Alice Cooper (1971)

Roxy Music would come a year later and insert what would become the dance music genre, with synths, hedonism and saxophone. Sparks would deviate significantly, predicting new wave and goth years early. Lou Reed would take the material in a German cabaret direction and emphasize the campiness and R&B undertones. Elton John ran with the same idea, diversifying it and making it accessible to the public. Mott the Hoople arguably dabbled in the genre a couple years earlier than everyone. And David Bowie would popularize it and make it more about fantasy than crudity.

But Alice Cooper really played glam rock first, and best. They (yes, it was a band before the lead singer co-opted the name) blazed a path for the genre by almost deserting it completely. The genre inflated the emotions of rock to histrionic, epic levels, added lots of baroque and Gothic influences (including cabaret and classical motives) while emphasizing fake, experimental stage personae, androgyny and raw sexuality. It stressed the importance of image as well as output, increasing focus on style instead of substance. In some ways, its tunes were an exaggerated throwback to decadent good-time boogie rock.

…Bringing us again to Alice Cooper. At heart, they were more of a hard rock band with 50s-revival melodies. It was their strange aesthetic that made them glam idols. It was a ballsy, novel idea to make old-school music more complex, powerful, and gruesome, and they did so with aplomb. Numerous catchy and diverse melodies wind through the last few tracks, which are all high-octane fun with just the right amount of camp. That’s not to disparage the first half, which has its fair share of wonderful surprises and excellent representations of the Motor City rock sound. There’s a playfulness in the “dark” lyrics, a mature depth behind the band’s entertaining shock tactics. It’s a clearly fake and bizarre put-on but it actually rings true with emotion and exciting playing. They have everything both ways, and it makes for a fantastic listen that left countless imitators in its wake.

Key track: “Desperado”

See also: Love It To Death – Alice Cooper (1971), School’s Out – Alice Cooper (1972), Muscle Of Love – Alice Cooper (1973), Billion Dollar Babies – Alice Cooper (1973), Destroyer – Kiss (1976)

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