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NEWSOUNDS: Alice Cooper’s ‘Spider' deviant fun

“Along Came a Spider”

Alice Cooper

www.alicecooper.com

SPV Records

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Leave it to Alice Cooper to bless us with something dark, something sinister, something deviant — and something highly entertaining. “Along Came a Spider,” The Coop’s 25th studio album, contributes nicely to a catalog that has established him as one of rock’s most original storytellers.

It seems that about once per decade, The Artist Formerly Known as Vincent Furnier unveils a period-defining piece that mirrors society through the alter ego Alice (outside looking in, as it were). The 1970s had “Billion Dollar Babies,” while “Trash” and “The Last Temptation” presented a motif of the ’80s and ’90s, respectively.

“Spider” takes an inside-out approach where the story is more the character’s vision and voice rather than a perceived reflection. What unfolds is a good ol’ cloak-and-dagger love story that only the King of Shock can tell.

The scenario traces the goings on of a serial killer, Spider, who stalks specifically chosen victims, leaving them wrapped in his trademark silk once the deed is done — an arachnophobic version of “Psycho,” if you will.

Cooper calls it “a dark and menacing album for dark and menacing times.”

It’s clear from the line “I just do the things I do/It’s natural to me/There’s no rhyme or reason for my odd insanity” from “Wake the Dead” that we’re dealing with a methodical fiend who taunts investigators with the song “Catch Me If You Can.”

It’s all hunky-dory until girl meets bug, and the killer falls in love with his latest victim whom he cannot bring himself to kill. Could this be the end of Spider? Not to give it away, but let’s just say that Alice shows his affinity for Alfred Hitchcock in the suspense department.

Musically, “Spider” revisits a cornucopia of classic Cooper. “I Know Where You Live” and “I’m Hungry” sound like freshly laundered cuts from the early albums “Killer” and “School’s Out,” while “Killed by Love” recalls Alice’s ballad phase — remember “Only Women Bleed” and “I Never Cry”? The heaviness of more recent works is also well represented with “The One That Got Away” and “Vengeance Is Mine” (which features smokin’ lead work by Slash of Guns N’ Roses/Velvet Revolver).

Cooper’s touring band (guitarists Keri Kelli and Jason Hook, drummer Eric Singer and bassist Chuck Garric) comes together to give the singer his tightest-sounding album in many a moon. And Alice’s vocals — in contrast to the majority of 60-plus rockers — are as strong and sneery as they were when he was a kid belting out “I’m Eighteen.”

The Cooper camp should be commended. The media blitz surrounding the album’s release has been electrifying. Check out www.alicecooper.com and follow the links; it gives a ton of album info and is a good study on how an artist should present a Web site.

In an era besieged by sub-par musicianship and nauseating trends, it seems that the geezers are accounting for a large proportion of quality albums (Priest, Motley, etc. also carry the torch with dignity). Alice Cooper wraps nearly 40 years of showmanship and social commentary into a disc that can be summed up, simply, as decadent pleasure.

(Thom Copher once touched Alice Cooper’s platform boots, which are on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. He was escorted from the museum without incident.)

— Thom Copher

“Feed the Animals”

Girl Talk

www.myspace.com/girltalkmusic

Illegal Art

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Greg Gillis, the man behind Girl Talk, is a true artist of the 21st century.

On “Feed the Animals,” Gillis’ fourth album under his Girl Talk moniker, he is back with another mash-up smash sensation. Like his previous stroke of genius, “Night Ripper,” “Feed The Animals” is an experimental party record made up almost entirely of samples taken from other artists’ songs.

On the disc, Gillis presides over his own fantasy kingdom in which he is the cut-and-paste king. He dips and dabbles, grabs a bit from here and bit from there. He manages to seamlessly combine the best and the worst elements of today’s Top 40 charts with sound bits and samples of classic songs. In Gillis’ mind, it is only natural to give the chop-and-screw treatment to The Band’s iconic opening lines to “The Weight” and make that the foundation for a Young Joc rhyme.

Gillis has created the perfect all night party soundtrack for the YouTube generation. The demographic that was born multitasking, puts the iPod on shuffle and gets the majority of their information from related links on Wikipedia has been bred for Girl Talk.

The album was released digitally via Illegal Art’s Web site. The perspective listeners were asked what, if anything, they wished to pay for the album (i.e. the Radiohead “In Rainbows” method). If they choose to pay nothing, they were asked to justify their choice by choosing one of the following: I may donate later; I can’t afford to pay; I don’t really like Girl Talk; I don’t really believe in paying for music; I’ve already purchased this album; I don’t value music made from sampling; I’m a member of the press, radio or music industry; or other.

“Feed the Animals” is a swirling Technicolor kaleidoscope of pop music. Gillis doesn’t attempt to be an elitist music snob and dazzle his audience with his obscure taste (*cough* James Murphy *cough*); he aims merely to entertain them by creating a gumbo of infectious hooks. Every few seconds, listeners are overcome with recognition when they realize where a certain sample came from and marvel at how seamlessly it now fits in the tornado of sound.

Gillis mixes rap, pop, metal, rock, soul, funk, dance, techno, country and industrial to the point where the conventional genres stop applying. At times, the term music even ceases to apply and the words for it are liquid poetry.

Gillis is a true appreciator of all aspects of popular culture. He proves the expression “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” by taking meaningless, worthless pop songs like Avril Lavigne’s “Girlfriend” and Lil’ Mama’s “Lip Gloss” and turning them into unstoppable jams. Gillis even manages to pull off what would otherwise be blasphemy when he mixes Fergie and The Beach Boys.

“Feed the Animals” shows Gillis on top of his game and proves to be the perfect soundtrack for the summer.

— CHARLES YOUNG