Dear old Alice. Your mother hated him because he was loud, your preacher hated him because he looked like Satan, and you teacher hated him because, well, it was her job to hate him. Now he’s older, wiser, and peddling quality time with your kids for a Mormon motel chain. But he’s still not too old to rock and roll, and Dragontown is a very respectable album for someone who’s been in a tough business for a long time.
Alice has always been the star, with backing bands that were always excellent, if a bit faceless. This time around, he’s picked up an updated guitar sound that will blend in with your favorite ’90s Goth grunge MP3s. “Triggerman” opens this rousing album dedicated to the darker side of life, a tale about an anonymous gunman of the sort employed by small import/exporters with obscure product lines. It’s a hitman hit if anything is on this disc.
I also recommend the sardonic “Disgraceland,” a post-life story of the king of tabloid R&R. You know he ate his weight in country ham, loved them little pills,, and died on the throne. Is this enough to get him into rock and roll heaven? Not in Alice’s view — there are options in immortality, and gold records don’t make the decision. It’s almost a novelty song, and it sure would be nice if there were a video somewhere.
Another noteworthy tune is “I Just Wanna Be God,” the sort of idea you get in your head when that first album charts, the record company is still giving you money, and the groupies haven’t passed on a nasty little rash. You can just see the big-haired guitar line thrashing out this rhythm line. Dee Synder comes to mind, but he’s calmed down a good bit as well.
Dragontown puts Cooper back on solid ground as an interesting, entertaining musician. If this is your first contact with him, go check out his early albums, which drip with humor and sarcasm. After a session in obligatory Dryouttown, he’s gotten good again, and you older (ahem) fans should investigate where. It’s not nostalgia by any means — it’s a great artistic progression that preserves much of his 1970s appeal while incorporating the best aspects of the ’90s scene. I hear he’s touring with the old guillotine — he’s just a traditionalist at heart.