Alice Cooper’s new album Paranormal marks an astonishing change of pace for the 69 year-old shock rocker. It shows him unplugging and taking off his makeup to deliver a series of rustic, heartfelt indie-folk ballads. Several songs renounce organized religion and come out in support of liberal and progressive causes.
Just kidding. Cooper’s latest work delivers pretty much what anyone who’s ever heard this born-again, quietly conservative rock star has come to expect: catchy tunes, pounding drums, snarling guitars, tongue-in-cheek spooky/gruesome lyrics.
These four lines hint at both the album’s limitations and its charms. On the one hand, the lazy “night/light” rhyme reflects the nagging sense of pro forma that Paranormal never quite overcomes. On the other hand, Cooper has never taken himself too seriously (remember how he declared on “School’s Out,” “We can’t even make up a word that rhymes!”). He just wants to give listeners some harmless, creepy fun, so why quibble?
It helps that Cooper assembled just the team to put his horror show shtick over. Paranormal was produced by Bob Ezrin, who shepherded such classic Cooper albums as Love It to Death, School’s Out and Welcome to My Nightmare. ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons and U2 drummer Larry Mullen also make welcome contributions.
Best of all, Paranormal reunites most of Cooper’s original lineup. Guitarist Michael Bruce, bassist Dennis Dunaway and drummer Neal Smith all play on the songs “Genuine American Girl” and “You and All of Your Friends.” Dunaway also brought in “The Sound of A,” the first song that Cooper ever wrote: