Here is a subject often discussed amongst Kiss fans but rarely documented – until now. That’s right kids – Mr Rockbrat has his Kiss albums in front of him – the volume set to high and a skeptical pair of ears. I once wrote – when reviewing the Psycho Circus album from 1998 that ‘Kiss have a support base like no other and if they put out an album of Elton John covers the fans would still buy it’. That to me leaves you a somewhat blinkered rock fan. I remember arguing with fellow Kiss fans back in 1986 about some of the lame tracks on the just-then released Asylum album. They could not see or hear what I could. So here, for the first time are the best of the worst Kiss tunes which they’ve recorded.
This is just my opinion and after thirty something years of listening to this band I think I have enough knowledge on the subject to pen this list. Why don’t die-hard Kiss fanatics ever question some of the material which their favourite band have recorded ? You shell out your hard-earned money to Simmons and Stanley so why the hell not – you are entitled to do so.
In my opinion, the body of Kiss work till 1980 is awesome and does not need looking at – and that includes the four solo albums from 1978. The disco-pop sounding Unmasked album has some great tunes included – but has our first forgettable track in ‘You’re All That I Want’. No surprises that Simmons penned this shocker (with former Ringo Starr co-writer Vini Poncia). Gene claimed to have written hundreds of songs by 1980 but sadly some of them deserved to remain in the demo tape case – including this one. ‘You’re All That I Want’ is a plodder and goes nowhere – a far cry from the smoke and fire of tracks like God of Thunder and other mid 70’s gems. Maybe the hunger – via immense worldwide success had been satisfied somewhat ?
Next is 1981’s Music From The Elder – one of my favourite Kiss albums because it is such a departure for the band and there are indeed no duds on the record – though many would disagree. 1982’s Creatures Of The Night is a return to the glorious and loud amplifier-fuelled Kiss we all know and love. It’s a cool record, however Paul Stanley’s ‘Keep Me Comin’ track is a throwaway that makes the list of forgettables. This song (which would’ve been right at home on Spinal Tap’s ‘Shark Sandwich’) never grabbed me at all and I can vividly remember lifting the styli when the song was up next on the old Rockbrat stereo. By the way a styli – or stylus – is a record player needle – for all you kids out there.
1983 and we enter the non-make-up years, where it’s important to note that Simmons was not devoting all of his time to the band – what with a blossoming film career, record label and management company to attend to. Stanley was often left to carry the band forward and it is noticeable in the quality of songwriting – if you compare both his and Gene’s efforts. Lick It Up has a couple of ‘styli lifters’ (hey Mr Rockbrat has coined a new rock phrase !) – in the tedious ‘Young and Wasted’ and the dismal ‘Gimme More’. ‘Young and Wasted’ was played in the live arena and sung by the late Eric Carr – but it really is B-grade metal at it’s worst. I remember watching the Animalize live concert upon release – and hearing this song – whilst Simmons shook his ass in front of the camera thinking ‘what is up with all this ?’. Horrendous and quite laughable really. The bat-winged demon really was lost when it came to stage-presence for quite some time during those early non-make-up years. ‘Gimme More’ is another straight outta the St Hubbins/Tufnel songwriting book which should’ve been rejected by the Record Company head honcho at the time. Lick It Up has some great moments, but these two aforementioned tracks are not among them.
1984’s Animalize was a great rock record and I loved it – well Paul’s tunes at least. Big Gene managed to break away from his Hollywood trailer long enough to contribute three – yes that’s right – only three songs. All of them are basic, B-grade hard rock fodder and are average at best. When you think that – only ten short years beforehand, he was writing some true rock classics which would be loved by millions, yet could now only offer up substandard songs like ‘Lonely Is The Hunter’, it was not fair on the Kiss disciples. Simmons resorted to his rich book of rock clichés and could only come up with “Hey, with a sleight of hand and then a word of mouth – She’s a cat been caged too long and now she’s breakin’ out“. P-lease. Or what about the godawful – ‘Lonely Is the Hunter’ with its ‘Put my eggs in one basket, but she threw me a bone – She was dealt a full deck, but she likes to live alone’. You gotta be kidding me ! I remember listening to this album in my room whilst my brother was cranking out Maiden’s almighty ‘Powerslave’. His walls were shaking man ! You shouldn’t really compare the two as that ain’t fair – not on Stanley anyway. Well done Gene – all of your Animalize contributions make the forgettable list ! If you are a Kiss fanatic – stack Stanley’s Animalize tunes up against Simmons’ then ask yourself the basic question, using ‘cool rock tunage’ as the criterion. Put simply, Gene did not deliver the goods on this record whereas Paul’s ‘Heaven’s On Fire and Thrills In the Night are bona-fide Kiss classics ! Maybe Gene shoulda asked Mark St John or Eric Carr if they had any ideas ?
