Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

Kiss, "Sonic Boom" (Kiss Records) [1/2 OUT OF 4 STARS]

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Of the many generational gaps and stylistic schisms that fester as rock rolls through its sixth decade--from those who'll forever favor Elvis over the Beatles to those who'd champion Britney over Madonna--none illustrates a more rigid, unforgiveable and unbridgeable divide than the one between the legions who were brainwashed as youth into becoming members of the Kiss Army, seduced by its fire-belching cartoon reduction of true heavy-metal hell-raising, and the rest of us who cannot abide the simplistic stomping, redundant riffing and brain-dead sexism of Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley and their current greasepaint-wearing cohorts even as satire or a guilty pleasure.

Such is our distaste for these pandering huckster boors that we still hold it against Paul Westerberg and the Replacements for covering "Black Diamond" on the otherwise flawless "Let It Be" (1984).

For us skeptics, it makes perfect sense that for their first album of new Kiss material in 12 years, Simmons (age 60) and Stanley (57) have wound up with an exclusive deal at a big-box retailer that shares its charmless, vulgar, neo-fascistic "bigger is better" aesthetic, neatly summed up here--and repeated for the umpteenth time over the last 35 years--in the new track "Never Enough," which finds Stanley wailing, "Give me life for the takin'/Give me love 'til I'm shakin'/Give me rules just for breakin'/'Cause it's never enough! Never enough! Never enough!"

Actually, it was enough with "Destroyer" way back in 1976, the point at which Bob Ezrin's bombastic melodrama forever blurred inside-joke and shameless self-parody, as the packaging of this release makes clear. In addition to a CD of the 11 new tracks--more titles that tell you all you need to know: "All for the Glory," "Danger Us" and "I'm An Animal"--the bargain-priced three-disc package also includes a live DVD and a greatest-hits collection, though concert staples such as "Detroit Rock City," "Shout It Out Loud" and, yes, "Black Diamond" all have been re-recorded by the unremarkable current lineup completed by Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer and lacking the original "spaceman" guitarist Ace Frehley and Peter Criss, a.k.a. the drummer who sang "Beth," who departed for the most recent times in 2003 and 2004, respectively.

As soggy and soulless as these new renditions of alleged Kiss classics are, even these are preferable to the trite and formulaic new product of the Kiss Corporation circa 2009. Never enough? More like, "Not again--please!"

Kiss performs at the United Center at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 6. Tickets range from $18.50 to $125--with a special "KISS Meet & Greet Experience" priced at $995--via www.ticketmaster.com, (312) 559-1212.

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11 Comments

Jim, I am so glad to read your review. I feel the same way about KISS and I thought the same thing about Westerberg covering Black Diamond. I also can't believe Greg Dulli was a KISS fan too. I have bought thousands of records over the years and still state with pride that I have never ever bought a KISS record. (and I have bought Black Oak Arkansas records) Thanks, RLP

Come on, Jim. KISS are a great band that wrote a lot of great songs, and are deservedly influential. I'm all for folks like the Replacements and the Melvins covering KISS, especially when it angers hipsters and music critics.

Unfortunately, I'm guessing your rating is even too high for this abysmal record. But that doesn't mean that every red-blooded American shouldn't own the first two "Alive!" albums.

Yeah, Kiss sucks, although their first few albums had a certain "NY bar band trying to be huge" charm.

But here's something interesting I read recently:

If you want to understand what Kiss were going for, listen to early Slade. The shout-along cliche choruses, stomping 4/4 beats, basic-at-best solos---it's all there.

And, from what I read, Simmons even told someone that they were modeling their music on Slade's music.

Now, I just wish I could remember where I read it.

I'm going to be honest Jim, I thought April Fools came early when I saw the Kiss picture on your page. Not that I think Kiss is an innately bad band because of the music(I'll go to bat for the song "Strutter", but I'll willingly smack them down for the bad merchandising....google "Kiss coffin"), but because as a long time reader I know that Glam rock in any capacity has never been your thing. That's not to say you should refrain from writing about it, but it is still surprising to see you write about Kiss.

