School's Out - Alice Cooper (Warner)
Alright, look past the anthemic glam-rock title track (the one song Alice himself knew was going to be a hit from the point uber-guitarist Glen Buxton first played the glorious opening riff to him), "School's Out" is one great hard-rockin', vaguely concept-driven LP – and that concept is very vaguely drawn at best. But the best thing about it is the fact that there a bunch of toons on the album that really go against the teen-glam angle of the title track. As a matter of fact, they start from track number two.
The LP roars its anti-establishment roots from the outset with the gleeful title-track, ably abetted by Bob Ezrin's loud-as-hell production, the snarling guitars and big, fat drum sounds working their way into the heart of any rocker. Track number two "Luney Tune" is one of my favourite Cooper tracks, suicide-themed and all ("I'm swimmin' in blood!"); it's off-kilter time signature and oblique lyric help to bolster its appeal.
From there we move to Movie-Musical territory, with "Gutter-Cat Vs The Jets", followed by "Street Fight" (the latter actually recorded by the producer without the bands' knowledge) – a riff on "West Side Story"'s camp braggadocio (when I saw the Coop live in 1990 he played this live and tried to stage a gang-fight on stage as part of the show – it didn't really work, and given this was during his ill-advised flirtation with hair-metal, I can't say I was surprised.)
The side winds out with "Blue Turk", one of the band's more experimental tracks during their commercial period – a good song, don't get me wrong, but maybe a throwback to the bands early days wasn't a wise move on what was possibly their otherwise most commercial record.
Flipping the disc, the unsuspecting listener will first hear the proto-metal "My Stars", a rocking piece of good news, backed up with the rock steady-roar of "Public Animal #9" (a prime slab of of hard Detroit rock with some neat keyboards), followed up by the Beatles-esque lament of "Alma Mater" (a look back at bygone days, and a rather saccharine one at that), before moving back into an overture, and a rather redundant one, to say the least. On that level at least, "School's Out" starts well, but kind of peters out towards the end – a roar that fades slowly to a whimper.
Is it a good album? Yeah, I think so. Is it a great album? No. Although Alice Cooper's greatness was built on the back of this LP and the one that followed it, I honestly think what went before was better, and rocked harder.