January 1, 2010
When I was a kid, I loved Kiss. Whoops. If I said I wasn’t drawn in by the gimmick, I’d be a liar. I liked the rock music, I had every album they released from the 70’s, I’d buy Kiss Magazines that were released during times of their reunion tours, I’d get bummed that I didn’t get to see them live. I had pay per view VHS tapes of reunion tours. I had a bootleg copy of Kiss Meets Phantom of the Park and I watched it at least 5 times, which is 5 times more than anyone should watch it. I had taped specials of them off much-music and whatnot. I had the Kiss action figures that each came with a letter of the band. I had them set up as a mantle piece shrine style thing. I liked every cd I had. I used to draw the letters and faces everywhere on my schoolwork. I had a Kiss trivia game, and I used to have all of the original Kiss trading cards that were released in the 70’s, but they might have been lost forever. I could tell you all sorts of useless facts and tidbits about Kiss, and you didn’t care because you didn’t even like Kiss to begin with, but you had to listen. As I aged a bit more, I slowly fell out of my love for them, and it shifted towards Billy Joel. Thats probably when I started to feel emotion and less of that boyish goodness.
Every once in a while I go back to some of their records that I have on vinyl. They still tour but you’re a terrible person if you go or support anything they’re doing now. They’re not a band anymore, they are just an entity that sucks up money. When they had the original four, it sort of made sense. It was cool when they did their first reunion tour and wore the Alive outfits, and then the Alive II outfits on the next tour. Now its Gene and Paul and two hacks who got lucky, one of the hacks being the former filler of shoes after Eric Carr’s death. They played Oshawa, and people were crawling out of holes in the wall to either hop on the bandwagon or go because they are too die hard for their own good.
When I was a kid, my least favourite album was probably Hotter Than Hell. Now its my favourite of theirs. Its the one I can throw on the most. To be honest, the only ones I can really tolerate front to back are the first two. Everything I disliked about it when I was a kid is what I love about it now. The opening song, “Got to Choose” sounds like it was recorded too slow for its own good and it drags, and it sounds perfect. To me, the album sounds like an amazing mess, as it should. They recorded this shortly after moving to the west coast, and like every sane person on the west coast, they hated being there. I guess it doesn’t help being NY Natives, which is equally awful, but on their first day there, Paul Stanley’s equipment was stolen. Yuck. The production of this record is muddy as fuck to put it plainly. For someone on a somewhat big label like Casablanca, do you think they aimed for this kind of production or was it the best they could get. Their first record, which probably did better in numbers at the time, sounded cleaner, more slick, which is saying a lot because even that record sounds thin and watered down. This one isn’t thin. Its crunchy, or whatever. A song like parasite, played with just the right amount of slop, is a song almost too dark for its own good. “Parasite Lady, Parasite Eyes”. Doesn’t get much better than that. “Goin’ Blind” always seemed kind of stupid to me, because of the whole “I’m 93, you’re 16” line, but I understand the point thats being driven. The song is just good. A sad bastard ballad that has great lead parts due to the guitar tone Ace had on these songs. I can’t really describe whats on it, mainly because there are parts that sound doubled and it works perfectly. If you ever have a chance, The Melvins did a great cover of this on their album, “Houdini”. Hotter than Hell is easily one of the best rock songs ever. The first instance of filler comes on the 5th track, “Let Me Go Rock n Roll”, which isn’t terrible, I just don’t care about it. Its a staple among Kiss greatest hits CD’s though. Trust me on that one, I had like 5 probably. “All the Way” is one catchy riff machine. Kiss had a lot of songs that sounded like this. “She” is a great example, and most of the songs that sound like this are amazing. “Watchin You” is a banger, “Mainline” kinda sucks but the solo is kinda ok, “Comin Home” sounded way better on Unplugged but its still tolerable, but don’t despair, because we end with “Strange Ways”, a song heavier than anything Black Sabbath did. Wah. A great solo by Frehley, that beats out anything by Iommi. I’m not trying to pick on Sabbath, even though their records are over rated, I still like em. I pick them because we think of Sabbath as heavy, but not Kiss, but they had moments like this.
These days I am rediscovering songs I passed over in my earlier years. These days, I enjoy songs that are sad sack, sappy, well constructed pop songs. Kiss had those in spades, and no i’m not talking about Beth, dickweed. I’m talking about songs like Shand. A great track off a terrible record, that had some life surged back into it on their Symphony record. One of the saving graces of 80’s Kiss is the song “Forever”. Echoey drums in true arena rock style, acoustic guitars, and catchy hooks. Another great song from the 80’s that sounds like Kenny Loggins could have just used it is “Reason to Live”. One of the greatest things we can take from the 80s are achey breaky songs by Hair Metal bands. “Crazy Nights” of the album sharing the same name is another catchy 80s pop song, and it has a spoken part over a lone guitar and tom/snare and it might as well be a fucking Youth of Today song. You could make a tape of these songs and call it “Songs that could have been in Paramount movies from the late 80s/90s AKA Waynes World 1 and 2”. “Turn on the Night” could have been on Born in the USA if you took out pinch harmonics and it’d be more fuel for Brucefans to cry over. Songs like these carry more weight than “Still Ill”. Another good hair hit is “Tears are Falling” from Asylum. Lick it Up, however is still a bad song.
You can find some interview footage of Kiss during the Dynasty period with Ace drunk off his ass, walking off the set and coming back with a Teddy Bear. Manny Ramirez is the Ace Frehley of the MLB. Out in left field, but damn can he play.
I’m still waiting for the day Low covers “I Still Love You”. Maybe I’ll do the solo on it. Its probably uncool to like Kiss, but no one seems to care about Brand Nubian or Bauhaus either.