Killsmith - Sexual Savior
Contact Kachinarecords@nealsmith.com for info on obtaining this album.
Rumors circulated (I don't recall where from) that Neal Smith's new album probably wouldn't appeal to many Alice Cooper fans. Going out under the band name of KillSmith, this is a long way from the likes of his previous projects 'Platinum God' or Bouchard, Dunaway, Smith. It's a kinda heavy metal garage punk with grinding guitars and often surprisingly primitive drumming considering what we know Neal is capable of.
I must admit at first listen I couldn't even get through the whole album! Part of the problem I think is the production which sounds rather muddy with the guitars often sounding distant and unclear. A lot of the stuff the guitars are doing is too low in the mix, which is a shame as there seems to be something going on that you just can't quite make out at times. On top of that the hi-hat seems to rattle over the top of everything rather then being part of the song. The sound is also a little crackly at times where the levels appear to be two high. A remix could make a lot of improvements I think, however listening on headphones your ears get used to the sound and you can appreciate it better.
The next thing that gets you is the vocals. The credits on the album are rather unhelpful but it's been suggested that Neal does pretty much everything and as it credits "KillSmith" with the vocals I'm assuming it's Neal. He isn't really a singer but he does a fair if unconventional and rather unexpected job, generally speaking the words rather then really singing them. Unfortunately at times the lyrics he's dealing with are rather simplistic, repetitive and often sex obsessed which can sit uncomfortably to some with their image of a late 50's elder statesmen of rock. Even the photos in the CD booklet look slightly amusing as Neal looks a little out of place amongst half dressed ladies more then half his age.
Musically most of the songs chug along on a similar path. Mid-paced metal riffs ground out on fuzzed up guitars with basic drumming and the occasional keyboard wash. 'Beware Of The Dog' stands out as being slightly different with it's use of acoustic guitar and keyboards, and "Human Evolution' even has a "rap" type thing going on, but other then that there's little deviation from the formula.
All the above may make it sound like it's an awful album, but that isn't true at all. Once your ears get used to the overall sound and style there is something good going on. While there may not be much variety, the riffs can be pretty catchy when they hit into a groove (which is often), and you quickly get used to the unusual vocal style. 'How Do You Bleed' is a good example which has hints of Rob Zombie without the industrial overtones. I'm having problems finding something that is a good comparison, which must be a good thing!'Monsters In The Attic' ends with a mini drum solo. 'Thrill Thrill Thrill, Shoot To Kill' also has a Zombie-esque groove. Maybe the highlight of the whole album is the aforementioned 'Human Revolution' which is packed with samples (even the The Beatles show up!) and some great vocals, effects and a cool bass break. It really is a bit of a epic and more stuff like this would maybe have been welcome.
I have a bad habit of telling readers that an album "will grow on you the more you listen" and it's true. Familiarity with something always helps in appreciation, and I think it's true here as well as each time I listen I hear new things. After that initial play I've popped the disc in a few times in the background and now I'm listening to it to review I think the surprise has gone and I can hear it with a more open mind. There is certainly more going on then the initial hearing suggested and it is growing on me a lot. However I think many people may simply give up too quickly. Because of this I hesitate to recommend it unreservedly. Anyone who doesn't like the heavy metal sound will probably never like this. However many others will and in many ways KillSmith is much more modern then anything else released by the original group short of 'Brutal Planet/Dragontown' era Alice, but in other ways this is real garage rock. It's certainly heavy, and with the lyrical profanity is not one to play in front of the kiddies.
I think with KillSmith Neal is trying to put out an album that avoids the Alice Cooper connections which would lead many people to pre-conceived ideas about what it sounds like. Notice there are no mentions of Alice Cooper anywhere on the advert or booklet (Neal is just described as a Rock god). In the era of MySpace perhaps he thinks the music can escape and speak for itself without connecting it to his previous band. There is certainly a prejudice in many places as soon as the name Alice Cooper is mentioned. Reviewers and listeners alike assume they know what the product will sound like and often simply dismiss it because of that. However this approach could be a double edged sword as certainly to begin with Alice Cooper fans are the obvious market for this disc and while many will now be aware that it's Neal, many other more casual fans (who don't search the internet for every little bit of info) will probably never even know it exists which is a shame.