Dirty Diamonds

When a guy reinvents himself countless times over a near-40-year career, it’s interesting to watch what happens next, isn’t it? And Alice Cooper — cinematic lyricist, crushing live performer, owner of giant voice and master of celebrity — is still vital on his 26th record.

The title track tips musical hat to Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” and surrenders to the Coop’s patented Bond-film kitsch and grace. It’s the story of a failed jewel heist, images of knuckle breaking, fallen women and lead showers abound. A well-crooned cover of the Left Banke’s “Pretty Ballerina” sweetens the song list, while the beguiling and countrified “Saga of Jesse Jane” sees Coop playing the part of a jailed cross-dresser in that frightening land we call Texas. If that doesn’t scare the pants off you, stir in the Coop’s disarming wordplay and prickly wit and this record is both self-parody and a return to the early Alice Cooper Band sensibilities. (That was a band. Formed in high school, they lived and essentially died together, penning such Detroit-bred American classics as “Eighteen.”) Here the band sounds good. It ought to. Longtime guitarist Ryan Roxie is essential; as co-songwriter he leads the players with gnarly pop hooks toward the Coop’s visions.

Altering post-hippie rock ’n’ roll with A.M. anthems that defined pubescent confusion is a lot to live up to, but the Coop forges on with “a baby’s brain and an old man’s heart.”

Robin Johnson writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].

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