Alice Cooper is certainly no stranger to concept albums; just look at Welcome To My Nightmare, Alice Cooper Goes To Hell, From The Inside… hell, just say listen to half of Cooper’s 1970s output and you realize he digs a theme.
So, it shouldn’t come as that big of a surprise that his latest, Detroit Stories has a strong thread throughout connecting all of the tracks. Taking inspiration from his hometown – the city that embraced Cooper and his band long before anyone else would – he pays tribute to the Motor City in a raucous, endearing loyal album. The set kicks off with an inspired take on Lou Reed’s “Rock & Roll,” complete with a Detroit shout out in the first verse. The album continues with 14 more tracks all paying homage to that distinct 1970s Detroit hard rock sound, a scene that launched everyone from The Stooges to MC5. He also covers, fittingly, Bob Seger’s “East Side Story” and the MC5’s “Sister Anne.”
Elsewhere, Cooper’s trademark dark wit and snark are showcased on songs like “Hail Mary” and “I Hate You.” At 15 tracks, not everyone here is a keeper, (“Drunk And In Love” sounds like one of Cooper’s 1980s strays) but taken as a whole, this is one of his best records in years.
With this obvious nod to nostalgia, it seems fitting that Cooper brought back Bob Ezrin to produce – a legend responsible for working on some of Cooper’s best, early records, as well as albums from Aerosmith, Kiss, Pink Floyd, Nine Inch Nails among many, many others. He also brought in Detroit greats like Wayne Kramer (MC5s) and Johnny Badanjek (Detroit Wheels) to serve as part of his backing band.
The guitar-heavy sound and the lyrics here certainly sound like a throwback, but that’s essentially the point. It’s easy, and lazy, to write off musicians that have been around for decades as dinosaurs, but there’s a reason why people still listen to songs like “Welcome To My Nightmare” or “Only Women Bleed,” almost five decades after they first came out – they’re amazing songs that sound just as good now as they did a generation ago. It’s hard to picture many of the biggest songs of the past few years aging this well over the next few decades.