Circus

Originally Published: July 21, 1977

Lace and Whiskey Review

Author: Mitchell Schneider

Lace and Whiskey – Alice Cooper (Warner Bros.)

What's green, red, and moaning in the corner? Alice Cooper eating razor blades.

That's, of course, a reworking of a dead-baby joke, once the source of Alice Cooper's joyfully repellent visions. Yeah, Alice was a guy you really could relate to. The type who'd order a side of MSG in a health-food restaurant, or walk into a Pathmark and head straight for the pantyhose. Alice single-handedly changed social values, too. Like I now can walk through my neighborhood with smeared mascara, cha-cha heels, and a rattlesnake entwined around my hairy legs without getting mauled by the North Bronx greasers - all aspiring Rockys who, I remember, lined up enthusiastically for Alice's show at Madison Square Gardens.

To some, Alice was unredeemingly silly, but when the hell, I knew better. His silliness was steered by conviction, fanatical excess, and sheer audacity. Okay, kids, out of the straitjackets and into the streets. "School's Out" and "Elected" - the most driven anthems of nonsense ever to hit Top 40 - were Alvin & the Chipmunks in the back of the bus sniffin' glue, and they sounded just great. All right, so maybe Welcome to My Nightmare as a television special rotted (trying to capture Alice on a Magnavox was like trying to squeeze an iguana into a jar, but the LP's catchy hymns of abandon ("Escape"), necrophilia ("Cold Ethyl"), and fascism ("Department of Youth") were hilariously irresistible. Sort of like hearing farts from the back of the classroom.

Tumors, however, budded on Alice Cooper Goes To Hell - the overworked concept and altogether forgettable material suggested creative bankruptcy - and, unfortunately, they're fully grown on Lace and Whiskey. The best we could hope for was a Kunta Kinte parody. Early reports from Alice indicated that he was to portray a Forties detective, and, true, he does - in the album's packaging. But in the grooves, we find, among other unrelated things, a retraction from one of rock's heroes of dementia:

In all that music
I hate those lyrics
And I swear to you
I never wrote that song.

Has to be a joke, I figured (these Sybil-inspired lyrics from the lushly produced MOR ballad, "I Never Wrote Those Songs"), despite what Cooper has been telling interviewers about his identity crisis with the character, "Alice". Yet Lace and Whiskey begs to be taken seriously, and, in fact, avoids Alice's comically macabre posturing. "My God" is his entry into the art-rock sweepstakes, complete with California Boy's Choir and a Strawbs-type intro. "(No More) Love At Your Convenience", heftily decked out in Roots vocals, is Alice's first disco attempt. "King Of The Silver Screen", clearly influenced by Rocky Horror Picture Show, evinces Cooper fondness for campy nostalgia. And "You and Me", another slick MOR ballad apparently designed for the Barry Manilow/varicose-veins set, spells out Alice's earthiness: "You and me ain't no move star/What we are is what we are." Of the three heavy-metal rockers, only one approaches Alice's runaway mania - "Road Rats" is double-fisted rock & roll, boosted by Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner's searing guitar work.

Lace and Whiskey rings false, not only because its ideas probably originated from Alice's urinary tract (too much beer, I suppose), but because its conservatism is unfeeling. Honest, you might as well listen to the bubbly Abba or, for that matter, a blessed-out Wayne Newton. Even Alice's snarls on "Road Rats" are cautious and reserved - he sounds less cool than out of it. And his parody of a Hollywood starlet ("King of the Silver Screen") is oddly limp.

There is also something very awkward about this record. It's probably the fact that Alice, who could care less, is badly upstaged by Bob Ezrin's extravagant (read, predictable) production and the session musicians he's played with since Nightmare. On "It's Hot Tonight", Cooper sings dispassionately beside rip-roaring chords and prowling rhythm, and "(No More) Love At Your Convenience" is carried entirely by the exuberant soul sisters. Finally, it hits you: Here's an album that Alice worked on between holes on the golf course.

As a pop-culture hero, Alice Cooper has decided - as David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Genghis Khan and God did, -

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