In recent years – what feels like forever – Alice and his co-writers have concentrated on concepts for his albums, where each song contributes to the story being told, and sometime that can be a bit restrictive. Here on Paranormal they have steered clear of this and just gone out and written songs, of varying genres it must be said, but effectively. How much you enjoy the switch between styles of music in the songs here is probably going to determine exactly how you feel about the album.
“Paranormal” combines the reflective and the faster paced, and I have found is a grower, in that it gets better each time you listen to it. Once you know the nuance of the song it is much more enjoyable. This is followed by “Dead Flies” that seems to reach right back into the past, with the stomping drums and Alice’s chanting vocals bringing back memories of past great moments. “Fireball” has a similar theme where the backbeat drives the song while Alice sings over the top. “Paranoiac Personality” is okay, but to me it’s a bit repetitive and doesn’t really break out of its mould at any time. From here we fall back in to some other realm of music, as though we had moved back in time, with a very ‘rock n’ roll’ feel to the songs. “Fallen in Love’ is the first of this genre, and is followed by “Dynamite Road” which has a very southern sound about it, highlighted by the drum beat throughout. It’s a beauty, but is another one that takes some time to let it grow on you.
The second half of the album doesn’t quite measure up to the first half. “Private Public Breakdown” plods along without any great energy or motivation, perhaps in essence like the title of the song. “Holy Water” is at least more upbeat in style but just seems to lack that real Alice Cooper twist to make it more likeable. “Rats” is okay, but again probably not up to the enjoyable level of earlier songs. “The Sound of A” is far too much in the genre of a Pink Floyd song, and given my reticence of that band it makes it a difficult song to get through. Oh well.
There is some fun on the second disc, where the first two songs are written and composed and played by the remains of the original Alice Cooper band. Both “Genuine American Girl” and “You and All Your Friends” are interesting for the fact that they sound like they are from the era immediately following the group’s break up. For nostalgia they serve their purpose.
The real kicker is the six live songs that are tacked on to the end of the release. Why so? Because for perhaps the first time on the whole album, you feel rejuvenated, you feel up and you feel excited about the music. Because these are the great tracks, the ones from different eras that are the best that Alice can produce. And even after all these years, these are the songs I love to sing – “No More Mr. Nice Guy”, “Under My Wheels”, “Billion Dollar Babies”, “Feed My Frankenstein”, “Only Women Bleed” and “School’s Out”.
Are there truly any bad Alice Cooper albums? Well, I guess the answer is yes, but certainly since the mid-1980’s I think that while the quality overall may be different from album to album, overall all of them are eminently listenable. This may well never become a classic album and it will never be as highly regarded as those albums from other eras of his career, but it comes down to how much do you like to sit down and listen to an Alice Cooper album. I enjoy it, quite a bit, and thus can find enough here to like and listen to.
Rating: “And your phone knows more about you than your daddy or your mother”. 3/5