Tuesday, October 9, 2012

KISS : A Monster That Can't Be Tamed

KISS is at a point in their career where they don’t have to put out a new album. After 28 US Gold albums, 40 million US sales and over 100 million worldwide, they have nothing to prove to anyone, other than themselves. They don’t need to have a Top 40 hit and they definitely don’t sit around worrying if an album will go gold or platinum because none of that matters. If you’re a KISS fan, you probably thought that after the release of 1998’s Psycho Circus, there would be no more new KISS in your future. Well, funny how things change.

2009 saw the release of Sonic Boom. It was the first studio album from the band in over a decade and the first to feature the current lineup of founders Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons along with Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer. That album and tour saw resurgence for the band. It wasn’t a platinum seller, but it proved that the band still had alot of fire in the musical furnace of this machine. Here we are three years later and the band is releasing its 20th studio album entitled Monster.

The album opens with “Hell or Hallelujah” which is the first single and was released as the band began their tour with Motley Crue this past summer. It’s a guitar driven anthem whose riff sounds a little similar to “Any Way You Slice It” from their 1985 Asylum album. Just go back and listen and see what you think. Another déjà vu happened when I listened to the song “Freak”. Now, call me crazy but it sounds a little bit like “Thief in the Night” off of their 1987 Crazy Nights album. Yet, it’s still a great song and a standout on the album.

I’m not really sure what got into Gene Simmons on this album, but he’s playing with a renewed energy and he delivers some of his strongest material in a very long time. “Back to the Stone Age” and “The Devil is Me” are two great examples of The Demon firing on all cylinders. The Stanley/Simmons track entitled “Take Me Down Below” is a (clears throat) tender love story. It’s classic KISS innuendo, which we haven’t heard in ages. It may not be Lennon and McCartney but it’s been a longtime since we’ve heard such lines as “I raised my flag and she dropped her dress”. The added touch of having Stanley and Simmons share vocal duties on this one is a major plus.

Stanley also has his fair share of shining moments on the album as well including “Freak” as well “Shout Mercy”, on which Stanley proves he still has a knack for writing a killer hook. His standout may be “Long Way Down”, which is a well crafted song with great melody and it’s infectious. The acappella intro to “Eat Your Heart Out” will probably catch you off guard, as it did me. This song is loud and fun and the harmonies on the chorus are a throwback to some of the boys early rock influences.

The new guys, Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer also have lead vocal duties on the album. Thayer, in his tenth year with the band, offers up “Outta This World” which a good song and his voice sounds a little bit like Gene on this one. The chorus is pretty damn catchy too. Singer, in his sixteenth overall year with the band, offers up “All for the Love of Rock and Roll”, which didn’t blow me away, but it does allow Singer to show that he has a great voice.

 A tip of the hat needs to go to, here comes the collective moan from fans fixated on the 73-79 era of the band, Tommy Thayer. He shares writing credits on 10 of the 13 tracks on the album. A good rock song without a solo is like an Oreo with no crème. Well, Tommy offers up lots of Oreo filling on this album as he is laying down some great solos every time you turn around.

I really hate when the band is about to deliver a new album and they say it sounds like Destroyer or Revenge or a combination of both. I think a great album by any band needs to stand on its own merit. Now, I don’t think that this will go down as one of their all-time classics, but it actually is a very strong album. It’s not the Son of Destroyer or the Son of Revenge. Are they re-inventing the wheel on this one? Of course not, but they don’t sound like a band that’s about to celebrate their 40th anniversary.

Thayer and Singer were both KISS fans themselves before joining the group, which is not news to anyone. They were able to connect with Stanley and Simmons on a level that has seemed to re-energize them to some extent. Stanley may have had his hip and vocal issues and Simmons may seem determined to find more and more products to slap the KISS logo on, but they still know how to rock. Once considered all style and no substance, I think the group has finally shaken that image off. It may have taken them 40 years, but I think they have proven to the critics that they are a balance of both. They pull no punches and you get exactly what you expect from them, classic guitar driven rock and roll that’s fun.