What’s The Rockbrat Listening To Today ? Kiss – Asylum (1985)

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Finally – Mr Rockbrat finds the key to unlock Kiss’ ‘Asylum’

I was driving down the road doing 95 miles per hour recently, whilst streaming a Kiss radio station – as you do – broadcasting outta Greece no less (and before any Kiss zombie thinks ‘why is he listening to Kiss, when he is AWOL ? Fact is, obedient  Kiss-drone – that I still enjoy listening to the songs of the time when they were the ‘real deal ‘eg 73-79 – you geddit ? and seeing as how I know the back-catalogue, well, backwards – at least up to ‘Psycho Circus’ – it is good harmless fun). Lo and behold something recent was aired which I did not know – and I all but drove off the road  – it  musta been off ‘Monster’ and my god-it was hideous – filled with the absurd, rhyming clichés of which only the fat-winged, bass-playing tycoon could come up  with. Hilarious ! Don’t ask me the title either as researching it woulda meant devoting precious time to Kiss which is something I no longer do (apart from  scrutinising their back-catalogue – Ed). Anyway, as I was laughing out loud I thought ‘man, Simmons has written some stinkers over the years’ – and as I imagined  him in his castle – at his desk – surrounded by his gold records, with milk, cookies and thesuarus at the ready, I zeroed in on the ultra-weak ‘Asylum’ album (and primarily the sub-standard and cliche-ridden songs which he offered up at the time). You know folks the proof really is in the Kiss pudding – and it’s high time someone had a serious look back at this recording ! But first some vital facts – I indeed queued up and purchased this vinyl record (and cassette) the day it was released..late in 1985..and I loved it ! Put it on the Rockbrat Sanyo stereo when i got home I did, which is where it stayed for weeks and weeks. I was in Kiss heaven.Thing is, I never really questioned the material back then – it was Kiss, so it ruled, and that was that. Times have changed.  Apart from some blazing,  well-written Stanley-penned classics, I look back and shake my head at the thing. Hands up if  you play this album whilst running your hand over your Kiss albums ? Fess up Kiss-oids.

Thinking back – the band were really building up momentum in the mid 80’s….Lick It Up was  a solid – no-paint offering, followed up by the well received ‘Animalize’ (not surprisingly it was Stanley’s great songs which pulled it through) – and then, just when it was time to release a massive – non-makeup album…they relaese a record which sounds rushed and – dare I say it – as if not all team members  were giving their all. Klein….see me after school. How selfish of Simmons to think he could juggle an acting career, management company et al, whilst writing and producing other bands – AND also squeezing in time for Kiss ! That was not fair on the fans – and we deserved better … Shame on you. Some of the bass parts on this recording were even laid down by Paul and Jean Beavouir – (and to think Genie once stated that Frehley was not a team player). Anyway, this is pretty much a Paul Stanley solo album is it not ? Let’s open the box kids and take a look !

Opening track: ‘King Of The Mountain’  ? Great. Eric Carr’s thunderous drums were an amazing way to start the album. Song kicks major ass too – with some sizzling guitar work via Bruce Kulick, who co-wrote this with the Eisenite and Desmond Child. Actually, if Kulick had a ‘signature’ sounding solo style in his Kiss days, it is on this track. Second track in and surprise surprise, a B-Grade offering from Simmons. Plod plod plod, the tune begins with standard HM riffing and goes nowhere – no hook or chorus – and very un-memorable – except of course for Simmons retarded lyrics…are you sitting down folks ?…’I know you wanna cross the border and you know the doctor’s orders Well it’s better late than never, can’t stay innocent forever’. A genuine literary giant was at work here folks… but wait – there’s also ‘Why settle for seconds when you can have the best, So let me be your king bee, I want your hornets nest’ – it’s hip to quote Spinal Tap, so now seems like the right time – …treading water in a sea of retarded sexuality and bad poetry. Indeed.

Kiss compete for most garish stage costume – Liberace just out of shot (photographer unknown)

‘Who Wants to Be Lonely’ is next up and you know something ? it’s simply brilliant – I loved it back in the day and it sounds superb in 2013 – aging very well indeed. this is one of Paul’s better vocals moments – shame he can’t sing like this anymore. Slotting Stanley’s well-crafted songs next to Simmons’ cliche-ridden demo’s only highlights how far apart the two Kissers were/are when it comes to penning memorable rock n roll songs. You can quote me on that. Like night and day. Case in point is Gene’s dreadful  ‘Trial By Fire’ –  lots of lyrics about rolling dices and tons of ‘oh yeahs’ – kinda ironic that he sings ‘Can’t listen to nobody else You just got to believe in yourself ‘, when in all reality Paul really shoulda said to him in the studio at that time  – ‘the songs you are offering up for this record are shit !’ Side A ended with ‘I’m Alive’ – not one of Paul Stanley’s better moments – too many  Kulick dive-bombs and annoying guitar wankery. I scratch my head when I think that astounding Stanley songs like Sword and Stone have never been officially released and could replace bran muffins like this track – which actually sounds like something he penned whilst writing ‘Under The Gun’ the year before. The song however, does includes some of Paul’s most heart-felt lyrics in ‘don’t need no doctor puttin’ me to bed – give me the nurse and I’ll make sure that she’s fed’ P-lease. Time to flip the vinyl kids.

