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Title - 'Along Came A Spider' (Steamhammer / SPV)
Artist - Aloce Cooper

If Disney made an animated movie about a serial killer, the soundtrack would be something like 'Along Came a Spider,' this new album by Alice Cooper. Despite the murky subject matter, the album is relentlessly cheerful and upbeat, with solid guitar work by Danny Saber, Greg Hampton and Keri Kelli, and great drumming by Eric Singer. Cooper is in fine voice throughout, and the tunes recall his sleazy glam-rock of the '70s mixed with the hair-metal of the shock rocker's early '90s release, Hey Stoopid.

Because Cooper is singing from the vantage point of a demented killer, his trademark wordplay and self-winking sense of humor have been replaced by repeating choruses and whispered breathing that are supposed to sound creepy, but don't. Actors are sometimes warned never to play characters dumber than themselves; maybe the same injunction applies to singers. The Spider is a little dense, and that hobbles Cooper, who offered much more diversity on From the Inside, a 1979 concept album that was like The Canterbury Tales set in a mental hospital; each song showcased a different patient and told a compelling story.

All concept albums - from classics like The Who's "Tommy" and Queensryche's "Operation Mindcrime" to cult favorites like (no pun intended) Blue Oyster Cult's "Imaginos" - suffer from the same weakness: It's hard to figure the storyline from the songs, which are often arranged out of sequence with whatever threadbare plot the artists piece together.

Cooper addresses this with spoken dialogue at the beginning and end of Spider, but the lyrics don't advance the story - each song is about the killer Spider watching women, thinking about killing women, or thinking about letting one go free. "Salvation" is the obligatory born-again Christian P.O.V. tune, a power ballad that's actually pretty good. It's best to forget the story - something about the Spider cutting one leg off each of eight victims to create his own arachnid - and simply enjoy the songs.

The weakest tune is the first single, "Vengeance Is Mine," a plodding metal-by-numbers piece that is only somewhat redeemed by ex-Guns `N Roses' guitarist Slash soloing throughout. "Wake the Dead," "Wrapped in Silk" and "I'm Hungry" are much better.

'Along Came a Spider' will serve as the centerpiece for Cooper's 2009 tour, and the songs will probably be fleshed out on the road and will sound great live. As it stands, 'Along Came a Spider' is eminently hummable, with a little twist at the end which is the perfect Cooper denouement.

It's probably the prolific Cooper's best work since The Last Temptation, and one that is fully worthy of comparison to his greatest solo album, Welcome To My Nightmare, with a guest appearance by one of that record's famous denizens. (No, not Vincent Price!)