REVIEW: Alice Cooper – Flush the Fashion (1980)

ALICE COOPER ’80 – Flush the Fashion (1980 Warner, Japanese CD)

The early 80s were a tough time for the Coop.  His previous record, From the Inside, was written about getting clean in the loony bin.  Staying clean wasn’t easy and so we enter the “lost years”:  the records Alice doesn’t remember making due to being blackout drunk.  Flush the Fashion is a divisive album, with some fans loving its straight-ahead new wave direction, while others despaired Alice’s temporary abandonment of rock.  The truth lies somewhere in the middle.  It was the 80s and if that wasn’t obvious by the “ALICE COOPER ’80” title at the top, it definitely was clear by the keyboards and programming.  Roy Thomas Baker of Queen and The Cars fame produced.

With song titles ripped from the National Enquirer, Flush the Fashion contains a number of short, fast, punky new wave songs beginning with “Talk Talk” at barely two minutes long.  You will either love this tough nut of a guitar-driver, or you will be indifferent to it for being light on hooks and brittle in sound.

“Clones (We’re All)”, which was written by outsider David Carron, is the clear album highlight.  It was later covered by Smashing Pumpkins on the B-side to “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”, and has seen action in Alice’s live set occasionally over the years.  This fun, keyboard-heavy new wave song really nails the 80s sound Alice was going for.  Programmed beats, a bouncy keyboard, catchy words and you have a keeper.  It went Top 40 and evokes a smile and maybe even a little bit of fist pounding.

The ballad “Pain” is the second in a pair of keepers.  A piano-based mourner with a powerful pound, “Pain” possesses tremendous appeal.  Alice’s interesting lyrics provide a number of metaphors for your own internal pain.   “The loudest one laughing at the saddest wake,” for example, and “the lump on your head when you step on a rake.”  Not overly serious, but suiting the character of Alice the masochist.  There’s a simply wonderful dual guitar harmony in the middle that is worth rewinding several times on its own.

“Clones” and “Pain” together are seven solid minutes of Alice that you simply cannot help but sing along to.  The songs will burrow into your mind until they are a permanent part of your grey matter.  They are the proverbial keepers.  The same cannot be said for the rest of the album, which defies memorability at almost every turn.  Fortunately, all these songs are short.

“Leather Boots” isn’t a great song, but it is at least a fun twangy rocker.  Similarly, “Aspirin Damage” is fun if forgettable.  Regardless of the music, Alice’s lyrics always offer some interesting twist or perspective.  There’s probably something autobiographical happening in the back of his mind here too.

That’s side one in a nutshell, under 14 minutes of music.  Side two is over and out in under 15.  These are short songs!  “Nuclear Infected” has some unremarkable guitar crunch.  “Grim Facts” is cooler.  This steadfast stomper has a certain Cars-like vibe courtesy of Baker.  “Model Citizen” leans a bit more into a punky direction, until the chorus which is kitschy Alice with lush backing vocals while Alice does his sinister speak-sing.  For a more traditional Alice song, there’s “Dance Yourself to Death”, which would probably be a third keeper if you were willing to extend it that honour.  No new wave trappings here, just traditional rock like the Alice Cooper Band of old.  It just…it doesn’t stick.  It’s notable for being one of those good second-last tunes though.  The final song is “Headlines”, which has a variety of different sections and tempos, and one cool riff.

Another listener could probably make a case for a solid 3.5/5 star album.  Others will enjoy isolated moments, but will struggle through.  Which are you?

3/5 stars

14 comments

  1. This thing is an interesting curiosity. The fact that he doesn’t remember recording this or the next three records makes them even more spooky than any of his serious attempts at horror to me. The recording of these albums is totally lost in a memory hole. Gives me chills just thinking about it! And looking at pictures of him from around 80-83 is harrowing too. He looked inches away from death that whole time. It’s seriously sad seeing him at such a low point, especially seeing as he seems like such a well adjusted friendly guy nowadays. It’s astounding how much better he looked when he got clean. I’m glad that the rehab took the second time, and he’s still out there rocking for us to this day. Who could dislike this guy? He’s gotta be one of the most lovable rock stars of all time in personality and in the quality of his music over the years. Go Alice!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree man. Pictures of Alice from this whole era are not pretty. I posted that 1987 interview with him last week, and he was clearly back on top of his life and his game by then. He looked healthy, was witty and sharp. The early 80s, he did look like a dying man.

      I don’t think anyone can dislike Alice Cooper!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m one of those guys who loves this album to death (and its immediate successor). The funny part being that “Clones” and “Pain” are the two songs on the album I wouldn’t call keepers. They’d bore me to tears if they hadn’t already put me to sleep. I definitely prefer the new wave part of the album, and thankfully it’s the dominant part.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think some of the other “lost” albums like DaDa are better, but that’s just my opinion. I played all four “blackout” album in prep for this Friday’s Alice Cooper Deep Cuts show.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m in the 3.5 camp. There was a lot of room for improvement but I like that the songs are short so the experiment doesn’t overstay its welcome. I’d throw this in with a Cars/Police mix and would have a good time.

    Liked by 1 person

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