Monday, June 28, 2010

Kiss dead

I like Kiss.

I have neither any compelling defense or any excited celebration to offer.

Frankly, as much as anything, I'm a fan of Ace Frehley, but there's something entertaining about the whole package. I like the makeup and I like the theatrics.

The music. I like it. Some of it I like a lot. A lot of it I like mostly for sentiment, because I like liking Kiss and I enjoy their basic sound.

I know Destroyer has fans, but I'm honestly not sure I like any of their albums as a whole. Oddly the closest I come is the much maligned concept album Music from The Elder, although Love Gun comes close as well, and would be my choice as an example for an existing album of "Kiss music".

But somehow it seems hard being the band now. Almost pointless.

I was just following a bunch of Kiss related articles. In one of them, original drummer Peter Criss, the "Cat Man" in the original makeup designs, was complaining that current drummer Eric Singer is wearing the "Cat Man" makeup, because he thinks it's a betrayal of sorts to him and to the fans.

I'm not here to agree or disagree at this point. I'm not sure I can come to a conclusion about that.

But I don't like it or that Tommy Thayer wears Ace's "Space Ace" makeup. Admittedly, it does seem something like a lie. But what really bothers me is that it feels like a surrender.

When they were still functioning as a band, or attempting to, Eric Carr became "The Fox" and Vinnie Vincent adopted the much more dubious "Ankh Man" moniker.

Now, in using the original designs with session players, even if they seem to be permanent session players, remaining band members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley seem to be conceding the death of Kiss as band of any sort.

They did, I admit, release a new album, Sonic Boom, which I've heard nothing at all from, which tells you something of my interest in the matter. I have, on the other hand, heard Ace's Anomaly.

What's the difference? Aside from the fact that I'll always prefer Ace, his album feels like an attempt to move forward as a musician, not simply a means to justify hugely profitable tours continuing into the indefinite future.

Strangely, I think there's something sad about being Gene and Paul at this point. They've both had recent solo albums, neither of which seemed to be very successful, but then neither exactly seemed like a genuine attempt at any kind of musical relevance either. I think they've resigned themselves to playing Kiss out for what it is, incredibly lucrative.

I'm not sure when that changed entirely. I think there had always been a weird balancing act between Kiss the band and Kiss the event, that was handled with varying levels of skill over the years.

The unmasking with Lick it Up was supposed to return the balance to the band aspect, to some extent, but frankly the albums that follow into the '80s are even more uneven than the last handful of makeup era albums that they were supposedly stepping forward from.

As talented as Carr and third guitarist Bruce Kulick were, there's only occasional signs between Animalize and Revenge, the first album after Carr's untimely death, to demonstrate any significant attempt to view the band to as a musical force.

Gene likes to explain that when Ace started in the band, he was creative and exciting, but that he never "blossomed" as a guitarist. I'd say the band never really "blossomed" as whole, and I'm sure Ace bears his share of responsibility for that, but I don't think they did any more "blossoming" with Vincent, Mark St. John or Kulick either, so I think Gene is largely pushing his share of the blame off on others.

In a sense, I think the 1996 reunion Alive/Worldwide Tour was the end.

Perhaps they entered the recording of Psycho Circus with the intention of reviving the original band as a musical force, but nothing suggests they even completed it with that intention. And between its release and now they've toured seemingly non-stop, mostly as an oldies act.

I suppose they can comfort themselves in the piles of money they make from these tours, and I've heard they do indeed put on a good show. But I still like to imagine that somewhere in them is the guys who started Kiss out of Wicked Lester with the desire to be a kickass rock and roll band, but I suspect that's long gone. I suppose if you add it all up they've done already more than most people.

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