Recurring Nightmare

This one’s a bit late, but even though I’ve had the album for a while I really only started listening to it heavily recently. What album, you ask? Why, “Welcome 2 My Nightmare,” the latest from the great master of the macabre himself, Alice Cooper, of course.

What, did you think I was talking about Justin Beiber?

You might be wondering what’s so great about this album. You might ask, “Isn’t he in his sixties?” Well, yeah. And? “Aren’t all of those older rockers kind of just doing it to show they can? Look at the Rolling Stones!” Well, when was the last time they released a new album of new content, not remastered albums and unreleased tracks?

Let’s put it this way. Alice Cooper is still just as awesome as the day he started. If you’re a fan you probably know that he traditionally gets “killed” on stage at the end of every concert. Guess what? On his recent tours, he’s been getting killed FOUR TIMES on stage. Yeah, you heard that right. FOUR TIMES. And if you don’t know, his onstage deaths are always very impressive and realistic. He’s been beheaded, put into an electric chair; you name it, he’s probably done it.

Also he sings to big, giant snakes.

Alice Cooper and a Snake
Seriously, can you possibly be any more badass than this guy right here?

So, sold on it yet? If not, well, you’re a hopeless case.

There’s an awful lot fantastic content on this album, so I’ll go through track by track. After all, it’s a sequel to his most famous album, “Welcome to My Nightmare,” so it deserves the time.

1. “I Am Made of You” — The piano riffs on this one are taken straight from a track off of the original “Nightmare,” though I can’t remember which track at the moment. I’m not as familiar with the original as I am with this one. The electronic vocals are quite eerie, and the tribal-sounding drums really set up the rest of the album. The song itself doesn’t have as much of a nightmarish feel as some of the others, but it’s intense nonetheless.

2. “Caffeine” — This one is one of my favorite tracks. It’s just so much fun, and any student can relate to the “needing to stay up” theme. Also really the first track that solidly sets up the theme of the album (oh yeah, it’s a concept album, and a great one at that). At any rate, “Caffeine” is a furious, adrenaline-fueled rock track complete with screaming guitars and enough cowbell to satisfy Christopher Walken… maybe.

3. “The Nightmare Returns” — Ah yes, a short but poignant track before we fall down the rabbit hole. Cooper adopts an oddly disconcerting childish voice before “falling asleep,” yielding to a reprise of the “I Am Made of You” piano riff, with some seriously dark guitar over it. This is when you know that shit just got real.

4. “A Runaway Train” — The imagery in this one seems like a big combination of every hell Cooper could come up with. Dante’s Inferno, slavery, prison, it’s all here and more, and all at a breakneck speed that rivals, and maybe even surpasses the ferocity of “Caffeine.” Also the creepy conductor at the start, despite the likely Ozzy Osbourne allusion, is a nice touch; we’ve entered the realm of nightmare now, and anything and everything is possible.

5. “Last Man on Earth” — I always picture a wino happily dancing around a Wild West-styled ghost-town when I hear this song. And, really, that’s probably the image that was intended. The music, the lyrics, it all adds up to the same thing. Happy wino. It’s actually an interesting break from the nightmare; he’s the last living person on Earth, but it’s quite a happy song. He’s really enjoying himself!

6. “The Congregation” — Aaaand we’re back in the nightmare. “A Runaway Train” wasn’t Hell after all; this is. I love how this song simultaneously refers to the masses of Hell and organized religion — to the point of having the “guide” point out a section containing priests. Also there’s a clear progression from the previous track to this one; the poor guy is said to have finally entertained himself to death! Another thing I noticed is a slight Beatles influence — if the Beatles ever did hard rock. Listen to the vocals; there are some things in there that just scream Beatles.

7. “I’ll Bite Your Face Off” — This one is classic Alice in the same vein of songs like “Under My Wheels,” and “Cold Ethyl” (hey, that one’s from the original “Nightmare!”). Just a fun rock song with Cooper’s signature macabre twist. Kind of takes the term “maneater” to a whole new level.

8. “Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever” — If it were anyone else, this one probably wouldn’t work. It’s like rock mixed with rap, and I have no idea what exactly Cooper is doing with his voice on this one. It’s just pure insanity. Also the Winkies from “The Wizard of Oz” seem to be in this nightmare universe as well. “Yo wee oh… yoooooooo….”

9. “Ghouls Gone Wild” — I wouldn’t be surprised AT ALL if this one is just a pun on “Girls Gone Wild.” I mean, seriously… can it be anything else? It’s also just a fun track that sort of reminds me of novelty tracks like “The Monster Mash.” Perfect for Halloween parties… but then again, what Alice Cooper isn’t good for Halloween parties?

10. “Something to Remember Me By” — This is another personal favorite. It slows everything down, though not as much as “Only Women Bleed” on the original album, but it’s a really beautiful ballad. Also, Cooper is channeling Barry Manilow. Why? I don’t know. But it sounds really good anyway.

11. “When Hell Comes Home” — Alice Cooper has this thing where he writes songs about people being abused. “Only Women Bleed” on the first album, this one here. I don’t know what to make of it. But at least this one has a happy ending. It’s also the darkest song on the album by far. You want a nightmare? Here it is. Truly a frightening song.

12. “What Baby Wants” — With guest vocals by ke$ha — wait, what?! Yeah, that’s right, Alice Cooper and KE$HA. What possessed him to do that is beyond me. But… I’ll be damned, it actually works! Somehow the Jack Daniels-addicted queen of auto-tune pulled off a perfect dominatrix opposite Cooper’s… well I don’t know, he’s not really submissive, but I guess he’s the victim on this album. Either way it works, and it’s catchy to boot.

13. “I Gotta Get Outta Here” — He’s reached the breaking point. It’s time to escape the nightmare. He definitely shouldn’t have rested his eyes back in track 3. But what’s this? A twist? I won’t spoil it, but I will say that his panicked spoken reactions are some of the funniest things on the album.

14. “The Underture” — This is it… the last track… and damn if it isn’t a fantastic way to pull it all together. It’s an instrumental piece, true, and at times a lot calmer than the rest of the album, but it masterfully pulls together memorable riffs from BOTH “Nightmare” albums. Go head, listen to the original, then this one, and see if you can spot all the songs pulled into “The Underture.”

That’s all I’ve got for now. If you haven’t heard the album, go on Spotify, get it off iTunes, go to a music store, but for the sake of all that you consider holy, LISTEN TO THIS ALBUM. Easily one of my favorite albums of 2011, maybe of all time.

And just for kicks, here’s a comparison shot of the covers:

Welcome to My Nightmare
The original classic album
Welcome 2 My Nightmare
The sequel

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