Tuesday, November 20, 2012

KISS Unleashes A MONSTER - Review

KISS Unleashes A Monster

Posted on 15 November 2012 by Wicasta/Indie Frontline
I was never a member of the KISS Army when I was a kid. I thought about it, sure. But I figured, even as a kid, that joining the KISS army was getting a little out there. So it’s probably fair to say that while I was a KISS fan growing up, I was never a rabid fan like some people. Well, excusing the facts that in 1975 I took my new copy of Alive! to school for show and tell (we were supposed to bring our favorite Christmas present to school). My first Rock concert was KISS (1976 in Charlotte, North Carolina). During Christmas of 1978 I bought all four of the KISS solo albums. It would also be fair to say that Gene Simmons was at least initially responsible for me wanting a bass player (partial credit, though – I’d have to give a nod to people like Geddy Lee, Jaco Pastorius, Chris Squire, and Stanley Clarke for the final push).
So… what I’m trying to say here is that I have a history with KISS. But, however it sounds, I was never in any danger of getting a tattoo of the KISS logo. I’m unlikely to be buried in a KISS branded casket. A fan, sure. Well, an ex-fan at this point. But certainly not one of those lunatics who get married at KISS themed weddings.
Upon reflection, my “fan” days probably ended with Unmasked. That wasn’t a bad album, despite the Disco influenced “I Was Made For Loving You” (which, in retrospect, is actually a much better song than any of us old-school fans wanted to admit at the time). But even by then there were cracks. KISS just wasn’t the band I’d loved for all those years. The glory days were gone. Oh, I stuck it out for awhile after Unmasked. I bought The Elder, and liked quite a few of the tracks on it. The flame was briefly renewed with Creatures of the Night. While still not a classic KISS album, it had some kick-ass tracks on it, and it probably heralded the return of the band to some sort of national prominence. We all know what came next. A string of hits from the albums Lick It Up, Animalize and Asylum. Even with the band charting hits again, though, something was missing for old-timers like me. It was good enough music, but it just wasn’t KISS somehow.
Anyway, Asylum was the last KISS album I bought for a long time. That was in 1984. I said “no, thanks” to Crazy Nights, Hot in the Shade, Revenge and Carnival of Souls. I didn’t begrudge Gene Simmons and Paul Stanely continuing on as KISS, but it never felt like KISS to me. It never sounded like KISS. Everything the band put out reminded me of solo tracks from the ill-advised KISS solo albums. You could tell which songs came from Paul Stanley, and which from Gene Simmons. You could usually tell which were written with outside songwriting partners, because they had that nice, carefully constructed (and calculated) sheen to them. It sounded like someone was cashing in on the name KISS (which basically what they were doing), but it never felt like a band called KISS. Does that make any sense?
Then along came Psycho Circus. What a debacle that was. Us old-time fans were excited about the return of Ace Frehley and Peter Criss. A lot of people bought the album, same as me, without much questioning whether it was a real band album. We just hoped for the best. But what did we get? It wasn’t a KISS album. Not really. It was the same stuff we’d been getting for years, just with Ace and Peter filling in as guest musicians. They were never equal band members on the record, and that showed easily through Gene Simmons’ transparent calculations and profit margin projections. Psycho Circus was yet another product under the KISS brand. Nothing else. A nostalgia kick with no real merit of its own. A keepsake of better times, with no real merit of its own.
It was another 10 years before KISS released another studio album, which again saw the band without Ace Frehley and Peter Criss. KISS had been touring with other people wearing Ace’s and Peter’s makeup, and I just wasn’t interested. That last bit sort of offended me. A lot of my friends told me I should check out that album, Sonic Boom, and I did listen to a few tracks. But really, all I heard was more of the same. Product that was sort of reminiscent of KISS, but nothing that sounded like a real band to me. I figured this was all you could expect from KISS, and that what awaited the band was a long, slow descent into irrelevancy (Gene Simmons’ marketing genius be damned). I didn’t really begrudge Gene Simmons cashing in on the band’s name and keeping the ball rolling. I just wasn’t interested in what he was selling.
So it was, and such was my thinking, when I heard that KISS was releasing a new album called Monster. I sort of took note, but had largely forgotten about it by the time the album’s release actually approached. I had so dismissed the band’s chances of ever being truly interesting again that I was able to note their new efforts, just out of deference for what KISS used to mean to me when I was a kid, but it wasn’t important enough for me to actually get excited about it, or even remember it.
Then I saw KISS perform ”Hell or Hallelujah” on David Letterman. Actually, I missed the original broadcast, but someone sent me a YouTube link of the performance. My initial response was, “Holy crap, this rocks”. That one song completely renewed my interest in Monster. I went to Amazon.com and scanned through sample tracks of the songs on the album, and I was shocked to discover that each and every one of those songs were good. Some were not just good, but kicked some solid ass. Much to my surprise, after buying only one KISS album in the previous 27 years, I found myself purchasing a new KISS album.
That was a good buy.
So, to wrap up an unexpectedly long article, all I’ll say about Monster is this; If you’ve ever liked KISS, you’ll like Monster. And if you’re one of those old guys, like me, who abandoned KISS decades ago, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. This kicks some serious ass. Buy it. Crank it up.
~ Wicasta Lovelace

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