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School's Out
Alice Cooper

Warner 2623
Released: June 1972
Chart Peak: #2
Weeks Charted: 32
Certified Gold: 7/10/72

Neal SmithDennis DunawayMichael BruceGlen BuxtonAlice CooperAlice Cooper is one of the means by which rock recharges its batteries from time to time. Alice and his band are calculated to outrage and alienate all adults and establishment figures (rock has to persuade itself, periodically, that it is outlaw music), and in concert Alice appears as a whip-wielding transvestite leading what appears to be the world's creepiest pack of hoods. The idea is to offer a dark alternative to Grand Funk Railroad. It's basic, gimmicky, pimply rock and roll for a basic audience, high school kids. Everyone else keep out, says the music. Little Richard used to scream the same thing at my parents.

Given that function in the grand scheme of things, Alice Cooper doesn't have to be good. In fact, like Grand Funk (which is in no way funky, by the way), the band stands a better chance if it is technically deficient. A band gets adopted by a more sophisticated audience -- as the Who did -- if it plays too well. Alice doesn't sound very distinctive, and probably never will. Vocals are buried deep in the instrumentals, which take Grand Funk's Wall-of-Noise approach. Riffs and textures can be almost fascinating, but there is little individual playing worth listening for. The songs aren't outstanding, either -- they're often pretty dire, but there is always a raw vitality that won't be attenuated and serves as the essential link between this scruffy bunch of aging brats and an audience that presumes itself up-and-coming (if only deep down... like, you know, inside) in the unwritten annals of outlawry

This album, in that context, is one of the most successful theme albums I've heard (and seen) in a long time. To help evoke the theme visually, the jacket folds down into a school desk, complete with carved initials on a top that lifts up to reveal the record, a slingshot and other toys, a report card, and a pair of disposable panties. To help play out the theme musically, there are snatches of Bernstein's "West Side Story" spliced in here and there, along with several tough-kid songs Alice dashed off for the occasion. With adults becoming more and more difficult to shock, the album -- and Alice's appearance generally -- is an example of how far a band has to go nowadays to achieve the notoriety Elvis achieved with a mere wriggle of the hips.

- Noel Coppage, Stereo Review, 10/72.

Bonus Reviews!

What Alice Cooper does has been termed everything from shock rock to a juvenile travesty. But through all the critical mind wrenching, Alice and his mates have remained blissfully oblivious, preferring instead to improve as a working band and prepare for future extravaganzas. School's Out, the latest chapter in the continuing saga of America's favorite adolescent, is in the tradition of Killer in that it is a concept venture. But whereas last time out Alice portrayed a baby slayer, here he is just your typical class-cutting, ass-busting, hard-partying schoolboy. There are even a few echoes of the Fifties, when gangs carried switch blades rather than paint spray cans. They come in the form of "Gutter Cat Vs. The Jets," part of which is from the score of "West Side Story." How about that, Leonard Bernstein? Bet you never thought you'd turn up on Alice's album. You probably love it. As a musical ensemble, Alice Cooper is playing with a whole lot more tightness and assurance than was apparent on their first couple of LP's. Another good sign is that they're expanding in some interesting directions -- most noticeably the area of jazz rhythms. Listen particularly to "My Stars," the first band on side two. Alice himself sings with the blend of raspiness and mock flash which he has long since whittled to a sharp cutting edge. Much has been written -- and rightfully so -- about the album sleeve and attendant paraphernalia (the sleeve unfolds into a school desk, and the record comes wrapped in a pair of panties), but despite its originality and the obvious expense incurred, it is merely adornment for the record that lies inside. In other words, beneath the artificial tinsel lurks the real tinsel. Infinitely suitable for trimming, unflinching as your most hated friend, and resilient as the most recurring nightmare. Wonder what Alice did on his summer vacation.

- Ed Kelleher, Circus, 9/72.

Alice Cooper has produced what can easily be considered the best dressed album of 1972. Alice and the rest of the boys in the band, and the strange charisma that surrounds them, sometimes tend to overshadow the fact that theirs is one of the best little rock 'n' roll bands in the country. Mind blowers (literal and otherwise) include "Public Animal," "Street Fight" and this year's tribute to the summertime blues, "School's Out."

- Billboard, 1972.

It's here! It's finally here!...THE (new) PUNK ANTHEM!!! "Glory Hallelujah" used to do it for grammar school, hence "School's Out." "The Jets" used to do it for high school, hence "Gutter Cat vs. The Jets." College students never had anything so good 'cause of too many peace freaks, except for a handful of bomb-throwing radicals -- well, now they can claim "My Stars" (highly explosive). "Luney Tune" will replace "They're Coming To Take Me Away" for you mental patients out there. In short, if you have a disruptive bone in your body there's something here for you. Children, Adolescents, Radicals and Maniacs are all potential J.D.'s. ALL PUNKS QUALIFY! Oh, I forgot, lechers of both gender will get a charge out of it too (i.e. -- "Blue Turk")...well, the packaging might turn you on...at any rate, it's useful. Ya get your moneysworth with Alice.

