Flush the Fashion
28:40 min • Warner Bros. Records • April 28, 1980
Walter Beck reviews
Following an insane run in the 1970s where he molded himself as hard rock’s boogeyman, Alice Cooper decided to reinvent himself and his music, embracing a punk and electronic edge. The result was Flush the Fashion. Largely ignored upon its release (its lead single only hitting #40 on the charts), it has recently become a rediscovered gem amongst die hard Alice fans.
‘Talk Talk’ features a lot of the muscular drumming and hard guitar riffs that made Alice’s signature sound and the lyrics are classic Cooper, the narrative expressing his schizophrenic personality as though it was another entity. But what sets it apart, and sets the tone for the album, is the squealing synthesizer work peppered throughout the track and the spacey, echo voices heard near the end.
Alice nearly completely embraces the new sound with the second track ‘Clones (We’re All)’, the only single from this album. The guitars and drums are nearly completely buried under the synths and vocal distortions. This threw off a lot of Alice’s established fan base, but if you listen to the track and the lyrics, it makes sense;
I’m all alone, so are we all,
We’re all clones.
All are one and one are all,
All are one and one are all –
The use of electronic sounds is being used to explore the themes of duplicating people, the dangers of emerging technology for society. This hidden dark edge is pure Alice and while the public may have been thrown off by the slick sound of this single, the blackness was still there.
‘Pain’ follows the same basic pattern of Alice’s previous ballads such as ‘Only Women Bleed’ and ‘How You Gonna See Me Now’. Piano driven, although with a harder sounding edge, the song takes on the pain everybody goes through and gives it a name and a face.
I’m the salt in the sweat,
On the cuts of the slaves.
I was the wound in the side,
While Jesus prayed.
I was the filthiest word,
At the vandalized grave –
The end of the song is one of the darkest moments Alice had on record up to this point as the guitars fade out and the piano and warped synth completely takes over and he delivers the final lines;
It’s a compliment to me,
To hear you screamin’ through the night.
The fourth cut, ‘Leather Boots’, is the closest thing to pure punk rock Alice has ever done – a minute and a half rocker, soaked in short, simplistic riffs, he takes on the angry youthful joy of violence for the jolly hell of it.
If I break the law and get caught,
You could get smashed in the face,
By this young boy,
Who is frightened by the real world.
This boy is frightened by the real world.
I gonna hurt somebody,
‘Cause I’m frightened of the real world. Oh yeah.
It’s an oddity for Alice, but it works well, especially on the divergent sound of this LP. I think this is an angle Cooper should have chased more. The angry young man fits his stage persona quite well.
Speaking of joyous violence, Alice does continue exploring that particular theme with ‘Nuclear Infected’, one of the few tracks that strips down the electronics and focuses more on the hard rocking riffs of the old Cooper. There is a subtle warped sound in the background to go with the lyrics of being turned into a nuclear mutant, but that’s about it as far as a new sound edge. The real beauty is the happy tone in his voice as he sings,
I want to live on Three Mile Island,
Where things are clean and neat,
‘Cause we don’t have no health freaks,
Clutterin’ up our streets.
I’m nuclear infected, I need something to eat,
A China Syndrome Salad with plutonium and cheese.
‘Model Citizen’ follows the sardonic tone of such Alice tracks as ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy’ and ‘Department of Youth’, keeping a dark edged, swaying beat and cheery chorus from the rest of the band as Alice celebrates not caring what other people are.
Be a bleeder.
Be a Cancer.
Be a crippled disco,
Oooh… What a pair –
He’s a model citizen,
I think I’ve got them fooled them again.
He’s an ultra-sweety guy.
And a master of disguise,
He’s a model citizen.
Just keep believing that my friends,
I’m a model citizen –
The sardonic humor is pure Alice, smiling away while he has everyone convinced he’s the nicest guy in the world, all while he hiding his evil grin.
The album comes to a close with one of my personal favorite tracks on the record, ‘Headlines’, a hard-strumming rocker that has Alice taking all the controversy he’s caused during his storied career and throwing it right back in everybody’s face with a smile and a middle finger. His cavalier attitude towards the press and his detractors ring through with little devil-may-care glint in his eyes;
I wanna be in the headlines.
Anything to be in the headlines,
As long as they spell my name right.
I hope that they catch my best side –
This album was quite a change for Alice Cooper; he changed his sound, embracing the emerging punk vibes and electronic sounds. But underneath it, there was that same dark edge, an exploration of the fringes of society and a lot of the cheeky humor that made him who he was. Many bands have cited this album as an influence on their sound, with the Smashing Pumpkins, The Epoxies, and Bile covering ‘Clones (We’re All)’. This album probably won’t appeal to the casual Cooper fan, but for those who want to see the stranger edge of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest villain, this is definitely worth checking out.