I heard their debut LP wasn't too bad, candied cousin of new york dolls?

I didn’t think I would admit the following publicly…but I have listened to the new Kiss album. In the long run the album is Kiss, nothing more nothing less. Like an AC/DC album it is exactly what you would expect of the band. Kiss is not a band that is going to break new ground. They are not a band who are going to ever put out that “wow” album. Their fans know this, their detractors know this, and the critics should know this. On a scale measured against all albums ½ - 1 stars is fair, but measured against Kiss albums and expectations it is average so maybe two stars tops.

The one thing that makes this album salvageable is volume. Purchase it and you get a disc of “Kiss Klassics” and a DVD of a live show. Granted it is still Kiss all the way through but that is quite a bit of stuff in one package for the price of one regular disc. Of course the add-ins are low cost filler to entice buyers to boost sales, but whatever works to generate cash because this is one band that makes no bones about it, they are all about the cash. Is it worth it to the average record buyer? I’m not sure, but it will be worth it to the average Kiss fan.

What a useless review. Neo-hip rock critic slamming Kiss. Wow, you're really breaking some new ground there, Jimbo. Way to go out on a limb.

Fact is, this Kiss album is actually pretty fun. Its Kiss being Kiss and that's about all you need to know.

You know Jimmy, I can't figure out if you're a miserable man with a chip on your shoulder or the physical embodiment of a Cameron Crowe character; the Seattle-based music journalist living every 90's grunge era cliche. It seems like any time an artist you used to like changes their style even the slightest you go on some elitist rant against how they are selling out. You bash Kiss, yet you fail to recognize that many of the indie/sub-po/grunge/alternative acts you like to fawn over site Kiss as an influence of some degree. Fortunately we do not live in "DeRogatis World" where everyone stays the same, nobody ever does anything that you may construe as selling out, and people have a wider musical scope than the narrow one you have. Say what you will about him as a person, Gene Simmons has made more money, and in turn contributed more to the economies of several countries in one month than you have in all the years you've been taking up ink in this newspaper.

Get that chip off your shoulder Jimmy, the world ain't as bad as you think. Heck, even Pearl Jam learned to smile, how bad can it be?

Jim,
You have throughout the years been a sanctimonious, sorry excuse for a rock critic. As Tim points out above, come out the sorry WXRT/WBEZ world you live in and understand that bands like KISS, even with the lineup that exists now, embody the spirit of what rock music is supposed to be about: FUN The fact that they wrap it up a very glitzy package means nothing other than fun. But you don't get it. Spending all your time with bands like the Replacements and whatever you find enjoyable has warped your sense of the simple fact that this band still sells CDs and fills arenas. The fact that this group influenced more musicians than your writing ever will means nothing, huh? Perhaps your definition of great rock music comes from bands who look as depressed as Cobain was right before he pulled the trigger, but to a large number of people, KISS defines a great band. Are these guys prolific musicians? No, but honestly I can't even remember the name of the guitar player in Pearl Jam...how impressive he must be, huh?

KISS completely defined the concert experience and, as I mentioned earlier, influenced musicians that even YOU like. Go figure.

Give the band its due. They have survived, period. Give them some respect. I thought the world was coming to end when I read that those other sanctimonious purveyors of musical BS, Rolling Stone, deigned to nominate KISS to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I guess the world is not ending when clueless excuses called rock critics go back to slamming KISS.

Do us a favor. Next time, don't bother with a KISS revue.

OK - I rarely say this, but...I agree with Jim 100%.

Jim you are completely wrong about this band and countless others. Kiss are music legends just like your precious bands like REM and U2. I'm expecting you to slam Bon Jovi next for their new album since your viewpoints on music are obscured.

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on October 8, 2009 1:44 PM.

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