So we move on to the fashion nightmare that is 1985’s Asylum. “Trial By Fire” – again by Simmons, but co-written with Bruce Kulick makes the list, as does Paul’s throwaway ‘I’m Alive”. Surely this is one of Stanley’s worst Kiss moments and is indeed ‘hard listening’ (another Rockbrat phrase !). Crazy Nights was an enjoyable album but had some cringing moments – ie Bang Bang You, and the very annoying No No No. Bang Bang You is just plain silly and again, I find it amazing that a songwriter like Stanley, who could write astounding songs like Black Diamond and I Want You only a few short years before could produce this nonsense ?! Don’t start me on the lyrics either. Talk about making yourself an easy target for the music critics. As for No No No – the less said the better, it is truly awful – an annoying finger-tapping filler and I hope I never have to hear it again. Thief In The Night nearly made my list – though the fact that Wendy O Williams had covered it beforehand – and I was already familiar with that likeable version – was its saving grace. Hot In The Shade saw a return to form with Gene’s songwriting as was displayed on the great single Betrayed. When I heard that I thought – wow, he’s back. I’m sure I was not alone. He did however offer up the awful ‘Boomerang’, which sounds likes it was a continuation of No No No. In Australia there is an old song called ‘My Boomerang Won’t Come Back’ which I sure hoped was the case when I first heard this song. Yet another forgettable song by Gene Simmons. Don’t mean to state the obvious yet again, but the three singles lifted off this album – Hide Your Heart, Rise To It and Forever were all penned by Paul Stanley. So there you have it folks, twelve of the most forgettable tunes in the vast Kiss catalogue. Here’s the list again:
- You’re All That I Want
- Keep Me Comin’
- Young and Wasted
- Gimme More
- Lonely Is the Hunter
- While the City Sleeps
- Murder in High Heels
- Trial By Fire
- I’m Alive
- Bang Bang You
- No No No
If you are a Kiss fan and don’t like what I’ve written today then leave a comment with some evidence to the contrary. It’s fine to be a devout follower of a rock band – but sometimes it’s also fine to question some of the material which they’ve recorded. That’s actually a healthy part of being a rock fan and it’s a shame more people don’t do it. Try and not be a blinkered rock fan. I love Kiss – they’ve been a part of my life for three decades. But I sure as hell don’t like everything they’ve recoreded – hence the reason for this post. But it is after all, just an opinion – my opinion. However, I am fairly confident that some Kiss fans would agree with me. I welcome your thoughts.
>Rockbrat Update: 22 November 2010<
Well some days have passed since I uploaded this article – it received a high amount of traffic and I received quite a few messages about it. Most of the messages agreed with my opinion on the Kiss songs listed. Most people agree that Kiss released some stinkers and many were on that list ! Only one Rockbrat friend (from some place in Canada) was kissed off with me and told me I didn’t know what I was talking about, Kiss is for life yadda yadda yadda. Yeah right. He is exactly the kind of blinkered Kiss nut I was alluding to in the article. As for not knowing what I was talking about…well I had my face painted like Ace in 79, was in the Australian Kiss Army back in 1980, was in the original Ace Frehley and Vinnie Vincent fan clubs etc etc. Even painted a Kiss logo on my high school wall to signal my departure ! Not to mention buying many Kiss-associated albums like White Tiger, Balance, Blackthorne and Blackjack….and how’s about searching for and owning other Kiss-related discs like Treasure, Stallion, Trigger, Good Rats, Wendy O Williams, Cher, Doro and even buying a freaking Bonnie Tyler album cos she covered ‘Hide Your Heart’. Not bad for a guy who doesn’t know much about Kiss ! As they say in the movies Kiss My Ass friend ! (I did welcome your comment though Mr Canadian Kiss Fan – and just to show you Mr Rockbrat adores all his rock n roll disciples, e-mail me your address and I’ll send ya a signed photo !)