FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 31: Alice Cooper – School’s Out

Posted: March 17, 2013 by kingcrimsonprog in First Impressions Articles

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 31: Alice Cooper - School's Out

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 31: Alice Cooper – School’s Out

This is the thirty-first entry of my blog series ‘First Impressions.’ In each entry of the series I write about discovering an influential or genre-classic album for the first time and then write about that experience in a semi-planned, semi-stream of consciousness manner that is less helpful than a traditional album-review, but which does contain more personal flavour.

I prefer my reviews to be serious and informative. ‘First Impressions’ allow for a more director’s commentary approach. I can be silly and talk bollox, or make points that only a handful of people will understand. Usually I will deliver insights into my history with similar music as well as into how my mind works and how both of these things change over time. You will have to either possess a fairly detailed understanding of Rock and Metal history and Subgenre conventions or have a second tab open at Wikipedia to fully follow every single point that I make, but don’t let that put you off…I’m not honestly expecting you to know every single riff or tone I’ll point out off by heart.

If you want your own First Impressions article done, just suggest it in the comments. I’ll give anything a shot.

I wasn’t sure what to do the next edition (this one) about, either Rammstein’s debut or Disturbed’s fourth album, since both were suggested to me. I listened to the first song of each and decided that I’d do it a different day since I didn’t have enough time. I went about my business and on the way back a few days later I had to pass through town before getting home. I moseyed into HMV’s closing down sale to see if I could find anything to write a First Impressions article about for cheap, and I found this album for £3. That’ll do nicely I didn’t think because that’s not a thing I’d say but I bought it for a reason that is essentially that but I cant articulate because it was more of a blind, unquestioning consumer belch of gluttony and avarice that I probably should be more concerned about than I currently have to be. Like the bit when you know you drink too much but you’re not officially an Alcoholic yet. Or when you put on two stone, but your friends say you aren’t getting fat. You’re feeding of your base wants is becoming problematic and you aren’t exercising enough control over your whims, but you’re not bothering to deal with that situation yet.

So yeah, I got this fifth Alice Cooper band album. Before he went solo on Welcome To My Nightmare. I decide I’ll put it on first since I’m about to go on a massive Rammstein binge thanks to a gift of tonnes of Rammstein stuff from my good friend Magnum, and may as well do it all in one giant plunge.

So; Alice Cooper has been in my brain for as long as I can remember. Whenever I very first got into Rock and Metal music a close friend of mine was a big fan (and although I never tried a single song out, or had heard a note of his music at the time excluding the chorus of ‘Schools Out’ in an episode of the Simpsons, I decided at the time that he was a stupid thing to listen to as he was old. Old production was repellent. Only things as new as Nu Metal sounded good to the ears. Hey, I was only 12.)

Soon after I saw him in Waynes World, which was a favourite film of mine for a while as a teenager. I also heard a few seconds of the song ‘Poison’ a few times on MTV2 and Kerrang, but would instantly get as far away from it as possible, with a kind of gag reflex against ‘gay’ music (apologies, I was indeed a twat at that young age) (Ps. ‘Gay’ music essentially amounted to Hair Metal, 80s Rock, and any Ballads.) I still to this day haven’t heard a full verse or chorus from that song.

I got into Guns N’ Roses after about five years of furiously hating them (for being ‘gay’ music, with songs like ‘Patience’) by actually listening to them. Strange concept, I know. Alice Cooper guests on their track ‘The Garden,’ although truth be told, I never, ever, not once, enjoyed anything about that song… although that has nothing to do with Alice Cooper.

Anthrax cover ‘I’m Eighteen’ and I like that, but I’ve never heard the original. I’ve heard it covered by actors in Freaks And Geeks though. So… close enough. Nope.

A few years later, I saw a few documentaries on TV with Alice Cooper in them, and instantly decided that he was brilliant. He’s a fantastic personality when he’s being interviewed not-as-Alice. I really enjoyed his radio show that used to be on the year before I went to university for the first time, and I enjoy him popping up in any metal documentaries that I see. He’s a great guy. Like Scott Ian, you can rely on him to be in a documentary, and not be a douche.

