Sequelitis isn’t just an affliction that affects the movie industry, album sequels are a not-uncommon trend in music too. Alice Cooper is the latest artist to release a follow-up to a big hit, hoping that the end result will be better sales and better reviews, because of the connection to the earlier work. In his case, it’s Welcome 2 My Nightmare, the cunningly-titled sequel to the classic Welcome To My Nightmare, but has it worked, or is it another case of ‘not as good as the first one’?
Cooper’s far from alone in this, of course. Sequels are very popular in the rap world, with what feels like endless variations on Blueprints and Tha Carters coming out, while Mary J. Blige is reprising her My Life album with a Part II later this year. Weezer haven’t officially done any sequels, but have still released two self-titled albums that replicated the look of their debut with the band stood in front of a coloured backdrop. And then there’s Meat Loaf, who has done two sequels to Bat Out Of Hell, one very successful, one not.
The usual accusation levelled at artists/bands who do this is that they are running out of new ideas (or successful ones at least) and have to rehash old ground to get people interested in their new releases. In Cooper’s case that’s not particularly true; his last few albums have had pretty decent reviews, even if Along Came A Spider was a little bit of a disappointment. But still, he’s not often managed to reach the heights of his debut solo album, so it was still exciting to hear him doing a sequel with Bob Ezrin back as producer.
The nostalgia-fest continued with the news that the surviving members of the Alice Cooper band would be joining him for a few tracks, even though that’s a slightly ironic development given that they obviously didn’t play on the original album. Still, it’s great to hear them recording together again, given how much legendary music they created in the early 70s. Alice promised that the album would sound like his work from that time, so does it live up to that promise?
Well, not quite. For any long-time fan, there’s a rush of adrenaline in the opening seconds of the album when the familiar piano refrain from Steven, but things are swiftly brought up to date with Cooper’s vocals getting a dose of autotune on impressive opening power ballad I Am Made Of You. The refrain is back on The Nightmare Returns, but the connection to the first album isn’t always very obvious. Certainly the special guest is very different this time, with Vincent Price being followed-up by Ke$ha. No, really, and she puts in a wonderfully spunky cameo on What Baby Wants.
If anything, Welcome 2 My Nightmare is more like his recent albums The Eyes Of Alice Cooper and Dirty Diamonds, with scuzzy garage rock at its heart, along with snippets of country, comedy, disco and even a Tom Waits-esque track keeping things varied. The most divisive track will probably be Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever, which sees Cooper ‘rapping’ (he sounds like ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic doing an Eminem impersonation), but the quality levels are very high throughout, and the tracks that feature the AC band show that they can still rock out even all these years later.
So, it’s a very good Alice Cooper album, but is a worthy sequel to Welcome To My Nightmare? On first listen, it’s perhaps a bit disappointing that he didn’t stick more closely to its sounds and generally creepy atmosphere, neither of which are particularly well evoked here. But that’s what you’re likely to get when you do a sequel 36 years after the first one, it’s not going to be the same. So, instead of picking out what doesn’t quite work about it, it’s best to celebrate that Alice is still capable of making great, diverse and consistently entertaining music after all these years.