzer, or in Cimarron Weekend. Oh, and just 'cause I gave Headdress by Sunburned Hand of the Man a lukewarm review elsewhere in this ish doesn't mean I didn't get a huge kick out of John Moloney's list, which is big-hearted, funny, and inspiring. Best part is when his loft/band-mate puts on some Vibracathedral Orchestra, unannounced, and he exclaims, "When did we do this? This is the fuckin' nut!"

And speaking of lists! Since Dusted Magazine hasn't asked me yet, I will now act as if you give a <hoot> and toss online this "now listening to" list I jotted down about 5 months ago:

John Fahey: Everything (and his book is killer too, reminds me of Philip K. Dick -- they seem to have a physical resemblance too).
Wormdoom "Last Days Boogie": Maybe not as good as certain Mudhoney singles, but by far the best Mudhoney album ever. (No members of Mudhoney were involved in the making of this record.)
Lightning Bolt "Wonderful Rainbow": Best nu-metal band of all time.

The Antiseen: All. Considering the reports of violence, this is a dead-sounding band, southern doom-punk played on a really loud tin can. Special props for when they backed up G.G. Allin, except Jeff Clayton stayed in the band, so it was like violent punk with twin lead singers. The song went "VIOLENCE NOW!!! VIOLENCE NOW!!!
Assassinate the president of the United States!"
Wolf Eyes "Dead Hills": Their most perfect album. Too perfect? Nope.
V/A "Bulb Singles #1": History, made.
The Moglass "Kogda Vse Zveri Shili Kak Dobzye Sosedi": An entire CD (not CDR) of transmitted mandible chatter from Jupiter (but the mailing address
is in the Ukraine). Like the Conet Project only it's a band.
Carly Ptak "Prepare Yourself": A masterpiece of the genre. (Which is rock, or broken electronic spazz rock, to be specific.)
Mammal "We Are Real" CS, "Fog Walkers" LP: Talk about broken electro spazz rock masterpieces. Actually, Mammal is more of a D.J. -- he works solo and
makes you dance.
Funkadelic "America Eats Its Young": Like the Band, only black. Bernie Worrell = Garth Hudson.
The Band "Music From Big Pink": Like Funkadelic, only white. A little more subdued, a little more polite (a lot more white), but even more heartbreaking.
Royal Trux "Singles Live Unreleased": Actually, maybe this is the white Funkadelic. Or at least it's the 1990s America Eats Its Young, with a special third record added to account for urge overkill inflation.

Shit I like that I'm not supposed to like:

Smog "Dongs of Sevotion"
Unrest "Cath Carroll"
Flaming Lips "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots"
The Shins "Oh, Inverted World"

New list, this one only TWO months old:

Get Hustle "Dream Eagle" (see review)
USAISAMONSTER "Masonic Chronic EP" (see review)
All the Hyped2Death stuff (it never ends)
Faun Fables "Early Song" (it's got the spook)
Gays in the Military "The Ancient Art of Meat-Smoking":
The best rockwriter rock since . . . Vom???

Black Dice: Entire output (CMS put almost everything they've ever released on two CDRs, one for Beaches and Canyons and one for everything else, and the verdict is in: they are and always were a great band!)
Sun City Girls: A bunch of their cassettes -- Exotica on $5 A Day, To Cover Up Your Right To Live, Bleach Has Feelings Too, Famous Asthma, The Fresh Kill of a Cape Hunting Dog, those might be the right titles, to name just a few. Some are 60 minutes, some are 90 minutes. I've got 'em all on this stack of CDRs, no information, just the title scrawled, with one track for each cassette side. Each one of them is AMAZING. I wouldn't change a note.


I got the Campfire Songs CD in the mail today and I've already listened to it FOUR times. Usually, if I listen to something TWICE total that means I really like it.

