Maybe no one got around telling this to Alice, however, because Welcome 2 My Nightmare, in contrast to almost all laws of good music sense, kicks total ass, and serves as a rightful successor to the masterpiece which originally solidified The Coop’s place in hard rock history. Then again, this IS Alice Bleeping Cooper we’re talking about: the man who—in addition to his syndicated radio show and pro golf aspirations—has released some of the all time greatest albums in the history of rock over the course of forty-plus year career in the business.
Indeed, Alice holds all the cards here, sprawling the gamut of styles and emotions over the course of this fourteen track concept tale of deep, dark nightmares. From the anthemic-yet-melancholic opening balladry of “I Am Made of You” to the closing reprise of his original '70s Nightmare themes, Welcome 2 My Nightmare was indeed a risk for Cooper, yet it’s The Man himself who comes out smelling like roses after this bad boy is done spinning.
For compositional assistance here, Cooper has enlisted some classic contributors, including longtime friend and producer Bob Ezrin and original Alice Cooper Band members Dennis Dunaway, Neal Smith and Michael Bruce, all of which lent their decidedly convincing talents to the songwriting, and it shows: Welcome 2 My Nightmare contains some of The Coop’s best tunes in years, going back at least to The Last Temptation or Trash.
The album isn’t immediate, however, and indeed some may be initially turned off by Alice’s auto-tuned vocals on the aforementioned opener “I Am Made of You,” never mind the songwriting and guest vocals of risqué pop star Ke$ha on the track “What Baby Wants.” The thing is…it works, and doesn’t stop working right ‘til the album’s very end, when the desire to immediately press ‘play’ one more time becomes nigh-on impossible.
This desire only really approximates itself after one complete go ‘round, however; Cooper’s vision is so varied and dynamic, the initial reaction to this sensory overload is almost ‘too much.’ It isn’t until one takes real stock into the album’s lyrics and ideas as a whole picture does a Nightmare success really become clearer and more readily apparent.
Whether it’s the box-car carnival atmosphere of “Last Man on Earth” and “Runaway Train,” the blatant Beatles-isms of Alice’s vocals on the impossibly pretty “Something to Remember Me By” or the Beach Boys surf-rock of “Ghouls Gone Wild,” Welcome 2 My Nightmare never takes it easy on the listener, challenging instead the conventions—or unconventions—of Alice Cooper 2011.
Yet there’s also plenty of solid rock to worship here, as well, not the least of which is the goosebump-inducing outro instrumental of “The Underture,”—where the original Nightmare and this sequel join hands in unholy matrimony—the creepy, menacing groove of “When Hell Comes Home” or the aforementioned Ke$ha-assisted “What Baby Wants,” which could easily be a bass-booming dance-crossover hit, if properly circulated.
Does all of this sound like too much to take? Too challenging? Yeah, it is at first, but that’s why Welcome 2 My Nightmare comes off smelling so wickedly sweet in the end. It doesn’t try to replicate the original Nightmare, its execution or ideas, but instead makes bold strides of its own, nodding confidently back to Cooper’s past while excitedly living in the man’s present day ambitions.
In other words, this album is way better than it should be, more killer than anyone thought it could be, and clearly an essential purchase for diehard fans of the legendary Alice Cooper, if not a candidate for hard rock album of the year.
(released September 13, 2011 on Universal Music)