Even though Alice Cooper already has like three Greatest Hits CDs, Rhino Records figured that a “best of” album was necessary for the pioneer of shock-rock. Die-hard Alice fans be warned, you already own this album. New guy, thinking of joining a new generation of admirers, this album will get you on your feet, but, first, please consider the consequences of seriously admiring an androgynous, “devil-worshipping,” shock-rocker whose downtime activities include drinking Arnie Palmers, wearing plaid knickers, and the VH1 celebrity golf tournament.

Paul Wong
Courtesy of W.W. Norton

All blaring contradictions aside, the album is a collection of Alice”s best work, everything from his early anthems to his later, poppier metal. There are even a few sappy power ballads for the true connoisseur. But rest assured, just a few ballads. After all, Alice”s essential appeal is certainly somewhere else. Somewhere under the running mascara and the 20-foot boa. Somewhere in that perfectly appropriate voice all the gravel and grating necessary to fuel teenage rebellion and to pull off exaggerated stage theatrics. When I think Alice, I think “Welcome to My Nightmare.” I think “Muscle of Love.”

But hey, the Detroit native isn”t all pomp. “I”m Eighteen” is vintage 70s hard rock. Those twangy guitar solos and thumping bass drums have a bit of the same flavor of the Stones or Creedence. You might also think back to 1989 and recall that catchy chorus you know you were humming ” I wanna kiss you, but your lips are venomous POISON.” Yes, “Poison” makes a well-deserved appearance. That song is about STDs, right? And ladies, Alice is not just for the guys. With songs like, “I Never Cry,” and “Only Women Bleed,” Alice exhibits a softer, ironic side that is sure to strike a nerve. And let”s not forget the classic high school anthem, “School”s Out.” Yeah, Alice Cooper wrote that song.

So, if you can get past: The fact that his look was an inspiration to Marilyn Manson, his circus of horrors or whatever approach to music, and his plaid golf bag, than you”ve got some decent music here. Chalked stiff with 22 semi-solid rockers for your listening enjoyment, and one hell of a ringmaster to guide you through.

But really, Alice never said that he wasn”t out to give the audience what they wanted. He never said he wasn”t an entertainer. Let”s all take comfort in the fact that the release of The Best of Alice Cooper Mascara and Monsters isn”t supposed to mean anything. Not to Alice, and not to the audience. It”s just business as usual. Picture it There”s Alice relaxing at the country club. Sporting a polo and a cigar. Wearing his new rubber spikes because the club banned the metal ones to keep the greens extra smooth. And then he gets a call from Rhino records asking about that new album, which is supposedly on the way. Alice describes conflicts of tennis lessons and two o”clock tee times. What to do? Then somebody pitches the “Best of” album, and nobody dissents. No need to preserve the artistic integrity of his work, so why not? Alice could use a new corvette or something. Alice gets to go back to golf, and we get some entertainment. Why not? Or perhaps more fitting. Why?

Grade: C+

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