Basic rock n roll: scorching, ornery, loud, offensive, stupid, sophisticated, loud, bad, glorious, gutsy, nasty, loud, dirty, raunchy, repulsive, driving. LOUD! Loud, yes, but always musical. Oh yeah, and humor..."Alma Mater," the ultimate sentimental put-on (I'd love to unleash them on an unsuspecting Love Story.).

Alice at his vocal best here. He gets an A+ for gutteral noises on "Public Animal." Turning into a werewolf, probably, Grovelling on the floor, probably. Drunk as a skunk, definitely!

Come on now, is the stage show really the only thing to Alice Cooper? Is it all gimmick? OF COURSE NOT! You love and peace people (former flower children) would like to dismiss it as merely that. But I wouldn't care if there were no theatrics to go with School's Out in the concert hall. Just hearing this thing LIVE should incite a riot. If the local deejays had their ears open, they'd ban this thing for its sick screwball philosophy. Everyone knows that banned records are always the BEST. And this one will distort thousands of young minds. But what else is there to being teenage but being deranged? LONG LIVE THE MUTANT! LONG LIVE ALICE COOPER!

- Linda Danne, Hit Parader, 4/73.

With its all-time ugly vocal, kiddie chorus turned synthesizer, and crazy, dropped-out thrust, the title hit is as raw and clever as it gets, but this album is soundtrack. Some of it's even copped -- with attribution, yet -- from West Side Story. For a while I comforted myself with the thought that West Side Story is more a rock musical than Hair, at least in spirit. But the orchestral homages to Uncle Lennie ruin the effect. B-

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

The title cut of one of Cooper's best albums was a Top Ten hit. * * * *

- Rick Clark, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

In the early '70s, when the cops were still harassing hippies...enter a group led by a made-up freak with a girl's name and a sick stage act of camp horror. No wonder Alice Cooper -- the stepfather of Goth, Metal and A.O.R. -- seemed subversive in America. Cooper was actually the name of the band, initially signed by Frank Zappa for clearing a venue, but it soon became the monicker of frontman Vincent Furnier. On School's Out, Alice envisioned the threatening future of U.S. rock and grabbed it with black finger-nailed hands, delivering an album that fulfilled Mom's worst fears -- a heads down tribute to under-age drinking, brawling and truantism. Cooper had made some fine recordings before, noticeably "I'm Eighteen" from Love It To Death, but it wasn't until School's Out that his boogie band really got it together. The title cut was a slice of pure teen rebellion, an anti-school anthem with an emphatic chorus, squealing guitars and drop-dead finish. Throw in a nod to West Side Story ("Sharks Vs Jets"), the pushy brass of "Blue Turk" and the growling "rawk" of "Public Animal" and Bob, or rather Alice, was your million-selling uncle. Ahead lay a series of O.T.T. efforts, but on this Bob Ezrin-produced album Cooper had the perfect band around him and they hit just the right note for the bored summer of 1972.

- Collins Gem Classic Albums, 1999.

Arriving in Los Angeles from Tucson, Arizona, the Alice Cooper band swiftly conceived a controversial image and signed with Frank Zappa's Straight label. Two infamous albums of psychedelic pandemonium alter, they moved to Detroit, and befriended The Stooges, whose Motor City roar was as vital in their evolution as Bob Ezrin's cinematic sense of production.

When Warner purchased Straight, Cooper's band was urged to make a new record. Two hard-rocking albums and some hit singles later, they had found their sound, and were actively reinforcing their popularity by means of the Grand Guignol antics of their high-camp live shows.

Alice Cooper's mainly visual appeal was fully transferred to vinyl with School's Out, the new album preceded by the hit single of the same name. The single was their most popular to date, a graphic riot of stabbing riffs and seditious slogans that beame a punk anthem for every dropout teen of the early 1970s. The band -- guided by Cooper's vicious voice and guitarist Michael Bruce's badass sense of pop -- had worked hard with Ezrin on a concept album that was inspired by "West Side Story." The imaginative fantasy of juvenile delinquence featured sumptuous scores of big-band jazz arrangements ("Gutter Cat Vs. The Jet," "Grand Finale," "Blue Turk"), an operatic symphony ("My Stars"), a Beatles rip-off ("Alma Mater"), and terrific rockers ("Luney Tune" and "Public Animal No. 9"). An overproduced but perfect teenage epic, Alice Cooper's rock vaudeville was to be the foundation of such acts as Marylin Manson and Turbonegro.

- Jaime Gonzalo, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.

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