The Most I've Ever Written About Neo No Wave
A guy wrote Blastitude and said that we offered the best coverage of "noise, no wave, etc." music. Why thank you, I agree. Other magazines mention it, like Pitchfork and Magnet will review releases on labels like Load/Skin Graft/Bulb, but I think the reason it doesn't seem like they're saying too much about it is because there's no name for it, other than mostly "No Wave" and "Neo No Wave."
       Calling it "No Wave" was the doing of Weasel Walter. Thanks, Hanks (Weasel is like the Tom Hanks of the scene, I mean that as a compliment), for giving all this a direction over the last 10 (!) years, but I don't think people are too comfortable with just calling it No Wave. That makes the charges of stylistic appropriation pretty hard to refute. A lot of people amended it to Neo No Wave, but that's even more apologetic. No one wants to be categorized, but at the same time, there is a drive for any movement to categorize itself, so that the people who share the movement can be on a first-name basis, as it were. But doesn't naming lead to conformity? The apparently inevitable slide from soul mentality to club mentality to herd mentality? I don't know, but people are trying to call it something new, a name that hasn't referred to any past genres.
       Speaking of the past, how about a little history: the term "No Wave" was first applied in 1978 to a scene of about 40 people in New York City. They made one record, a compilation produced by world rock superstar Brian Eno, that became legendary. This was the ultimate weird punk rock, gnashing and hissing, punk's obnoxious bar band riffing taken out of the bar and into the street, played as sheer clatter. These bands were actually quite scary and laid down quite a gauntlet, one that no one else fully picked up for another decade at least. A thousand bands, Black Flag and all their children, were totally punk rock, but they weren't exactly weird; and another thousand bands, R.E.M., They Might Be Giants, whoever, were weird but they totally weren't punk rock, thus making them really annoying. Some bands, like The Pixies and The Cure, tried really hard to be both punk and weird but didn't quite convince as either. Bands that actually were both decisively weird and decisively punk rock, and therefore No Wave, were few and far between: The Birthday Party and the Butthole Surfers are the only two I can think of right now, but maybe I'm totally clueless. (I'd actually include the Minutemen and even the Meat Puppets as No Wave, but I don't think a lot of people would agree. I'd also include the Sun City Girls. Oh, how about Whitehouse! And Flipper! Oh, and of course Red Transistor and VON LMO, but I've actually never heard either. I did just listen to Scott Foust's amazing retrospective cassette The Fighting Sensualist today, and he was totally doing No Wave stuff throughout the 80s. It made me laugh because also today I bought the new Wire with its "New Weird America" story on the whole free folk movement, Sunburned Hand on the cover, NNCK, Charalambides/Scorces, Matthew Valentine, Jack Rose/Pelt, you know, and in the introduction to the article author David Keenan writes that free folk is "an alternative to the no wave revivalism of the nation's urban centres." So it's free folk vs. no wave, but Chris Corsano, who is pictured in the "New Weird America" article, plays on the Scott Foust cassette. So Foust has one foot in both camps, or doesn't care to align himself with either. I think Blastitude is like that too. Of course most people are all too eager to choose sides. For example, I think the no wave camp thinks the free folk camp is a little . . . soft. It's like punks vs. hippies all over again. I think Sunburned Hand of the Man is a little worried about being seen as hippies too, because their spokesman John Moloney comes off as a tough guy, with this statement getting a drop quote: "Pretentious assholes, arm folders, negative hipcats, they're everywhere and we're out to get them." That could've just as easily been said by a no waver. Hell, it could've been said by anybody in a band, because all bands ever talk about now is how lame their audiences are. Of course I see what they're talking about -- after all, I live in Chicago -- but I think these kinds of chidings make rock audiences even more self-conscious and either make them withdraw totally into some "attitude" shell or try too hard to act extroverted, pumping their fist in the air every now and then for a few seconds just to prove that they're not an "arm folder." Fuck it, you just have to let audiences do what they're gonna do. It's ALWAYS the responsibility of the band to move the crowd, never the other way around. If the audience is lame, well, band, that means you're just not quite good enough. Seriously.)