But even after having known about him for about 13 years, and liked him as a personality for about six years, I still haven’t heard any of his music for the entire length of one song. ‘Schools Out’ has came up in documentaries and advertisements again all throughout my time as a living human, but I’ve still not listened to it end to end. And to that end…

[Play]

The first track on Schools Out is ‘Schools Out.’ I listen to it end to end. I don’t recognize the start. I feel weird listening to it though, like a peado or something. I’m embarrassed that anyone passing by is going to think that I, a 24 year old adult, am celebrating a Sunday not having School. I’m not. Great, first Angus Young in a School uniform, and now this.

The bit that goes ‘no… more… teachers.’ etc. reminds me way more of a Christmas song, like Slade and Wizzard than what its actually from.
Its also interesting that the drums for the chorus play exclusively on the floortom and one cymbal. I can’t think of another song ever that does that.

The next song is called ‘Looney Tune’ it sounds… um, psychedelic I guess. It reminds me a lot of ‘Lucifer Sam’ by Pink Floyd (the only Syd Barret era Pink Floyd song I can even half-enjoy). It goes into a orchestral bit that reminds me of ‘Beth’ by Kiss and I instantly would swear down Bob Ezrin produced this (coincidentally, he produced Pink Floyd’s The Wall, but not Piper, so …not coincidence there really).

Aha. Wikipedia says Bob did indeed produce this. Boom. My ears are good. Although to be fair I probably knew it a bit anyway, from previous Wikipediaings about Kiss or something, and its just triggered a half memory that I pass off as a keen ear.

Next up ‘Gutter Cat Vs. The Jets’ what a horrible title. Luckily the music is poor too. Oh wait.

Actually, it reminds me a bit of Lynyrd Skynyrd in a way, but with none of the quality. The vocals are poor too, by my ears. Which is a bad sign for a singer themed band. It would be like Rob Zombie or Marilyn Manson’s vocals being bad. It also reminds me a bit of Jimi Hendrix, but a lot of Syd era Pink Floyd. I don’t like Syd era Pink Floyd. The bit when he’s singing about the ‘Midnight, Catfight, Neck Bite’ reminds me of Savatage’s Streets A Rock Opera, in as much as it sounds like a musical. Not that it sounds like good prog metal. I don’t like musicals.

There’s a bit of fun synth that sounds like a Halloween themed NES game. When he starts singing about ‘The Jets’ it sounds horrible, like a musical number in an animated comedy. I don’t like musical numbers in any animated comedy, I usually fast forward past them if I can.

Next up is ‘Street Fight’ which is a jazzy hi-hat beat, a fun bassline and a bunch of sound effects, its more of an outro for thee previous track than a song itself.

So ‘Blue Turk’ comes in to fill the vacant position of next actual song. It’s got a kind of Sleezy Jazz feel like the way Green Day’s ‘Hitchin A Ride’ does. Its full of additional instruments, horns and odd percussion etc. Its got good vocals though. And the chorus of ‘You’re So Very Picturesque’ is actually catchy. Its an odd as hell song, its like a goo, just seeping off of a kitchen counter, a bit landing on the table, a bit landing on the floor, and a bit landing on the cat, awaking it with a grumpy moan. The worst thing is that you know you’re going to have to clean the cat, and that’s never easy, you’ll get sratched a lot just trying to lower it into the water, then it’ll trash about, try and escape, look… its just a hassal you’d rather avoid.

The extra instruments make it remind me of King Crimson’s Islands album (and song ‘Cat Food’ from In The Wake Of Poesidon) but not the rest of the music. It reminds me more of Cartoon cats playing a stand-up bass in an Alley. I’ve never seen that film all the way through though. So I don’t know how informed that comparison is.

