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Along Came A Spider

Steamhammer (2008)
Rating: 7/10

Rock ’n’ roll royalty Alice Cooper returns with his 25th album, Along Came A Spider, and is his first album since a duo of poorly produced, distressingly unsuccessful albums, entitled Dirty Diamonds (2005) and The Eyes of Alice Cooper (2003) respectfully.

Along Came A Spider re-establishes Cooper as shock rock’s elder statesman… and still arguably the genre’s best. Cooper again brings a disturbed character to life through theatrics, relatable lyrics and great songwriting; the latter being the element that makes him the preeminent shock rocker of the last 50 years.

Along Came A Spider is a concept album based on an unpublished short story penned by Cooper himself. The story revolves around a spider obsessed, insane, serial killer appropriately named “Spider”. The on-the-loose killer brings his obsessions to life by claiming eight victims and taking a leg from each. He also enjoys wrapping his victims in silk, as does a spider. Far from being the perfect mate, Spider’s games are retold in classic Cooper style bringing to mind his other concept albums rather quickly. While lyrically the album is closer to Welcome To My Nightmare (1975) than Cooper has come in a long, long time, musically it is a cross between the rock / hard rock edge of The Last Temptation (1994) and the post-apocalyptic heaviness of Brutal Planet (2000).

Although the album gets off to a slow start with the introductory spoken word piece and the clunky ‘Vengeance Is Mine’, which is reminiscent of the not-so-great moments that dominated Dragontown (2001), the album quickly recovers.

The classic rock stylings of ‘Wake The Dead’ and ‘I’m Hungry’ (which includes a solo that rivals the one in ‘Billion Dollar Babies’) and the instantly-recognizable-as-Alice Cooper ‘Wrapped In Silk’ up the ante rather quickly, boldly declaring to all who hear that Cooper has much left to say. The power ballad ‘Salvation’ hits hard as well, taking the story to unexpected places and raising a number of interesting moral questions in the process. This is a song that could easily have been on the (or perhaps left off of) The Last Temptation album.

‘Killed By Love’ and ‘Catch Me If You Can’ are the only really mediocre moments, aside from the aforementioned ‘Vengeance Is Mine’ of course, but they are a 100 times better than anything from the last two albums.

What is truly impressive here is how Cooper (who is now 60 years young) remains relevant in a music scene that is spinning out of control. He is undeniable proof that great songwriting and great lyrical ideas / concepts / themes still count if you want to create an album that won’t be shelved in six months by the listener. It’s not Welcome To My Nightmare or Billion Dollar Babies (1973), it’s not even Trash (1989), but it does rank alongside fan favourites The Last Temptation and Brutal Planet quite easily and is enjoyable from start to finish.

Mark Fisher

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