Last night was the official 'Paranormal' album launch which took place at the 'hidden masonic lodge' in the Andaz Hotel, London, which was a cool setting for the event, and has an interesting back story. The very plush hotel is built on the site of the old Bedlam hospital for the insane and was only discovered relatively recently during construction work, having been forgotten about for years. You can read a little history and see some pics here to give you an idea. Chairs were arranged in the center of the room with press folders for everyone including a welcome letter, a sheet of European tour dates, and a signed photo of the album cover.
The evening began with a brief intro from our hosts from earMusic before they proceeded to play selected tracks from the forthcoming 'Paranormal' record. The sound system wasn't great to be honest, and while good enough to get a feel for some of the songs it wouldn't really be fair to completely judge things from just this single playback. Also bare in mind these are my personal first impressions and not meant to be a proper review of the record.
They began with the title track, 'Paranormal', which brings to mind early 'The Who'. It sounded a little disjointed on first listen but I'm sure when we get to hear it properly it will all come together better. Next up was 'Dead Flies' which has a Hendrix feel/groove along the lines of maybe 'Fire' or 'Crosstown Traffic'. "It's all Lies, We're Dead Flies". They then skipped ahead to 'Fallen In Love (And I Can't Get Up) which has Billy Gibbons all over it, sounding not unlike Alice singing on a real ZZ Top track, with that familiar blues swagger. I also think I heard a few old song references including 'Billion Dollar Babies' and Desperado' in the lyrics.
By now it was becoming clear what Alice meant when a few months back he referred to the album having a "70s feel". He didn`t really mean an Alice Cooper 70s feel, but more a general 70s rock feel, and I think comparing it to 'Killer' was a bit of a red herring!
'Private Public Breakdown' was next up and has more of an 80s big rock feel to it. Kiss (around the 'Lick It Up' period) was my first thoughts. 'Holy Water' though has another change of pace, with an almost jazzy groove (more 'Blue Turk' then 'Last Man On Earth') including horns, and what felt like a LOT of lyrics which could have had a duel meaning, both telling a story and having some religious undertones as well, but as with all these songs it really would need to be heard properly to fairly judge. This was probably the one that sounded most interesting up to that point, and I wrote "best???" in my hastily scribbled notes. That was until they followed it up with 'The Sound Of A'. This sounds like the real winner on the album. Very Pink Floydian and maybe the longest track on the album, allowing the song to build naturally which is something I think has too often been missing on recent material. This could be a future classic and I can't wait to hear it properly.
Finally, we got to hear one of the two new original Alice Cooper band songs, 'Genuine American Girl', which I think Alice later mentioned was a Neal Smith song. It starts with Neal laying down a drum beat before heading off into a kinda Beach Boys/Surf groove. If you are hoping for something that actually sounds like 70s Alice Cooper this isn't really it, but it's a cool number if not a classic. There's some nice duel guitar playing which I think I heard is Michael Bruce and Nick Didkovsky of the 'Pretties For You NYC band. There's also a nice Mae West quote in there somewhere.
So that was the end of the playback. All in all most of the songs sounded promising with a couple of obvious stand outs, but as I say, I don't really feel I could call it based on just this first hearing. I'm looking forward to hearing everything properly.
Playback over, it was time for Alice to make his appearance at the back of the room, making his way down to the front while marvelling at the decor, and promptly tripping up, landing face first on the stone floor! At first I thought he was joking around but no it was for real. Luckily he seemed okay and made his way to the large 'throne' at the front of the room. Amusingly, if you look at the photos you'll see some latin writing above the chair which we were told actually translates as 'Very Big Chair'! Who said secret societies didn't have a sense of humour!
There followed a brief Q and A with Alice, most of which to be honest readers here will have heard before, but Alice is always a great interview so it's easy to just enjoy it. They covered a little background on the album recording, the guests, and the November UK shows with Dennis, Michael and Neal, confirming the basic setup will be the same as the recent Nashville reunion. Alice also took a few minutes out, unprompted, to mention the sadly missed Glen Buxton, praising him as a truly unique talent and character who he still misses to this day. The affection for his fallen friend was clear even after all these years.
A mention that the interviewer had been with Pink Floyds' David Gilmour earlier in the day (can I have his job!!) who had told him to say "hi" to Alice saying they went "way back" prompted the old Pink Floyd stories about the band with Syd Barrett staying with the original band for a few days back in the late sixties. All very cool.
After a few more questions from the assembled audience of radio and magazine journos everything wrapped up with photos and autographs for those who wanted them before Alice and Sheryl headed off, hand in hand, to the next interview or event he was probably late for!
All in all it was a very enjoyable evening, and I extend my thanks to Toby for the invite, and the lovely people at earMusic for being such friendly hosts and making me feel so welcome at their event. Now I just need the real album even more!
Phew, well with all that written up I should also mention Alice's was up and about again first thing this morning, appearing on 'The Chris Evans Breakfast Show' again on BBC Radio 2, this time in person along with various other guests including Steve Winwood who plays a few songs live in the studio. This interview was much more disjointed then yesterdays ones, being that Alice was just one of four or more guests on air at the same time, but you can listen again now on the Radio 2 site.