Fortunately, there are only two Simmons songs  – but unfortunately, one of them kicks off Side B. Yes Kiss-guru, I am aware that  the tune
‘Love’s a Deadly Weapon’ had been around for some time, apparently as an ‘Elder’ demo from 1981. So can I surmise from this, that he only had old demo tapes to offer ? Simmons really brought nothing of any quality to the studio for Asylum did he, apart from a bag of shit (his big fat book of clichéd songs). This song is average hard rock at best – something you’d find on any faceless metal band’s album of that era –  and it is laced with more of Kulick’s annoying widdly widdly, fast-fisted antics. Horrendous stuff.  Yet once again, Paul Stanley’s Tears Are Falling – the album’s first single – saves the day. One of the best thing Eisen ever wrote. An out an out rock n roll classic .  The final Simmons stonker is ‘Secretly Cruel” . How can someone be ‘secretly cruel’ anyway ? What exactly does this nonsensical phrase actually mean ? This is without a doubt one of Kiss’ most woeful recordings. Plod plod zzzzz – it’s about as interesting as watching golf on TV – and as for his immature lyrics – these are some of his most cringe-worthy: ‘I saw my pictures hangin’ on her wall  She cut it out of that magazine It was a hot day she wore lingerie  And nothin’  else in between’. Huh ? In between ? Since when do women wear apparel under lingerie ?! Rhyming ‘between’ and ‘magazine’ – good effort there Shakespeare – it makes no  sense, but if it rhymes, who the hell cares ? It gets better – ‘She had long hair and thigh high, snake-skin boots, And she was all over me like a cheap suit’. Vomit. His half-arsed  contributions to Kiss at this time can be seen in his lyrical efforts from Asylum. Want more ? ”Then she bared herself, and stripped my soul, Began to shake, rattle, and  roll, Then I took control’ – of course you did – you big-wigged stud. ‘She began to shake rattle and roll ?’ What, she put some Bill Haley on the turntable ? huh ??? The most embarrassing  lyrics are at the end – with ‘Well she grabbed my hair(!)  and I began to rise, I could  tell what she wanted by that look in her eyes –  I said, “Come here babe and make it quick” She said, “Not so fast” and had a drink’.  Woeful. What was he thinking ? Maybe a studio prankster hid some hash in his cookies ? A baby gibbon could conjure up something better than this uninspired crap. ‘Simple Simon met a pieman going to the fair’ – yet I digress.

‘Radar For Love is another unnecessary filler and if I wanted some Led Zep-inspired tunage  I’d go play Great White or Kingdom Come and not this. Hard listening. Track ten “Uh! All Night” is musically fine – but lyrically absurd…..on a song which would’ve had the good Reverand Gilstrom shaking his head – ‘gonna drive my long steel missile, down on your love channel – deep deep you’ll beg for more, raising hell and serpent score, feel me feel me’. Fun-nee. Rock n roll / sex lyrics are often non-sensical, but what was Stanley meaning – something about  ‘well there’s just one thing that money can’t buy ?’ All Charlot the Harlot asked for was 15 quid. Right ? Whatever. Kulick’s solo is a ripper by the way.

And there we have it. A (former) Kiss fan who finally is speaking the truth about Kiss’ Asylum album. In all honesty,  I would give this record 4 out of 10, if only for the Stanley-written numbers, and that is being really generous. What do you devoted Kissers think ? C’mon, be honest now ? One thing I have always found amazing about Kiss fans (and I was one of them).. is that they are so loyal, so accepting…. even if some of the bands’ material is substandard, like here on Asylum. Why is that ? Surely Kiss are not above criticism. Right ?  Right ? I am not going to mention the fashion sense of the band during this time period either. Cos, you could write a whole book on that subject ! 1985 was a long time ago – a lifetime ago, but it’s easy to see why kids were attracted to albums like Metallica’s  ‘Ride the Lightning’ over this crap… that’s not fair is it. Mr Rockbrat only speaketh the truth. Gene Simmons has written some anthems over the years and is a fine songwriter – however, the 1980’s were not some of his better years, lyrically at least. He also produced rubbish on 1984’s Animalize (Burn Bitch Burn, Lonely Is the Hunter, While the City Sleeps, Murder in High-Heels, and continued his run of sub-standard  fillers on the album which followed Asylum, Crazy Nights (“No, No, No”   “Hell or High Water”  Good Girl Gone Bad”). But I have gone on record as saying that it wasn’t until I first heard the track ‘Betrayed’ from 1989’s Hot In The Shade that I knew Gene Simmons was ‘back’, and I stand by my comment. Most of you would agree with me. I personally think he reached his creative peak as a (non-make-up era) songwriter on Revenge. As for Asylum – it sure has it’s moments, both good (Paul) and bad (Gene) but let me end the review with a question. If this was indeed Kiss’  first ever recording, do you seriously think they’d still be around today? Answer =  ‘No, No, No’ !

