Alice Cooper Dirty Diamonds

There are some awkward stabs at relevance here from the artist formerly known as Vincent Damon Furnier. The most egregious of these occurs in the otherwise satisfying classic Alice Cooper blues rocker "Perfect.” Alice has a girl who’s perfect, "until the lights go on/and then it all goes wrong.” This is all well and good, as is his assertion that "she can shake it just like J-Lo when the bedroom lights go down,” but things take a terrible turn when, in a metaphor as horrific as anything this shock-rock master has managed in his nearly 40 years of performance, Alice tells us that "when she hits the floor she’s a hip-hop hippo clown.” Hip-hop figures in the other misstep on Dirty Diamonds, the bonus track "Stand,” a collaboration with ride-pimper Xzibit that originally appeared on one of the three 2004 Athens Olympic Games albums. An awkward assemblage of empty platitudes ("If you don’t stand for something/You will fall for anything”) and stale beats, "Stand” is a minor disaster. Those awkward moments aside, this is surprisingly strong Alice, not School’s Out or Welcome To My Nightmare, but not so far off, either. The title track, a sex-filled Sabbath-riffed crime story, is as good as anything Alice has done in at least a decade, and the grimly comic "Saga of Jesse Jane” is a reminder that gender-bending shock-rock didn’t start with Marilyn Manson. "I’m a shock-rock Romeo,” Alice sings on "Woman of Mass Deception,” "I like to leave ’em shattered.” On Dirty Diamonds, he nearly manages. (New West)