Alice Cooper | Road | 2023 Review


54 years after debuting on Frank Zappa's Straight label with 1969's Pretties For You, Alice Cooper is back with his 22nd solo album and 29th overall album Road.  If you've followed my writing in the past, you'll know that I'm an Alice Cooper apologist.  I can find the gold in even the worst of his catalog.  I don't hate any of his albums.  There's obviously ones I vastly prefer, but to me Alice Cooper is comfort food.  With that editor's note out of the way, onto the review!

The Master of Madness is back with another concept album.  Imagine that!  Following 2021's Detroit Stories, Alice eschews (for the most part) the guest stars for an album both written by and performed by his tremendously talented touring band.  With as long as this line up has been going, it's time for them to be immortalized on record.  The musicianship on this one is top notch.  The triple guitar attack of Ryan Roxie, Tommy Henriksen and Hurricane Nita Strauss wails while bassist Chuck Garric and drummer Glen Sobel are a tight rhythm section.  The band recorded together and it sounds like it.  It's got that tightness that only a band that's played together for a long time can achieve.  The album does feature appearances by Rage Against The Machine's Tom Morello, Wayne Kramer of the MC5 and former Alice guitarist Kane Roberts.  Apart from these guests, the rest of the album is Alice and his band of ringers.  

So what about the songs though?  There's 13 songs on Road with the longest one clocking in at 4:21.  Most tracks are sub four minutes which makes Road a brisk listen.  As mentioned previously, this is a concept album dealing with a band being out on tour.  Each track takes the perspective of another member of the touring crew.  There's songs from the point of view of the truck driver ("White Line Frankenstein"), the road crew (an update on the 1977 Lace And Whiskey track, "Road Rats Forever"), and of course the band themselves.  

This is a goofy album.  I don't mean that in a bad way.  This album is silly.  Of course, we're talking about the guy who sang "I'm Alive (That Was The Day My Dead Pet Returned To Save My Life)." From the opening track "I'm Alice," it should be obvious that this is all tongue and cheek.  

 There's a tremendous amount of humor on Road.  How much of it lands depends on the listener.  "Big Boots" is a solid premise that's ultimately let down by a bland chorus.  The verses are solid gold though with Alice doing his best southern waitress voice in a couple of places.

There's also call backs to Alice's own past.  There's musical references to 1973's "Elected" and lyrical nods to 1971's "I'm Eighteen."  This isn't out of the ordinary as Alice has been self referential many times throughout his career.  In fact, this is the second straight album where Alice has covered and updated one of his own songs.  This time, it's a new version of "Road Rats". 

Surprisingly, there's no "spooky" song on Road.  In fact, the closest it gets is the moody almost scary music of "100 More Miles."  The lyrics though aren't spooky at all.  It's kind of weird honestly.  

"The Big Goodbye" sounds like it could have come from his late 80's/early 90's metal years.  It has a catchy chorus that wouldn't sound out of place on 1988's Raise Your Fist and Yell.  

The album ends with a cover of the Who's "Magic Bus."  While there's nothing inherently bad with it, it's just ultimately unnecessary.  In the context of the album, it can almost be viewed as an "encore."  

Road is musically strong but in some places, lyrically questionable.  It almost seems like Alice is a caricature of himself here.  He's playing the part of the onstage villain here.  

It works in that context.  Road is just big dumb fun. It's not a classic Alice Cooper record.  It's perfectly serviceable which in itself is pretty remarkable after 54 years.  It's not as strong as 2021's Detroit Stories, but it's overall more cohesive than his last release.  While it probably won't gain Alice many new fans and won't bring back ones that haven't enjoyed much of his work from this century, Road is a nice continuation of his guitar rock phase and a fun 47 minutes.  There's far better in the Cooper canon and far worse.  Road sits comfortably in the middle.

2.5 bad takes out of 5