>Baby, Feel My Tower of Power

>It’s a hell of a year to be a KISS fan, let me tell you. Who ever would have thought that in 2009 we would have releases of new material not only from KISS, but from original guitarist ACE FREHLEY? It bottles the mind, really. Certainly if you’d told the circa 1980, 7th grade-version of yours truly I’d have said, “Yeah, right.”

Nonetheless, here they are. Ace’s Anomaly record came out last month, while Sonic Boom from KISS hit the shelves this past Tuesday. Let me tell you right out of the gate that you won’t find two greater collections of cheesy lyrics than you’ll find contained in these records, and that is a critical element of their sheer awesomeness.

Frehley was a common name around here about a year-and-a-half ago, as he played Missoula and I had the opportunity to not only interview him for a story I wrote for the Independent, but also got to go backstage and meet him. That was a mindblowing experience, given that he was the first member of the band to be my favorite, and his classic song “Shock Me” was a cornerstone of the very first record I ever bought.

I don’t know how the release of the new Frehley record went unmentioned around here. I have a 200 word review of it in this week’s Indie, though, so you can check that out to get a concise take on how I feel about it (for the link-clicking-lazy, let me just say I love the album and was massively surprised at how good it really is). For an excellent, more in depth analysis, check out my friend Paul’s take over at his blog, Isorski’s Musings. I couldn’t agree more on his feelings, which is probably why I didn’t do my own review (though I did intend to link to his review sooner). Click on over and read his review already!

Which brings us to one of the most loved, most loathed bands ever — KISS. Say what you want about the marketing brand they’ve become, the commercials, and all the accompanying bullshit that inevitably obscures their contributions to music and culture (I was too lazy to research all the details, but wiki says “Kiss has been awarded 24 gold albums to date.[1] The band has sold over 19 million records in the United States[2] and their worldwide sales exceed 80 million albums”, and I believe they are second only to the Beatles in gold records, or something like that), but it is no doubt they are one of the most important American bands ever. Not only that, but they continue to be one of the biggest bands in the world, playing to huge crowds everywhere. It is quite a phenomenon. Gene Simmons had said as recently as two or three years ago that KISS would never release another record because music downloading had so impacted record sales that it wasn’t worth it, but given the success of both Metallica and AC/DC with new records, they clearly saw an opportunity to capitalize on their massive appeal. And the fruits of that are in my grubby little hands.

The first problem, like both Metallica and AC/DC, is that the record was a “Wal Mart” exclusive release. I haven’t set foot in a Wal Mart literally in years, and was loathe to do so. My local shop usually gets these releases via their distributor anyway, and assured me they’d have this one, but after waiting all afternoon the day of it became clear that they wouldn’t have it on The Day. I couldn’t wait.

Being resourceful, though, I got around my predicament. Make Sid go into the store and get it for me! So that’s what I did, and the shitty camera on my phone was there to capture the event:

After two or three listens, I have to say this record utterly exceeds my hopes, let alone my expectations. They did a lot for this release to capture their “classic” sound that they’d gotten away from, and it paid off. They all played their own instruments without using stand-ins. They wrote all the songs without any outside songwriters making contributions. The songs are full of hooks, big harmonies and melodies that show how influenced these guys were by pop bands of the 60s like The Raspberries and The Beatles. Yeah, some songs are better than others, but there aren’t any that I’m already skipping when they come on. Every guy just sounds great. It could be argued that Eric Singer in the role of Peter Criss, and Tommy Thayer as Ace Frehley are a bit much, but honestly I don’t really care about that anymore. I think Ace and Peter had their shot to be reborn in KISS and either didn’t take it, or failed to. I don’t miss Peter at all (never really did, honestly), and I’ve got Frehley doing his own thing, so it’s win-win as far as I’m concerned. KISS delivered a hard rock record the likes of which we don’t get much anymore — nothing new, nothing innovative, and I don’t care — and I love it.

Besides the new record (11 brand new songs), the package came with a CD of 15 re-recordings of some of their “classic” songs, and a DVD of the band playing live on April 5th of this year in front of a monster crowd in Buenos Aires, Argentina. When I heard about all this, I just shrugged — there is plenty of live footage of them on my DVD shelf already, and I couldn’t really care less about another greatest hits package. I stuck the disc in anyway . . . and that is where I was most surprised. These songs sound like live-in-the-studio recordings, and they sound great! A few of them, okay, I couldn’t really care less about. But a couple of them — “Deuce” and “Hotter Than Hell” in particular — are just kicking my ass. I love those songs so much, and hearing them recorded with modern technology with this lineup, which is really the best lineup they’ve ever had, is fantastic. I love listening to these songs. I bet I have listened to “Deuce” thousands of times since 1977 or so, and I love it every time. I could listen to it every day for the rest of my life and I bet I would still hit repeat when it finishes every damn time.

So yeah, what a great year to be a KISS fan. These two records have gone a long way to firing me up about rock and roll again in the wake of the demise of Lazerwolfs. That, and Jimmy and I jammed with a new drummer the other night and that project is going to KICK COPIOUS ASS. Here’s a shot of the newest addition to the rock office — Travis Yost. He’s a great drummer, a great guy, and my hands and vocal chords are still raw as hell from the jam the other night. It should be a loud winter.

In closing, here’s KISS playing Letterman the other night. Dig it.

5 thoughts on “>Baby, Feel My Tower of Power”

  1. >Holy shit! A new KISS album that passes muster with LaTray? An archival, blackmail-worthy of a 7th grade LaTray dolled up like Paul Stanley and appearing to bend a guitar?! The mighty Trav in your BAND?!? Good gawd, Chris, your blog today is like friggin' Christmas!I'm really looking forward to what you and Jimmy come up with playing with Travis. There's a lot of overlap there musically, and you can't discount the man's potential to go batshit crazy at any moment.Got a birthday coming up next month, and the KISS CD just shot to the top of my suggestion list.On a side note, I was in 29 Palms, California, on The Day when they released KISS Alive 2. It was nowhere near the one-two punch of their classic first live album, but buy god, I was the first person in 29 Palms to own it.Good on ya, Chris. We still need to have that hard rock roundtable sometime…

  2. >The guitar wasn't bent, it was straight-up broke!I'm looking forward to working up some new stuff with Travis on the skins. The feel is different, but the quality is definitely there. I also love the 26" Gretsch kick drum too. What a novelty, a drummer who not only has his own gear, but can also be accessed via phone and/or email!

  3. >Hey Chris, great review. Thanks for the shout out on the Ace review too. I have been listening to Sonic Boom quite a bit because I am over my negative first impression brought on by the WalMart buying experience. Also, my kids want to hear it in the car. It is growing on me. It is pretty damn rocking and I have the songs running thru my head as I am going to sleep at night. Just like in 1979. So, what the hell. They win.

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