Arizona Republic

Originally Published: August 05, 2008

Alice Cooper: 'Along Came A Spider'

Author: Larry Rodgers

The Valley's favorite rock star has recorded plenty of albums with concepts woven in, celebrating everything from school letting out to the excesses of America to the apocalypse.

For his 25th studio release, the 60-year-old singer and his band sound more focused and energetic than they have in years. Cooper even sports a creepy new makeup job on the CD cover.

This is the well-spun tale of a serial killer, an "arachnophobic psychopath" who wraps his victims in silk and does other grisly things inspired by spiders.

The album's tale is told through the killer's eyes, as he sizes up potential victims on city streets: "I like to watch from my car / I like to make sure you don't go too far," Cooper sneers in the album-opening rocker, I Know Where You Live.

With the humor that has colored even his darkest work, Cooper adds, "I don't like the guy in the suit / Or that street punk in the combat boots."

In I'm Hungry, Cooper's character sings, "I got a bed in my basement fit for two / I got some chloroform and handcuffs just for you."

Those two tracks, as well as The One That Got Away, recall Cooper's earliest work, such as 1971's Be My Lover - straight-ahead guitar rock that featured Glen Buxton. It takes a pair of Cooper's touring guitarists, Keri Kelli and Jason Hook, to ably fill the late Buxton's shoes.

Several other songs find Cooper exploring more modern rock sounds. Guitar god Slash checks in to tromp on the wah-wah pedal for the heavy, plodding Vengeance Is Mine.

Catch Me If You Can moves on a wall of shrieking guitar and driving drums by Eric Singer. "Catch me, catch me if you can / I wrestled with the devil and I'd do it again," Cooper taunts as the bodies pile up.

Cooper always has moved in a fairly limited but effective vocal range, and his singing is solid on this CD. He hits a high point on the well-written power ballad Killed by Love. "Drop me off in a crowded, lonely city / Everybody there was crying," he sings, offering a glimpse into the killer's background.

Cooper's descriptions of the killer seducing and finishing off his prey are chilling in spots: "You look like you'd fit in the trunk of my car . . . I could wrap you up and take you home, we'd be all alone," he sings in The One That Got Away.

Things take an unexpected twist in Salvation, a slow song full of strings and piano that unfolds into a full-fledged power ballad.

Providing backing to Cooper's emotional vocals is Bernard Fowler, a singer known for studio and touring work with the Rolling Stones.

As things come to a close, it's clear that Cooper is not ready to hang anything up just yet - except perhaps a body or two, courtesy of his latest twisted character.