5 thoughts on “What’s The Rockbrat Listening To Today ? Kiss – Asylum (1985)

  1. Couldnt have said it any better myself Mr. Rockbrat. Didnt the 12″ (ahem) of “Uh All Night” come with a cover of ‘Lick My Love Pump”? Your precis of this album is consistent with All Music who write “By 1985, Kiss were a shadow of their former selves. Gone was the raw rock of their not so distant past, as well as their memorable “heavy Beatles” songwriting. In its place was a sound that was too similar to other pop-metal bands at the time, as well as unimaginative, predictable songs, as evidenced on Asylum. Besides the popular video/single “Tears Are Falling,” Asylum is chock-full of nondescript fluff (“I’m Alive,” “Trial by Fire,” “Secretly Cruel,” “Love’s a Deadly Weapon,” etc.). Although it attained platinum status, Stanley and Gene Simmons would rightfully dismiss Asylum later on.

  2. Thank You Rockbrat!! I feel that you wrote this article just for me…LOL!! By the way you are right on the mark with this article…as always. You touched on so many valid points. As for me I stopped being a Kiss fan when the original four broke up. I went out on a limb and bought “Lick It Up”, but it just wasn’t Kiss. The original four members have a raw, unique, unpolished sound that can’t be duplicated. There is a reason why Kiss was selling out stadiums when they reunited in “96. By the way, I read a book written by one of Kiss’s accountants that stated Gene and Paul were nearly bankrupt before the reunion tour. That reunion saved them, pure and simple. Gene made the statement that Ace and Peter weren’t important to the band anymore. If that’s the case, then why are two people wearing Ace and Peters costumes and make-up? Why are these same two people mimicking Ace and Peter’s every move? Remember back in the 70’s when Kiss was going under and a little tune called “Beth” saved them? It would appear that if it weren’t for Ace and Peter, Kiss would have collapsed long ago. That’s a no brainer. Ace and Peter were the true rock stars of Kiss. When Gene did a remake of “When You Wish Upon a Star” on his solo album, I knew what he was made of right away!! I can just hear him singing it now…LMAO!! I also liked how you pointed out the fact that Gene could be absent, write terrible songs and have other bass players play his parts on recordings, but if anyone else did something like that they weren’t team players. We know the truth behind that, don’t we. Paul’s horrible, horrible voice is further proof of that. Yes Gene and Paul can do anything, but no one else can. Typical Machiavellian Despots!! Let me sum up by saying this. If you took all of the good songs that Kiss has made since the original break up of the band, they would all fit on one album with room to spare!! Oh, one more thing…KISS NEEDS TO RETIRE!!!! Give us one last reunion show with the original members and then walk away!! Take care Rockbrat and keep on rockin’ brother. David

  3. Asylum is one of my favorite KISS albums. “King of the Mountain,” “Who Wants To Be Lonely,” “I’m Alive,” “Tears Are Falling,” and, “Radar For Love,” are very good to great tracks from my vantage point, and, “Any Way You Slice It,” “Secretly Cruel,” and, “Uh! All Nite,” are good, solid KISS songs. Better than most of the stuff Motley Crue was putting out in ’85. “Love’s A Deadly Weapon,” and, “Trial By Fire,” are both mediocre, but work halfway decently in context of the album itself. One is saved by it’s energy and enthusiasm, the other is held back by it’s lack of energy and urgency. Neither are as good as they should have been – and Gene had some better songs that he wrote around that time so why those two tracks made the album is a head scratcher.

    Still, overall, Asylum is a FUN album. Who cares about Rock and Roll lyrics. There’s a Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, after all. Rock and Roll started off as nothing but halfway silly stuff lyrically. Gene’s lyrics on Asylum just tap into that mentality. Yeah, they’re occasionally stoopid, but so what? They aren’t as bad as some Motley Crue or Poison lyrics (the new hitmakers at the time), and they aren’t as bad as Gene’s own nadir of lyrics (“Burn, Bitch, Burn”).

    Musically, Asylum is damned good. Eric Carr and Bruce Kulick are already sound like a team that has been together for four of five years on Asylum. The Animalize tour went a long way towards locking these two into the same groove and vibe. Bruce’s solos are flashy, but still rooted in the 70’s with tons of melody and tastefulness. He hits the mark right off the bat, recording some solos that have aged much better than some of his competition (given the competition’s lack of restraint and melody).

    Asylum gets a lot of crap because it’s a good time Rock and Roll record with little substance. It’s like an amusement park – you don’t look for meaning or substance with roller coasters. It’s just supposed to be fun for fun’s sake, and on that count Asylum succeeded wildly.

  4. Wow a very unfair review of Asylum. You act like Kiss’ lyrics in the 70’s were amazing but in ’85 were terrible. Kiss has never been known for great lyrical content so bashing Asylum and not the entire catalog for the exact same thing is hypocritical at best. Cheesy Kiss lyrics have always been a part of their charm. Accept or go away.

    1. Brian: Unfair but accurate. I did go away – jumped off SS Kiss more than 10 years back in fact. You like Asylum ? Cool. Many Kissers do not and the fact that $immons did not give 100% effort on the recording is there for all to see. Thanks for reading.

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