If you will allow us to start with the blindingly obvious, Co-Op have Alice Cooper’s son, Dash on vocals.
Mentioning that at the beginning would – usually – be lazy, but not in this case. It’s not like Co-Op sound anything like Alice, either (aside from the fact that ALL great rock music should sound a little like the great man) but neither are Co-Op shying away from the connection. Not only does Coop Snr appear on the record – lending his vocals to the wonderful “Old Scratch” wherein he, as he always says at the end of his gigs, plays the part of Alice Cooper to perfection – but they’ve toured with him, use him on their video for opener “N.O.W” but even more crucially listened to his advice a couple of years ago.
On the information that came with this, there’s a small interview with Alice, where he explains: “I told them one time early on, I said, “guys, right now you have great parts, but everybody is playing at the same time. You have no dynamics, it’s one big solid line of blast, and I can barely hear the vocals.” The very next time I heard them play, they figured out how to make it dynamic, where they’d go down to one guitar, doing a chug, with the vocals going, and they would come right in with a B section, with everybody, and it was so powerful.”
And, essentially, Cooper has summed the album up right there. Because right from the second that the aforementioned “N.O.W” kicks in, the five-piece deal with arena ready anthems. “We’re self-inflicted slaves, digging our own graves” roars Dash – and Dash roars most things – and this sounds dark and muscular, and yeah, at the risk of slagging Brent Smith and the boys off in every hard rock review, what Shinedown would sound like if they had any balls whatsoever.
If Dash gets most of the spotlight, then it is bass player Justin Swartzentruber who propels the thing. “….Scratch” like the opener has a chorus you can yell from the get go, while the even better album highlight “Howl” (featuring Joe Perry, if you don’t mind….) is as forthright as it gets. You can imagine in a decade’s time, say, 10,000 people at some gig somewhere, screaming “this is my battle cry, I am not afraid to die” along fists in the air. That’s where this record is headed.
Happy to take its time to get the job done, “Desert Dreams” marries a bass rumble with some fine lead from Kolby “Beetus” Peoples and Jeremy Tabor, who provides the riffs to send the album soaring mostly, but are in understated form here.
“Theme For Ignorance” has something a little menacing, maybe a little Stone Sour about it, while “Sleep” shows a different side to them. From Phoenix, Arizona they perhaps know a little about the desert, and here they are straight in for something a little monolithic and stoner rock.
“Condemned” is another which makes you think this is a band with limitless potential. Kicking off with the desire to smash the doors down, it finds something melodic to say in the chorus, while “Secret Scars” has a hook that is headed off down the fast lane and leaving you in its wake.
Listening to this album the same bands keep coming into mind, Stone Temple Pilots for one, and Soundgarden for another, and on “Whisper The Truth” Coop Jnr finds a real chest beating bravado about his work. The closing song, “Overdrive” is a masterclass in hard rock – the sort of thing a band on its first album should not do, frankly – and as its solo finishes things off with an effortless cool, you are left wondering how far this outfit can go.
Think about it like this. if Co-Op were no good then it wouldn’t make any difference if the lead singers dad was Elvis, but that’s not the case. Even if this was just A.N. Other US rock band you’d be excited by them, it’s just here, when you add in the advantages that the surname gives – and last week I saw Alice get a bigger cheer than Johnny Depp while he was fronting the Hollywood Vampires – then the sky’s the limit.