Tuesday, October 9, 2012

RECORD REVIEW: Kiss "Monster"

KISS - Monster
Universal Music Company
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 mar- keting than for their  innovative artistry. And when I say "KISS," I'm referring specifically  to perennial members, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons. But even as savvy businessmen, Stanley and Simmons obviously 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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