Alice Cooper - Constrictor review


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Band: Alice Cooper
Album: Constrictor
Release date: 1986

01. Teenage Frankenstein
02. Give It Up
03. Thrill My Gorilla
04. Life And Death Of The Party
05. Simple Disobedience
06. The World Needs Guts
07. Trick Bag
08. Crawlin'
09. Great American Success Story
10. He's Back (The Man Behind The Mask)

Constrictor didn't bring Alice much success, at least not as much as the subsequent albums in his glam metal phase, but this album did set him back on a steady, comprehensible path after years of self-destructive behavior and free-wheeling musical experimentation. I can imagine the relief such a safe and palatable album would have entailed at the time of its release, although a retrospective look means that Constrictor lacks its initial charm and has to stand on the strength of its songs, a motley collection of three-minute glam rockers.

As someone intimately familiar with the nature of simple rock'n'roll, Alice Cooper has no problem delivering with nothing more than a few loud chords and a solid, memorable chorus; his best works have typically been more ornate and orchestrated, but the sound that Constrictor chases is little more than the 1986 equivalent of songs that already appeared on Billion Dollar Babies or School's Out, and that signals safe territory. Even though I've never been able to justify placing Alice's glam material on the same pedestal as his earlier and later works, there's no reason that albums like Constrictor, Trash, and Hey Stoopid shouldn't work for him. There are a few fun, blood-pumping cuts on this album, like the angry stomp of "Simple Disobedience," the sleek, nostalgic rocker "The Great American Success Story," and the closest thing this album has to a classic Alice Cooper song (thematically, anyway), "The World Needs Guts."

What holds Constrictor back more than anything is the hollow, exhausted-sounding production. Despite Alice's personal revitalization, he sounds like he still hadn't fully recovered when he went into the studio to record this album; he can't seem to muster his trademark snarling voice, and his visceral attitude transforms into merely holding on until the end of the song. The instrumentation totally lacks power, too; the guitars are so thin and flimsy that the big Def Leppard riffs they are supposed to be spouting lose power and sputter out. The drums are so soft-hearted and the low end so nonexistent, the backing vocals so spaced-out and the keys so miserly that tunes like "Teenage Frankenstein" and "Thrill My Gorilla," which have potential to fill arenas with heart-pounding hard rock, feel anemic and airy. With about half of the album consisting of filler, Constrictor can't survive purely on the strength of its songs, either.

Had Constrictor been blessed with the high production values of Trash, this could have been the high point of Alice's glam phase; the songwriting is as accessible and innocuous as Alice has ever been, but Constrictor isn't yet tainted by the now-dated pop influences of Trash and Hey Stoopid. This album is still oriented towards glam rock rather than glam metal, which means there is a lot of straightforwardly fun and hearty material here that's just drowning in shoddy production and passionless performances. Like every Alice album, Constrictor has a few things to like, if not anything to love; while this weary, flat sound might not ever make sense, Constrictor is otherwise the definition of a solid, average Alice Cooper album.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 6
Songwriting: 6
Originality: 5
Production: 5


Written on 24.06.2017 by I'm the reviewer, and that means my opinion is correct.

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