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Alice Cooper
Back catalogue reissues Carol Clerk , July 28th, 2008 10:47

Alice Cooper - Pretties For You

*Pretties For You *Easy Action

Naked. Stripped of the make-up, the snake, the dolls, the instruments of death and the other trappings of his subsequent slick and confident rocky horror show, Vincent Furnier stands on the threshold of his career, naked. It isn't a pretty sight.

It is, however, intriguing. Because it's clear from these first two Alice Cooper albums - originally released by Frank Zappa's Straight label and issued now for the first time on CD - that Cooper intended all along to startle audiences while also inviting acceptance. It's just that he hadn't worked out a good way of doing it.

With Pretties For You Cooper sought belonging in the world of psychedelia. A chaotic mélange of pop whimsy, windy jazz-styled improvisations, impertinent rhythmic variations, airy vocal harmonies and nonsensical sound effects, this is just the stuff to have attracted a Zappa.

But it all sounds devoid of any genuine hallucinogenic inspiration. '10 Minutes Before The Worm', 'Swing Low, Sweet Cheerio' and 'Changing Arranging' squeak and noodle and jar and distort and rumble and ramble around the point, in the unlikely event there is one. Alice plays harmonica - the most dangerous thing he could imagine wrapping round his neck in this formative era.

On the one occasion where the band chances upon a fuzzy rock'n'roll groove, in 'Living', Alice manages to ruin it with feather-lite singing and a mannered delivery that tries for "quirky". At the album's opposite extremes, 'Fields Of Regret' is heavy, miserable and meandering, and 'No Longer Umpire' strikes up a batty waltz.

There's not a lot of actual songwriting around these parts, although the germ of the idea that would become 'Elected' resides undeniably in 'Reflected', a portentous rhyme.

Easy Action takes tentative steps forward. For the first time, Alice reaches for the strong, leering, rock vocal of his later infamy on 'Mr And Misdemeanor', a harmless frolic that also reveals some attempt at song structure, and on 'Return Of The Spiders', a flying, freeform jam with stops, starts and an interesting infusion of garage.

Still, the album is almost as erratic and unconvincing as its predecessor, washed with random weirdness, leaping from the quiet, off-kilter dreaminess of 'Laughing At Me', with its cutesy links, to the squalls, staccatos and long, discordant dramas of 'Still No Air', 'Below Your Means' and the closing 'Lay Down And Die, Goodbye'.

From here, an amazing two-year whirlwind led to Detroit, Warners, Love It To Death, Killer and 'School's Out', a fiendish pop-rock breakthrough that captured the imagination of school kids everywhere, myself included.

And it is truly fascinating to travel back to the source - just the once, mind.