Killer - Alice Cooper (Universal)
From its barn-storming opening track "Under My Wheels", through to the white-noise climax of the title-track, "Killer" proves itself time and time again to be one of rock 'n' roll's greatest albums. Now, yeah, I know that sounds hyperbolic, but in this instance I feel I'm justified. There are some albums that refuse to be played quietly, and "Killer" is one of them, the kind of record that is guaranteed to annoy the neighbours at 2am, when your house party has probably lurched five or six beers over the line.
Me, I love raucous rawk 'n' roll, and "Killer" delivers on every level. To my mind, it gives as much goodness as "High Time", "Raw Power", "Young, Loud and Snotty", or any of the first three Ramones LPs. Alice himself considers "Killer" to be one of the best albums of his five decade long career, alongside the preceding "Love It To Death", the album he considers to be the first Alice Cooper album (the first two LPs, "Pretties For You" and "Easy Action" he considers to be more Nazz LPs – the name the band had before taking on the name that made him famous – than Alice Cooper LPs per se). As a sophomore effort, it's pretty fucking impressive by anyone's standards.
When the needle hits the groove, track one, side one, the LP detonates immediately with "Under My Wheels" – the drum flurries and guitar whirlwind meet with a head-caving riff to present you with Detroit-Rock 101. We move immediately into the sleaziest track the Stones never wrote via the Velvet's riff to "Sweet Jane" with "Be My Lover" – a one-two punch any band would be proud of.
But impressively, the band further ups the ante with the epic weirdness of "Halo Of Flies", a track the band deliberately wrote to disprove the nay-sayers who claimed that the band relied on theatrics and anthems over song-craft. It's quite simply a nine-minute ball-tearer that showcases the musical chops of this vastly under-rated band via a James Bond on crack lyric, and in particular, their even more vastly under-rated rhythm section. Neal Smith (who recorded the drum solo in this song in the studio's all-marble ladies' bathroom to get the best possible sound) and Dennis Dunaway – gentlemen, my hat is off to you.
"Desperado", a kind of western tribute to Jim Morrison (according to legend, and the doco on the recent "Old School" box set) rounds out side one. Originally, the track was entitled "Tornado Warning" with entirely different lyrics, but post-Morrison's death, this re-written tribute version is definitely the superior one.
Side two begins with one of Alice's trademark teen-rebellion tracks, "You Drive Me Nervous", complete with flanged drums on the intro. This much-over-looked track, featuring some red-hot guitar duels between Michael Bruce and Glen Buxton, is one of those buried gems in the Cooper back-catalogue that often falls between the cracks. To hear it is to love it. "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah", another sneering teen anthem follows up, featuring the LP's raw-as-bleeding guitar tone and big fat open drum sounds. From here "Killer" moves from blackly funny into the absolute pitch black, with the closing duet of "Dead Babies" (originally composed when the band were living on a farm near an insane asylum), a gruesome hymn to parental neglect, and the even grimmer "Killer", a nasty piece of work Dennis Dunaway dreamed one night, and Michael Bruce helped bring to life – a gothic slice of death-rock most metal bands would have sold their own souls to have written. The chaotic ending only adds to the sense of unease that the album builds towards.
Should you buy this? That is an absolute no-brainer. "Killer" is one of those records that keeps on giving. An absolute corker of a five-star LP, "Killer" needs to be bought by any self-respecting rocker. I really can't recommend this LP highly enough. If my house was on fire, this would be one of the few things I'd grab on my way out of the door.