Vincent Damon Furnier, also known as Alice Cooper, is known as the “The Godfather of Shock Rock.” With an eclectic career spanning 50 years, the raspy-voiced singer developed his reputation through his affinity for using fake blood, guillotines, swords, and pyrotechnics in his stage performances. Getting his start in 1964, Furnier began his career with “The Alice Cooper Band.” In 1969 the original Alice Cooper band lineup included Furnier (vocals/harmonica), Glen Buxton (lead guitar), Michael Bruce (rhythm guitar), Neal Smith (drums) and Dennis Dunaway (bass) released their debut album before breaking out with their hit single “I’m Eighteen” in 1971 and then later “Billion Dollar Babies.” After the band’s break up in 1975, Furnier adopted the name Alice Cooper on the stage and in real life, releasing his solo record Welcome to My Nightmare that same year.
Having cultivated his musical roots in the Detroit rock scene, Cooper wanted to return to that melting pot of sound with his latest venture, Detroit Stories releasing February 26, 2021 on earMUSIC. For this new endeavor, Cooper joined forces once again with longtime friend and producer Bob Ezrin, who has also worked with artists such as Pink, Lou Reed, KISS, and Deep Purple, for this homage to the Motor City.
Kicking off his homage to the ‘rock city,’ Cooper lays down a funky cover of Lou Reed’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll” written for Velvet Underground. Accompanied by the guitar sound of Wayne Kramer of MC5, the layers of rock history and reverence are nuanced and pronounced in intervals on the opening track. Despite Reed’s origins as a New Yorker, the depth of his roots in the influence of Rock-n-Roll are substantial enough to translate and relate well to Cooper’s connection and love for Detroit. Even if you’re not usually a fan of Cooper’s the infectiousness of “Rock ‘n’ Roll” will draw you in easily with it’s bop and easy vibes.
Following this is the high speed tale of young love and a high speed chase in ”Go Man Go.” Here Cooper and company give classic Rock-n-Roll fans a taste of the speed and thrash they love in OG Rock and Metal. This frenetic pace is abruptly interrupted by the next track “Our Love Will Change The World.” This track has a Beatles-esque vibe with its ironic bounciness and surface-level lightness, but is tinged with tongue-in-cheek commentary. It is here that Cooper gives a snarky perspective of cult-like toxic positivity, a point which is made even more disturbing if you watch the music video with its unsettling animation. “Social Debris” has one of the best guitar solos on the album and the entire song is rife with layered blues, jazz, and even Motown influences that also make up Detroit’s musical heritage. Despite being an otherwise typical Alice Cooper song, the instrumental intricacies and intentions are what make this song stand out.
Looking for a reason to feel better about your life decisions? Listen to “$1000 High Heel Shoes” where Cooper sings from the perspective of a man whose girlfriend’s only possessions in the world are a dog collar and some expensive heels. While exalting her ability to “dance to her own kind of rhythm and blues.” This track is a kitschy blues-infused break from the traditional hard rock thread that runs through the rest of the album. “Detroit City 2021” is a classic heavy rock love letter you’d expect from Alice Cooper and an album literally titled Detroit Stories. It’s Cooper’s moment to say what he wants about the city he loves and to which he owes so much of his legacy.
Moving on, homeless love never sounded so interesting. In “Drunk and in Love” where Cooper takes us inside the cardboard box of love in this booze-tinged homage to finding love in unexpected places. “Wonderful World” is a wispy and charming commentary on hive-mindedness and the desire to live in an echo chamber. With lyrics like “It would be a wonderful world/If all of you were just like me” Cooper is calling it like he sees it, whether you like it or not. “I Hate You” is a diss track of the the most literal sense with members of the Coopers band playfully tossing childish insults at one another. While mostly only entertaining for its simplicity and immaturity, it is doubtful that it was meant to be much more than just that.
On “Shut Up and Rock” the original shock rocker gives voice to the inner (and sometimes outer) monologue of music fans declaring little care or concern for the everyday lives or opinions of their musical idols. In the age of “the influencer,” Cooper speaks for fans that don’t want personal connections and opinions from their celebrities, but would rather they “shut up and rock.” Regardless of differing opinions on the concept, the Detroit madman is laying it all out and saying the quiet parts out loud.
One thing that Alice Cooper is good at is being Alice Cooper. Whether you agree with it or not, the legendary performer, showman, and shock rocker made his bones in the industry early on and has mastered riding the wave of his own hype for decades after the fact. On Detroit Stories, Cooper comes back to his roots and the snarky groove that helped him initially claim fame. While generally unremarkable and definitely not re-inventing the wheel, Detroit Stories feels like what Cooper set out to do. With a history as storied and eclectic as Alice Cooper’s it permits you the luxury of creating whatever you want, regardless of fan interest.
Old school fans may find it interesting, ironic, and funny, but it has the potential to put off newcomers with it’s lack of overall lyrical depth and gravity. So, for levity and surface entertainment, Cryptic Rock gives Detroit Stories 3 out of 5.