       Anyway, so you had a few No Wave bands scattered around in the 80s going into the 90s, but I can't think of any time the gauntlet was picked up OFFICIALLY until the early-to-mid 90s, when Weasel Walter, who lived in Chicago, Illinois, started describing his bands and the bands they played with as "Chicago No Wave." The idea of bands playing "No Wave" 15 years after the original movement made sense nationally, as it had already been going on in places other than Chicago, with two particular nexuses in the San Francisco Bay Area of California (not a surprise at all) and Providence, Rhode Island (really not a surprise either because it's an art school haven and it's a short jaunt from there to New York, Boston, the entire freaky seaboard).
        Providence has in fact been called "the new Cleveland," because Cleveland was, in retrospect, the left-field location of the roots of No Wave (Pere Ubu and The Electric Eels), but I think Ann Arbor is/was the new Cleveland. For one thing, it's only a couple hundred miles away, and for another, it's the town from which the debut single by the band Couch came. This record came out in 1993, and as far as I can tell it's the ur-statement of the 2nd Wave of No Wave. Then again, the first Flying Luttenbachers releases were in 1992 . . . ah hell, Chicago No Wave is Ann Arbor No Wave and vice versa, because they're close together and there was cross-pollination between the cities. Ann Arbor may be the New Cleveland, but Chicago had the larger population, the loudest spokesman for the scene in Rev. Walter, and a lot of relatively professional record labels like Skin Graft and Atavistic. Plus, the Ann Arbor claim kind of faded when the original Couch duo broke up; Velocity Hopkins moved to Providence because he knew things were jumping there, while Marlon Magas joined forces with Chicago, moving there and starting a damn good band called Lake of Dracula, with the Weaz himself on guitar. (The third member of Couch, Aaron Dilloway, holds down the Ann Arbor fort with the even-more-underground-than-Bulb label Hanson.) There were more than enough other NO-table bands in Chi-Town, such as The Scissor Girls, Bobby Conn, U.S. Maple, Cheer-Accident, the short-lived Monitor Radio, and Quintron the Spellcaster, who furthered the Chicago/Ann Arbor conneciton by putting out records on Bulb. In 1997, Greg Chapman wrote in Ugly American #12, "As of right now, Providence is Rock City USA with Chicago closing in fast (or is it vice versa?)." I guess I think it's vice versa, anyone else have an opinion?
       What was going on in The Bay Area should really be a whole different essay. It seems somewhat removed from the Chicago/Providence axis, but in SF the Ralph Records tradition is HUGE, and there's all the sundry freaks giving it spice, from LaVey to Turkington to fucking Caroliner, with key labels like Nuf Sed, Blackjack, Amarillo, and these days SF has so much No Wave going on that it literally hurts. Weasel lives there now, the Caroliner family is still doing all kinds of stuff, there's Deerhoof, the great Erase Errata, and then all the bands like Numbers and the Dwyer bands who are making No Wave into some kind of s(l)ick joke.
        But what to call it? Another leading Bay Area No Wave band is Total Shutdown. I haven't actually heard them, but it was an article about them that inspired this little thinkpiece. It's in the new issue of Perfect Sound Forever, and in it author Jose Marmeleira calls this Neo No Wave thing "Hardcore's 2nd Wave." It's funny, because I've been thinking that too, that maybe this is just what hardcore sounds like now, under a new name, now that the music that's called hardcore all just sounds like Emo. Thing is, I could never say a term like "Hardcore's 2nd Wave" at a party, just like I never said the phrase "Electroclash" at a party, unless it was in a joke. One phrase I actually did use at a party to describe this music -- once -- was "Progressive Hardcore," because I was thinking how it was also sort of the new Prog Rock, a new strain of Art Rock. But that phrase didn't get that great of a reaction, and really, I could immediately see why. Sir Reggie Queequeg wanted to call it "New Crazy Rock Music," which really doesn't leave anything out, in that disarming Queequeg fashion. Another guy on the Spockmorgue list broke it down to simply "Rock Music." It is definitely that, but that DOES leave quite a bit out, most notably the "weird" aspect from the original Weasel definition. That's why Queequeg uses the word "crazy" in his genre name, and Mike Connelly of the Hair Police uses the word "insane" in his name for the genre, which actually kind of sticks for me: "INSANE music." Anyway, to go over some of the common names:

No Wave Coined (reclaimed/recycled/borrowed) by Weasel Walter.

Neo No Wave What it often got amended it to, which as I said before, is a little too apologetic. Note that Walter has never called it Neo No Wave.

2nd Wave of Hardcore More specifically, the 2nd Wave of No Wave. Coined by Jose Marmeleira. Like I said, probably won't be used at parties. Actually, the problem is that the "weird" aspect isn't really referred to here.

NWOAHC (New Wave of American Hardcore) Just a joke.

Tardcore Liz Armstrong coined Avant-Tarde, which I've amended to Tardcore, which is just another way to say "weird punk rock." She also coined Garbagetronica, but that's like a sub-genre of Tardcore.

Rock Music Coined by a guy on Spockmorgue.

New Crazy Rock Music Coined by Sir Reggie Queequeg.

Insane Music Coined by Mike Connelly.

D.A.D.A. Rock Pronounced like "Dada," not "D-A-D-A." Coined by me, but I don't plan to ever say it out loud. Today I was out for a walk in the Northwest Chicago side street wilderness and discovered a remote block of sidewalk where someone had once made a drying-concrete publication of the word "DADA." I'm like, why not? The name still emanates such influence and inspiration. In this case it's an acronym: the D's stand for Distorted and Dayglo, and the A's stand for (take your pick of 2) Atonal, Awful, and Attention Deficit Disorder. (Thanks to Load Records honcho Ben McOsker, in the interview by Andrew S. Earles on Pitchfork, for the words "Distorted, Dayglo, and Atonal.")

Oh, wait, I've got it! Since we're talking about a 2nd Wave of No Wave, coming after the Noise genre hit, call it, not No Wave, but Noi Wave!!!! Noi being short for "Noise." Rhymes with "Boy Wave," but that's doesn't mean anything because Noi Wave is one of the most co-ed genres of music EVER, even more co-ed than Punk was. Hell, just call it Noise Wave. No, just go back to not calling it anything. We all know it when we see it. (No, never mind, just call it No Wave. And be proud, i.e. don't put it in "quotation marks" all the frickin' time.)

Review of Michael Jackson
Yeah, the guy's a first-class eccentric, but if our national network programmers want to get huge ratings by ridiculing a public figure for living in a bubble, being out of touch with reality, and for being defensive about his decisions, I wish they'd do it to George W. Bush. [Note: this was written a couple days after Fox first showed that 2-hour Michael Jackson thing and all the press was talking about how weird he was. Weapons of (M)Ass Distraction, indeed.]

Twice today, without planning to in any way, I've heard two different songs called "What's the Frequency Kenneth?," and neither of them were by R.E.M.
       The first was by Game Theory, the opening song on their 1987 double LP Lolita Nation. I was curious to hear Lolita Nation after Harrington made it his #4-ranked rock album of All Time, but I thought their "Kenneth," along with most of the album, except for one killer pre-Loveless wall-of-guitar ballad, actually sounded quite a bit like some sort of freakish college lite-meets-hair metal lite hybrid. Big Star (of course) meets Warrant (??) meets . . . Let's Active (Mitch Easter produced) meets . . . Bourgeoius Tagg(!!!!).
      The second "What's the Frequency Kenneth" I've heard today without planning to is by Prehensile Monkeytailed Skink, and it's actually just called "Kenneth" although the lyrics go "Oh Kenneth, what's the frequency? What's the frequency, Kenneth?" over and over again. It sounds absolutely nothing like R.E.M, possibly to the chagrin of most people who would hear it, except for Jesus Lizards fans, and even they might be a little put off, because that old Bulb aesthetic is just so nasty. Of course Blastitude Freaks won't be put off, as C.M. Bligablum puts it: "A better use of the infamous Dan Rather-whompin’ anthem than R.E.M. or Game Theory combined." You do have to give Game Theory credit for doing it in 1987, a full six years before Stipe's phrase-drop, while Prehensile Monkeytailed Skink were even later than that.

Speaking of Lolita Nation, both the CD and the double vinyl edition are out of print, but, contrary to what you might expect, the CD goes for $60 on e-bay while the original double vinyl can be had for a mere 10 bucks. The reason is that, as #1 Game Theory fan Joe S. Harrington pointed out last issue, it SUCKS to have to flip sides that often.

So I still don't know about Game Theory, but Harrington definitely sold me on The Dictators, who I'd actually never heard, so I picked up Go Girl Crazy! when I saw this nice Australian pressing for 6 bucks used. Shit, it's good! Opening song "The Next Big Thing" is actually the best song I've ever heard in the 'teenage hot-shit glory-rock' category. I mean the hot-shit part is still one of the most bad-ass poses ever waxed ("Well I knocked 'em dead in Dallas . . ." See complete lyrics below), but before they get into the hot-shit part, they open the song with some of the most glorious descending-melody cathedral rock ever waxed. The lyrics have jokes in every stanza, some of them self-deprecating but still hot-shit about it. Other songs: "Two Tub Man" has some great hooks, and raunchy too: "What I want to do I do/Who I want to screw I screw." "Cars and Girls" is a blast, especially when Adny Shernoff goes "G-g-g-g-g-g-g-g-goodbye." Ross "The Boss" Funicello, pre-Manowar, launches like seven glorious little metal blitzkrieg solos on each and every song. Anyway, here's the complete lyrics to "The Next Big Thing."

I used to shiver in the wings
But then I was young
I used to shiver in the wings
Till I found my own tongue

I sock 'em everywhere that I sing
Cause you know baby
I'm the Next Big Thing

I knocked 'em dead in Dallas
And I didn't pay my dues
Yeah, I knocked 'em dead in Dallas
They didn't know we were Jews

I sock 'em everywhere that I sing
Cause you know baby
I'm the Next Big Thing

I'm a fuel injected legend
I don't wanna be a bore
I just wanna live a rich life
And I wanna die poor

But I won't be happy
Till I'm known far and wide
With my face on the cover
of the TV Guide

I sock 'em everywhere that I sing
Cause you know baby
I'm the Next Big Thing

(written by Adny Shernoff, 1974)

5-disc changer mishaps: I just thought Gary Numan was Burzum. (Synthstrumental on The Pleasure Principle.) Cluster One Hour was also in the changer and I thought it could be that too but my guess was Burzum. Wrong!!! . . . . . Help! Three CDs in my changer are starting to blend together: Bulb Singles Vol. 1, The EPs of RP by Rudimentary Peni, and the Neat Singles Collection Vol. 3 -- a NWOBHM comp. Seriously you can draw a line of similarity from one to the next, in chronological order, no less . . . . . Now I'm mistaking the first Bathory album for the first Bad Brains album. Mind you, this is because I've got it at fairly low volume. If my stereo was louder, the Bad Brains' fusion chops would be easy to differentiate from Bathory's Venom-worshipping one-man-band thuggery, but at this volume all I hear is super-fast buzzing guitars and Quorthon sounds like HR!!!

"Avant-garde music," he suggests, in his most persuasively metaphorical way, "is a sort of research music. You're glad someone's done it but you don't necessarily want to listen to it. It's similar to the way I'm very happy people have gone to the North Pole. It extends my concept of the planet to know it exists, but I don't want to live there, or even go there actually. But it's a boundary condition." -- Brian Eno, as quoted [on some website somewhere]


Gate "The Dew Line" CD (Table of the Elements). It's all comin' back to me....total 1997.....rainy days....laying in bed at 3PM singing into your pillow.....somehow the exact midpoint between Emo and Black Metal (and Valium).

Spectrum "Soul Kiss (Glide Divine)". It's all comin' back to me....total 1996.....putting this album on for Angelina when we wake up at 11AM so we can just lay in our underwear and spend the next hour listening and staring at how the light in the house slowly changes. Taking drugs to make music for people to feel like they took drugs to. Even better than the RH Band, thanks to "Waves Wash Over Me."

Bob Dylan "If You Gotta Go, Go Now" (1965). The first signs of the rock'n'roll kitsch that was gonna come with Self Portrait and Nashville Skyline, the cowboy boogie rock, the floral bardsmanship replaced by a macho simplicity of the line. Every writer goes through a Hemingway phase.

Some metal band names are just kick-ass, like Megadeth or Slayer, but then you have names like Jag Panzer or Laaz Rockit, where you first hear it and you're like "total kick-ass," but then you think for a second and you're like "actually there's somethin' kinda gay about that name."

