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Dirty Diamonds by Alice Cooper

By Jeff Kerby, Contributor
Sunday, October 2, 2005 @ 8:33 AM


On NEw West Records

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Alice Cooper is a metal legend.

It’s obvious--give the guy his due—I mean, he would be a rock icon even if he hadn’t released anything after say…1980 or so. The problem with trying to review a record by such a figure whether it be Ozzy or Dio--or any figure of that stature--is that they’re basically competing against a period of time wherein they produced a body of work that can never really be eclipsed. Then, the conundrum becomes whether or not to try to just forget who it is put the record out and attempt to grade the work on its individual merits—a task that is almost impossible when the subject is Alice. I mean, the whole persona created by Vincent Furnier was based on shock, horror and railing against the man. The problem in 2005 though is that everyone has been shocked almost to the point where there aren’t many more societal parameters and giving the finger to the establishment can be pretty damn difficult when the person who created the idea of Alice has actually become part of the establishment. C’mon…golf? Savvy businessman? I don’t want that. Gimme back the alcoholic. Gimme back the guy who twisted heads off of dolls. Gimme back the guy who said that the police could have pulled him over three weeks after he had taken his last drink and he’s still be over the legal limit. Actually, that being said, Vincent Furnier is lucky he was able to escape the cycle of behavior because he would probably be dead now if he hadn’t. Even if his private life has changed and he doesn’t quite fill the same role in the metal pantheon, Alice/Vincent can still write a catchy tune—always has, and in the end that might be the most important common denominator for all of his work.

Dirty Diamonds kicks off with “Woman of Mass Distraction” which is a respectable enough introductory tune even if a bit generic and the guitar here isn’t too dynamic either—in any case, it’s hard to imagine this song being memorable to hard core Cooper fans in say five years or so. It does get better with numerous listens though…but then again, so does a toothpaste commercial. “Perfect” follows, and as usual, the chorus is solid, but lyrics like “she can shake it just like J-Lo when the bedroom lights go down” may not be some of his best. I imagine it’s supposed to be tongue in cheek and all that, but here it sounds more like tongue in ass (albeit, a nice one). Festivities do get better in a hurry though with the catchy “You Make Me Wanna”. This song possesses all the fun and grit of classic Alice and works within the context of this record in a big way—if you hear it, guaranteed you’ll be singing it afterwards. Next up is the title track, “Dirty Diamonds” which ironically enough is one of the weakest tracks on the disc. The hook sort of drags and it isn’t the most engaging selection you’re likely to ever hear.

Uh…“Diamonds don’t cheat. Diamonds don’t lie. Diamonds are forever. Diamonds never die.” I kept expecting him to bust in with, “You can stab a diamond. You throw a diamond. You can shoot a diamond. You can eat the diamond, and then you could shit the diamond out of your ass while jumping out of a 747, but….YOU CAN’T KILL THE FUCKING DIAMOND!” It sounds like the tagline to a jewelry commercial for homicidal Goths. I give up--trying to figure out why artists pick certain songs to be the title track is always an exercise in futility, but this one is even a bit more problematic than usual. “Dirty Diamonds” is much better when it’s performed live though, it just would have been cool if it would have translated a little more powerfully on the recording.

Two of the most memorable contributions here come in the middle of the album. “The Saga of Jesse Jane” has been endlessly compared to Alice tracks like “Stolen Prayer” or “King of the Silver Screen”. Basically, it sounds countryish and the subject matter is kind of funny--transvestite brides are amusing that way. The he/she eventually goes nuts and starts killing people. It is a cool enough tune and definitely mixes up the tempo. If it isn’t classic Cooper, it’s at least respectable Cooper and that’s still pretty damn good. I imagine the tale is pretty realistic too because being a transvestite would be kind of confusing—one day you fancy yourself a dude, the next day a chick. Before long you don’t know who the hell you are and can’t find a unisex bathroom anywhere. The slowish twang of “Jesse Jane” is followed by the raucous, fun “Sunset Babies All Got Rabies”. I’m not sure if all the babies on Sunset have rabies, but I’m sure they’ve got something, and Alice does his best to describe the malady in an entertaining, rock filled way. Thumbs up on this one too.

“Pretty Ballerina” begins the second half of the record. It is basically a cover of a song by a group called Left Banke. Faithful version or not, the tune is not pleasing to the ear. When I say it isn’t pleasing, I don’t just mean that I don’t really dig how it sounds…no, I’d liken it more to having a mouse trap snap violently shut on your ear lobe. That track is a definite skipper. No worries though because “Run Down the Devil” and “Steal That Car” follow, and each have great choruses and keep the tempo lively. Two of the final three tunes are sort of ballad-like as “Six Hours” and “Zombie Dance” each have the ability to appeal to the rock fan in a slower, more melancholy way. Sandwiched between them is the melodic, up tempo “Your Own Worst Enemy”. Maybe Alice shoulda just ended it there because the bonus track is entitled “Stand” and includes da rappa known as Xzbit.

Xzbit?

Yep, dawg—I ain’t been wit dat nigga since I seen him in da club wit a bottle fulla bub hangin’ wit Fitty beeeaaaatch!

It would probably be fortuitous if the X-man didn’t come back into my consciousness on an Alice Cooper record either. I guess it rears its ugly head on Dirty Diamonds primarily because the track was included on a Summer Olympics album that didn’t get much play in the rock community. Sample lyric: “Get up, get up, get up!” (Wait, bitch---there’s more.)

“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

Hmm. I hope dey wuz crunked out dey fuckin’ minds when dey decided to sing dis shit cuz it ain’t no N.W.A.--dat’s fo sho! Now, if they woulda covered “Fuck Da Police,” that woulda been da shizzle, nizzle off da hook bizzle, hizzle.

Bad rap/rock collaboration aside though, Dirty Diamonds is overall a quality record. Really, there were only two or three songs that weren’t as strong as the others—the bonus, the remake and the title track. Other than that, there is a lot of what made Cooper great to begin with here such as “You Make Me Wanna” and “Sunset Babies”. Even if rumors are true and Cooper reunites with his original band for a collaboration or tour, don’t expect the music to get much better than this. You can’t recreate a time period, and really a fan has no right to when an artist is still consistently putting out records as good as Brutal Planet, The Last Temptation and Dragontown. It’s unfair to expect more from a rock or metal icon than what Alice is currently delivering. This record is more than an excuse to tour, and thankfully you won’t need any convoluted reason to put Dirty Diamonds in your stereo or have to go searching for a place to piss when he cranks up one of these tunes live (please Alice, not “Pretty Ballerina“ though).

Long live Alice--just please stay away from the golf.

***


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