After all the mostly poor efforts of the 80s and coming off the success of Trash, Alice Cooper released their 2nd best album (and probably my favourite) with Hey Stoopid. It brought the best of 80’s metal and hard rock (owing much to G’n’R) and mixed it with Alice’s trademark style, lyrics, and imagery. We had his heaviest album so far (this remained true until Brutal Planet), filled with thrash style guitars, bluesy but not over the top solos, some of his most memorable ballads, and some of his greatest anthems. Alice had a long history of blasting out classics teen and outsider anthems, from I’m Eighteen to School’s Out but here we have my favourite with Wind Up Toy. The most famous song is undoubtedly Feed My Frankenstein, made popular by its appearance in Wayne’s World but it is bookended by even better songs. With plenty of backing and guest musicians and Alice’s lyrical if not musical creativity in high gear, Hey Stoopid is one of the most underrated rock/metal albums of the early nineties.
`Hey Stoopid’ opens the album with a typically 80s fist pumping and chanting intro before dismembering the cheese and breaking out some heavy riffs and chords. It’s as if Alice was replying to all the rubbish hair rock and metal of the previous decade (which he had some part in) and blasting through it with his authentic punk and rebellious roots. Perhaps he wanted to regain some of the respect he may have lost during the decade at the same time as answering his critics, perhaps he just wanted to follow other bands of the time and make a no-nonsense heavy record. The lyrics speak of rehabilitation and making your own decisions without the backing of the crowd. Hardly the most original of sentiments, and indeed Alice said the same before. Slash and Satriani help out with guitar duties while Ozzy provides some backing vocals. Alice would repay the favour soon after by singing on Use Your Illusion.
`Love’s A Loaded Gun’ is a pseudo-ballad, a slightly softer song mixed with a dirty, bluesy sound. The themes of prostitution, love, betrayal, and murder/suicide are typical for Alice as he weaves another grime filled story. I prefer the lyrics to the music on this one. The acoustic verses give way to a louder chorus, each backed with some screaming guitars and Alice sings with trademark irony and venom.
`Snakebite’ opens with the sound of a rattlesnake before bursting into one of the albums most evil and vicious souding riffs. The heavy guitars continue throughout and the chorus is very catchy. Alice creates another character and weaves the story of a tattooed lover who may be murderously possessive. Snakebite is one of those songs for turning up loud when you’re driving at night with the hot air blasting in your face, and it wouldn’t be an Alice Cooper album without some snake references.
`Burning Our Bed’ is another song which features Joe Satriani and is probably the best ballad on offer. It begins a linked trilogy of songs (with the next two obviously) and speaks of the pain and recovery from lost love. It is highly atmospheric thanks to Alice’s whispery vocals and the guitar effects. The verses are nicely acoustic and build up to another catchy chorus. I particularly like the emotional bridge and guitar solo which help to prove that Alice is one of the most underrated writers of love songs (as well as every other type).
`Dangerous Tonight’ has an extended, ominous intro merging with Burning Our Bed and features some of the album’s best guitar work. Really if you’re a fan of flashy guitars without the self indulgence then this is an album for you. The organ/keyboard intro overlapped with the menacing guitars is one of the best introductions of any Alice song. The lyrics are quite darkly erotic with an undercurrent of S and M. The imagery is not overly imaginative but all serves to create a tense atmosphere and the solo and chorus is full of head-banging opportunity. In fact the solo here is one of my all time favourites, not because it is particularly skilful or lightning fast but because, like Leaves by The Gathering, it fits the song so well.
`Might As Well Be On Mars’ also has a brooding, atmospheric intro leading in from the previous song and ending the trilogy. I love the way the piano and thunder start together before leading us into a dark and lonely tale of stalking, self-delusion, and invisibility. I like the verse riff although this is another song where the lyrics are better than the music, even though the music is pretty great too. Alice acts out the story with his vocals as always, straining with desperation and irony. The middle section with its string section and synth somehow becomes anthemic even though it is a song about being alone showcasing his skills as a songwriter, before descending with the obligatory solo and an extended ending where the character fades away back into the dark alley and despair from whence he came.
`Feed My Frankenstein’ is a song dually by Alice and British band Zodiac Mindwarp and is noticeable not only for appearing in Wayne’s World but for it’s sexual lyrics and messed up guitar solo by Steve Vai. Nikki Sixx provides bass here adding to the overall sleazy feeling, and Alice sings in his most ugly, dirty style. Yet again the chorus is a sing-along affair, something which was lacking for most of Alice’s 80s albums. It tool Poison from Trash to remind the group where their greatest strengths lay, in writing crowd pleasers which were smarter than those the average band would churn out.
`Hurricane Years’ is one of the lesser songs on the album but is still pretty good. There are no poor songs on display, it’s just that this and another couple pale in comparison with the rest and sound a little too 80s. I rate the chorus here highly and the overall tempo is fast with some good shredding from Vinnie Moore.
`Little By Little’ has a great introduction continuing the ominous tone, but is let down by a cheesy chorus filled with background cheers and a slow and fairly uninspiring verse. The whole song sounds grimy enough and the sexual lyrics work well speaking of the games lovers play, but it just isn’t as strong as other songs.
`Die For You’ is another excellent little ballad marked by a wonderful guitar riff and some sweet and touching lyrics. The piano over the verses keeps the song light but as is the way with this album, when the chorus starts you want to jump around the room like a mad man. The song again speaks of recovering from a break up and the sheer amount of physical and emotion destruction it can wreak upon you. Alice manages to turn these emotions into a powerful and almost celebratory anthem proving again that he has always been a songwriting force to be reckoned with.
`Dirty Dreams’ is the third less memorable song for me, the melodies aren’t as exciting as others and again the chorus seems a bit cheap. Again the sleaze meter is high showing that this incarnation of Alice was a rather dirty old man. Despite the Sex Pistols introduction it becomes just an average rocker.
`Wind Up Toy’ may well be my favourite Alice Cooper song ever, it is definitely my favourite (what I would class as) anthem ever, and it is one of the best endings to any album I can think of. With it’s scary sounding child’s toy introduction giving away to one of the great riffs, from Alice’s vocals from the point of view of a possibly sociopathic child (yet getting us to side with him), from the themes of madness, anger, loneliness, and a desire to be both free and included, to the excellent chorus and terrifying ending it is genius. The character of Steven re-appears (who all Alice fans will be familiar with), the lyrics are touching, child-like, and imaginative, the drums make you want to pucnh the air no matter how terrible a notion that is, and the guitars scream all over the place, but in all the right places. The ending to the song is one of my favourites, haunting, funny, brilliant- everything Alice should be remembered for.
So, if you enjoy hard rock and metal, or if you’re sick of all the current trend of indie nobodies and bland, unimaginative screamo bands then you should like this. Even if you are the sort who smirks at the slightest mention of Alice Cooper with an (un) knowing irony you should listen to this with an open mind- if you are a genuine music lover and not a fashionista you will find something you like here. It may not have the invention of early Alice, it may lack some of the smarts of his biggest albums, but it is full of energy, great ideas, and sublime tunes. Get it now.
As always, feel free to comment- agree, disagree, share any memories of the album which you may have.