Next comes ‘My Stars’ which boasts some music that isn’t actually awful to my ears on first impression. It reminds me a lot of Caravan. There’s a bit around the two minute mark that actually gets a bit driving and powerful, and about fifteen seconds later it sounds like Camel. It’s a good prog song. Well, actually, it’s an average prog song that seems good because I’ve not enjoyed anything else so far.

The next song, ‘Public Animal 9’ (I can’t find my hash key) happens. Its got hand calps and ‘hey hey hey’ in the chorus. Its fun in a vaugue, this could be played at the Woodstock you don’t really know anything about kind of way. Its, a bit hippyish in the way Black Sabbath’s ‘Am I Going Insane (Radio)’ is. It isn’t, but it is in your false construction of what you assume the 60s might’ve been like. You lazy prick.

The last song, ‘Alma Mater’ is a personality filled song that reminds me of ‘Take It’ by Monster Magnet in spirit but no way sonically, with vocals that bizarrely sound halfway beteween Mushoomhead and Peter Criss (coincidence ‘Hooligan, won’t go to school again.’) It sounds high. Its one of the only songs that actually sounds high. I hate that analogy usually.

When he says ‘I Hope You Don’t Forget Me Or Nothin’ it reminds me of the bit on Savatage’s aforementioned streets record when he says ‘I aint no bum or Nothin’
This song, with its tequila sounding little riff is exactly the sort of thing that would be on a Quentin Tarentino soundtrack, apart from the fact that its not good enough.

The last track, is an instrumental outro, that’s full of Genesis sounding synths, VDGG-covering-the-bbc-theme sounding Sax, and is tolerable, but not actually all that good. Until it sounds like ELP covering the Olympics theme at around two and a half minutes. Ok. I like it, its all over the place and it sounds like ‘Pirates’ by ELP, but it’s the least awful thing on the album, excluding the title track, which I’d like to point out is the only thing on the album that sounds like a song.

Ok. So as an album… not a fan. I like Prog, but only up to a certain point. Things still have to be good. And yes, I know this isn’t actually Prog, but its more of a Progressive jumble than the pure hard rock of AC/DC for example.

If I had heard this album at any stage before I stared this blog, I would be inclined to call it ‘complete and utter shite.’ But I have started this blog, and a part of that was because I wanted to whinge about when people mistake actual quality with personal taste. So… this, obviously classic and much beloved, album is not to my tastes.

Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever taken such exception to a record in a long time. On first impression, I just cannot enjoy this confusing and frustrating album. It doesn’t help that I thought it would be banging hard rock, like Heart’s best songs and it actually ended up being a bloated, indulgent sludge of theatricality with no straight beats and no heavy riffs. I know, things aren’t actually bad because they defy your expectations. That is a reason I fell in love so much with Jethro Tull. But this… yuck. I can’t recommend it.

I’m not even in a funny mood. Ok, I’m tired and sore after a particularly decent Lifting session, but I’m not sad or homesick or anything. This album just did nothing for me.

There’s not one song I’d give any stars on my iTunes to. There’s albums that I HATE that have two songs with stars. Also, because of the alphabet, the next thing that came on was Alien Ant Farm’s debut album. It’s a waaaaay better album. I’d wager that if I could accurately measure how my brain perceives the quality of each record, Anthology would be at least 65 times better than Schools out. Hey, ‘Attitude’ has additional percussion on it too, but it also happens to be a good song.

I feel a bit guilty hating this album so much, but wow, what a terrible first impression it has left. Its doubly a shame because Alice is such a cool guy in interviews and documentaries.

If you are thinking of trying out this album, why not listen to ‘Wish’ by Alien Ant Farm instead for actual enjoyment. Failing that, why not just watch the musical Cats while looking at a school catalogue that is suspicious looking enough to lower your boss’s opinion of you, but not quite dodgy enough to be accused of being child porn, and then listening to a customized mix Kiss’s Music From The Elder album with the good bits taken out.

…should’ve stuck to Rammstein.

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