Tuesday, October 9, 2012

RECORD REVIEW: KISS "Monster"

KISS 
Monster
Universal Music Company
 _______________________

Get ready kids.
"Big Gene" and
"Little Gene"
have just re-
leased a new 
comedy classic!
_______________________


I fondly remember the magic and excitement of KISSmas — the holiest of religious holidays when young people far and wide clamored to the local record store and snatched up the latest KISS LP on the first day of release. Ever-faithful followers then would rush home with our long-awaited treasure. Immediately, we would kneel before our phonographs — devoting the day to joyful praise and worship as the mighty masked messiahs delighted us — their  dedicated disciples with sonic streetwise rock and sacred superhero imagery.It was righteous. It was relevant.

It was... the '70s.

Yes, that was a very long time ago and the original KISS line-up splintered over the years. However, even with a phoney Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, the current half-scab version still continues to pack 'em in on tour — delivering a live sight and sound rock and roll spectacle that's second-to-none. Yet after a mind-numbing 20-year string of lackluster studio offerings such as Psycho Circus and Carnival of Souls, along with uninspired live sets including Alive III and You Wanted the Best, You Got the Best! the awe of KISSmas morning gradually faded — now a mere footnote in ancient KISStory. But in 2012 there was a glimmer of hope that perhaps the magic of the holiday could somehow be restored...

Produced by frontman / guitarist Paul Stanley and Greg Collins, Monster serves as a stylistic identical twin to the band's previous record, 2009's Sonic Boom — a collection of old-school riffs, woven together by endless cock-rock cliches, double entendres and caveman-like poetry — lyrics that make Spinal Tap seem like intellectuals.

Peter Criss impersonator, Eric Singer,
loves to pucker and make fists.
Since their first line of toys arrived in stores during the late '70s, KISS has been known more for their brand marketing than for their innovative artistry. And when I say "KISS," I'm referring specifically to perennial mem- bers, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons. But even as savvy busi- nessmen, Stanley and Simmons ob- viously have a sense of humor. And that humor comes across loud and clear throughout Monster. It must have been a hoot to hang out with the band in the studio during the recording. I mean, Stanley, Simmons and the two youngins literally had to have had Perrier shooting out of their noses as they cut the vocal tracks. For example, on "Back to the Stone Age" Simmons  declares — Sit on the throne, let 'em kiss the ring. 'Cause I'm a Stone Age man, I'm the king. Not to be outdone by his older partner, Stanley answers back on "Shout Mercy" with the compelling confession — Hang out, put out, get out. That's what we're all about. Now that's quality comedic writing!

However, Stanley seemingly gets (almost) spiritual on "Long Way Down," musing — Look away but you can't pretend. Gonna pray for a way when the end is near. But as with many of the all-time great poets, you never quite know for sure if Stanley is talking about God or propositioning a stripper.

See what I mean?

In "Take Me Down Below," Simmons recounts a particular liaison — She took my finger, here's the button to press. I raised my flag  and she dropped her dress. I'll take you on a cruise you'll never forget. She said, we better move now 'cause I'm already wet. Really, dude? You're a 62-year-old married father of (at least) two. Groping groupies ain't groovy, Gramps —  it's gross.

But the most compelling testimonial is offered on "Freak" when Stanley proclaims — I'm a freak and I love what I see. I'm a freak and I love being me. Well duh! But perhaps the lyric should have been — I'm a freaking millionaire and I love being me.

In sum, Monster is extremely well-produced and the musicianship is impeccable. Even the packaging is quite eye-catching. In fact, the record's only shortcoming is that the lyrics are dopey. "Back to the Stone Age" indeed. Merry KISSmas — EVERYONE!

-Christopher Long
(October 2012)


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