by Larry "Fuzz-O" Dolman

Most no wavers will tell you that Pretties For You (1969) is great, but I think it's annoying as hell. Like so many second-tier no wavers, it's more just weird for weird sake, weirdness without any soul behind it. Of course, the boys were barely out of high school -- still in their Mr. Bungle phase, if you will. There are some good psychedelic nonsense titles, like "No Longer Umpire" and "Swing Low, Sweet Cheerio." Put any one track on a mix tape and you'll get a bunch of "Who's this? Who's this?" But I have yet to listen to the whole thing, and I couldn't hum you a single riff or melody except that one song (don't know which) that goes "Enjoy the view, oy the view, oy the view, oy the view."
        Easy Action (1970). Now we're getting somewhere. One of the best rock album titles ever. Still not quite a great album, with only a few memorable songs, but throughout, including on the forgettable jams, the band is getting some grit and soul into the sound. You can probably thank David Briggs, one of the great record producers in white soul history. I always loved "Shoe Salesman," even though you might think it's wuss rock. I don't specifically remember any other song, but it seems like side two has some sort of epic space opera song that is total No Wave (and when it came out it was already Garage Prog).
       Love It To Death (1971). On which they take all the promise of Easy Action and, I don't know, quintuple it. You can say what you want about Bob Ezrin as a producer, but he was a perfect fit for the Alice Cooper band. Of course this is the one that Dave Marsh or somebody told me was the classic and it's true, every song is great. "I'm Eighteen" is the overplayed hit (it even has the same chords as the "and as we wind on down the road" part of "Stairway to Heaven") but I still like it just because of Vincent's singing, and because each guitar break is a soul-howl mindblower. Great sequencing too: both sides start with shorter little freak-rock pop gems like "Caught in a Dream," "Is It My Body?", "Long Way To Go," and "Hallowed Be My Name" (incredible song, written entirely by drummer Neal A. Smith), and end with horror show epics, "Black Juju" on side one, and "Second Coming"/"The Ballad of Dwight Frye"/"Sun Arise" on side two. "Black Juju" all-time favorite Alice Cooper song. Back at mom and dad's I used to turn all the lights out for that one and bundle up and freak. Also, back cover is my favorite band photo of all time. Recorded in Chicago!
       Killer (1971). Okay, this is my current favorite, although after that last paragraph I kinda wanna give Love it to Death another chance. I don't know, Killer just seems like the snappy/gaudy comic book distillation of everything eerie/foggy about Love it to Death. One of the greatest rock albums of all time, specifically one of the greatest evil shock joke glam pop heavy rock albums of all time. Right down to the sick-glo color scheme of the front cover. I always LOVED the way side two opened with the double shot of "You Drive Me Nervous" and "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah." Even slightly more stunning than the (also great but more familiar) side one opening double shot, "Under My Wheels" and "Be My Lover." The phased drum breaks on "Nervous," sheez. And always, the bass of Dennis Dunaway, especially candy-poppin' on "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah." Of course "Be My Lover" is a stone classic song, with hilarious lyrics. I mean, "We had a drink or two....well, maybe three" is somehow my favorite drinking line in a rock song ever. That line "with a magnifying GLANCE, I just sort of look her over" is a good one too, it's like poetry for 12 year olds who read Mad Magazine. And it hit me not too long ago that the reason Alice sings "She asked me why the singer's name was Alice" is because the lyrics were written by Michael Bruce, from his point of view. Also recorded in Chicago!
       School's Out (1972). This is where things were starting to slip. Everyone talks about the classic quintet, when Alice Cooper was the name of the whole band and not just the lead singer, but session dudes were already start to 'ghost' parts well before Welcome To My Nightmare, especially for the increasingly smacked-out and dissolute Glen Buxton. (Lead guitarist on "Under My Wheels"? Rick Derringer.) Of course the title track is one of the greatest rock songs ever; speaking of Mad Magazine poetry, it doesn't get any better than "Well we got no class/And we got no principles(als)/And we got no innocence/We can't even think of a word that rhymes!" Other than that, though, I don't know....that West Side Story thing was kind of fun but also a serious warning sign that Mr. Furnier was replacing his homegrown Phoenix/Detroit lunatic showbiz with some pre-fabricated Vegas lunatic showbiz. I do really remember the song "My Stars," even though that was basically a Bob Ezrin composition, almost entirely played by session dudes. Still great prog metal. Other than that the only one I really remember is the kitschy but cool ballad about school when Alice sings, "No I don't think Miss Axelrod was much impressed," and of course, at the end, says "Remember the Coop, huh?" to his imaginary friend.
