School’s Out album cover
School’s Out

Alice Cooper

Warner Bros. Records

"Maturity effort” seems like the kind of phrase that’d look ridiculous applied to Alice Cooper, especially when it’s centered around a concept LP about high school delinquency that originally came packaged with a gimmick pair of womens’ underwear. But even an album this squarely aimed at the then-teenage Mad magazine-damaged miscreants of Generation Jones — complete with a giddy youth riot of a title cut that gets flagrantly meta in its lyrics ("we can’t even think of a word that rhymes!") — knows, as Alice once said about Wayne’s World, that the trick is to act stupid without necessarily being stupid. So while you get a deathless snotty-kid kiss-off to the stifling conformity of the educational system to kick things off — and a couple swaggering Stones-in-detention counterparts in the cage-rattling “Luney Tune” (school is a mental asylum!) and the giddy “Public Animal #9” (school is a prison!) — the thrills get elaborated upon the deeper you get, until you’ve got room for a sensibility that’s just as much Broadway as arena rock (West Side Story homage “Gutter Cat vs. The Jets”) and just as wistfully bummed about the prospect of youthful times slipping away (“Alma Mater”) as it is destructively agitated in its efforts to destroy those constraints once and for all (“My Stars”). School’s Out was that last push Cooper needed to become the reigning king of shock rock, with Bob Ezrin’s production and the band’s collective step up in songcraft giving ambitious resonance to Cooper’s howling mania, as if art rock and garage rock cut a cautious but gloriously loud and sardonic truce.

Nate Patrin

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