Originally Published: August 09, 1989

Trash City Rocker

Author: Dave Dickson

Alice Cooper
(Epic EPC 465130)
Rating 4 1/2 out of 5

Alice Cooper fell foul of his fans back in the '70s when he was thought to have 'sold-out', gone 'Hollywood' or, worse yet, gone 'Las Vegas'. He was seen playing golf with presidents and appearing on TV game shows like 'Celebrity Squares'. Alice Cooper, the man who for years had represented everything that appalled and horrified parents all over the western world, had been tamed. At least that's the way it seemed.

It took Cooper some years to recover from this shunning by his fans and to re-establish his credentials as a hard rock artist of extraordinary merit, the pariah of respectable society and the doyen of a million teenage fantasies of gore, horror and lust. But he did it.

Now Cooper comes storming back with an album that again sees him teetering on the brink of apparent mainstream acceptability. But Alice isn't about to be caught out twice by not having his motives clearly understood. 'Trash' is about sex, as impure and as complex as it comes. The single, 'Poison', has already been play listed by Radio One, the video given mega-rotation by MTV. Alice Cooper slips effortlessly back into the mainstream he was banished from a decade ago.

To achieve this feat Alice needed a little help from his friends, but the record continues to be steeped in the Alice Cooper mythology - really it's impossible to imagine any other artist managing to put one over on the powers-that-be with such deftness and such dexterity. 'Trash' is a dark, macabre tragi-comedy given an ostensibly radio-friendly veneer by Cooper's co-writer and co-producer, Desmond Child. Child has already worked the same magic for Bon Jovi and others. But no-one else has quite succeeded in flirting with respectability while hiding a dagger behind his back like Alice has.

The title track, for instance, finds Alice aided by Jon Bon Jovi, delivering a sermon on the sexual act, effectively reduced us all to our animalistic state, even if it is a highly charged one. The end of the track has Alice and Bon Jovi swapping crude double entendres and relishing every syllable of it.

The following track, 'Hell Is Living Without You', on the other hand, contains Child's most obvious influence in a number penned by he and Alice in collaboration with Bon Jovi and BJ guitarist Richie Sambora. It's an impassioned piece, but even here just the addition of Alice's voice gives the listener cause to wonder at it's sincerity and the possible presence of hidden meaning.

But lest anyone believe that Alice is wimping out, he closes up the second side with a licentious slice of sex-drama called 'I'm Your Gun': 'Rub my barrel/Straight and narrow/Dress up like a nun.... G-G-G-Gun, gun, gun' - the song drips such delicacies at every chord. This mirrors the unfettered lust of 'Bed Of Nails' where Alice promises: 'If all else fails/I'll drive you like a hammer on a bed of nails'! the sexual imagery like the music (the guitars on this track, incidentally, are courtesy of Toto guitarist Steve Lukather and Richie Sambora) is hard, fast and unrelenting.

But it's also melodic, a sorely under used attribute on far too many rock albums. Alice Cooper, however, belongs to the 'old school' where a song is built from the melody upward. 'Poison' grabs the listener through the strength of its hooks and draws him/her into the darker world of the street-trash that lies beyond this inviting and enticing opening.

But the pent-up fury and exhilaration of 'Spark In The Dark' - or the obsessional 'This Maniac's in Love With you' - works far better when in contrast to a track like the side closer, 'Only My Heart Talking', a song that draws parallels with 'I Never Cry' from 1976's 'Alice Cooper Goes To Hell'.

Here Alice teams up with Aerosmith's Steve Tyler and Joe Perry to produce an intimate and touching song whose only irony appears to come in the form of the personnel who deliver this tender paean to love.

'Trash' once again thrusts Alice Cooper back into the firing-range as he trips the fine line between sex, sleaze, sensationalism and social respectability. We may not always be able to see that line, but Alice Cooper was probably the one who drew it in the first place. And we all know which side he's on.