       Billion Dollar Babies (1973). Not quite on the same level as Love it to Death and Killer, but this one did prove that the dissolving quintet could still make a great album (as long as the right anonymous session musicians were ghosting half of the parts). "I Love the Dead" is actually quite a bit sicker than I even though it was when I was a kid. The bass on the title track is INSANE. "Raped and Freezin" rules -- the little screech Alice hits right before the start of the second verse is one of my all-time favorite rock yelps. Sure he copped it from Iggy but I heard Alice first, which is just the point: he was the only guy who could make Iggyness sell in small town Nebraska without completely whitewashing the ferality. "No More Mr. Nice Guy" is on here, as are a bunch of prog classics like "Hello, Hooray," "No More Mr. Nice Guy," "Elected," "Generation Landslide," and "Unfinished Sweet," which I always thought was stupid when I was a kid -- c'mon, Alice, a song about the horrors of cavities??? -- but now I love it. Still you can hear that the band has already been pretty much Ezrined out of the picture.
       Muscle of Love (1973). Alright, so Babies wasn't a return to form, it was a last gasp. This follow-up is hands down the weakest album by the classic quintet -- I even prefer Pretties For You. That said, the opener "Big Apple Dreamin' (Hippo)" has a fine hypnotic heaviness and subtitle, the title track is pretty heavil (heavy + evil), and "Teenage Lament '74" is seriously the best heavy rock teenage angst ballad that happened in between Phil Spector and Nirvana. (By which I mean it's even better than "Eighteen.") But I already had the latter two on the Greatest Hits album, so Muscle loses, cardboard-box packaging notwithstanding.
       Welcome To My Nightmare (1975). Right, so this is the beginning of the end, and most Coop band loyalists scoff at this one. They've got the right idea, but I still love it, even now that I'm not 12 years old. Definitely better than School's Out and Muscle of Love and Pretties For You, and possibly better than even Easy Action. In fact, even Billion Dollar Babies only barely edges it out. It certainly has some wack moments -- in fact one of the wackest is also the best known, the title track opener with its lame horn chart. After that it's just tons of fun, or at least the bombastic session-hack-slathered production perfectly supports Cooper's comic-book phantasies, bringing them to teeming life like some theoretical 'Hieronymous Bosch does EC Comics' painting that you found at a thrift-store. I mean, track two, "Devil's Food" is just heavy-rock insanity, with the phased-out outro chorus blowing my mind right now just thinking about it, and segueing into an awesome monologue by Vincent Price himself, and then another heavy (and corny, but in a great horror-comic way) jam called "The Black Widow," and then there's "Cold Ethyl," which is what I had dreamed Alice might sound like before I actually heard him (i.e. super-heavy cock-rock about dead chicks), and jeez, "Only Women Bleed" is a ballad that is just huge, even bigger than "Please Don't Judas Me" by Nazareth. Side two we've got the "Steven" song cycle, which I think heavily influenced Eminem -- at least his song "Kim" from The Marshall Mathers LP really reminds me of it. Oh, that was just me? You didn't hear that too?
       Alice Cooper Goes To Hell. Okay, with the exception of Nightmare, I agree with the smart Coop freaks: Alice did not make a single essential album after the original quintet broke up. This album looked great for the kids, with Alice colored GREEN on the cover and the provocative (for kiddies) title, and I heard the title track on a jukebox once and it blew my mind, but then I tried it again a few years later and it just sounded wack, like Gene-Simmons-solo-album wack, and I realized that the only reason the song had shocked me before was because I had heard it in a Dairy Sweet in Malvern, Iowa.
       After this, I can't name a single essential Alice album, except you might want to get a Kane Roberts-era LP just to laugh at his picture on the back . . . . . . . . . . now that I think about, I wanna get a Kane Roberts-era LP, just so I can laugh at his picture on the back. But, anyway, other than that, there was From The Inside, which had the classic gatefold cover of Alice's eyes opening like the doors to a sanitarium. It promised to be another Nightmare style concept with amazing hype (Bernie fucking Taupin co-wrote the lyrics and Marvel released a comic book version of it that I read about 200 times), but musically it was a gooey mess. Ezrin was losing it. Lace and Whiskey is slightly memorable, but mainly because on one rare boyhood night when I was allowed to stay up past 9PM, I saw Alice on Johnny Carson promoting that album, and he performed the title track wearing some FBI get up, fake-gunning down various costumed villians (I think they were giant birds, but please don't quote me on that). After hearing about him for years, this was the first time I had ever seen him perform, and it was at least kooky, but after all the legends I'd heard I wanted GORE, both visually and musically. Now I realize that Lace and Whiskey was recorded during Alice's "Hollywood Squares and golf" period. The album pretty much sucks accordingly, although "It's Hot Tonight" is alright. (The Beastie Boys sampled it on their song "What Comes Around.") . . . . . . . . . . Let's see, let's see....of course I liked the cover of Zipper Catches Skin -- on which every single lyric on the album was printed, in tiny print so it could all fit, and when the title phrase goes by, which is only once, it's highlighted.....in BLOOD. I once listened to the album while using the cover to follow along....and this was on CASSETTE. (No joke, I used a magnifying glance, I mean glass.) Unfortunately the music was terrible . . . . . . . . . . . . Flush the Fashion was always a running joke because it was the one album that even us Alice simps who had bought Lace and Whiskey and Zipper Catches Skin still wouldn't touch . . . . . . . . and I guess that's it! That's my guide to Alice Cooper off the top of my head!