Friday, January 25, 2013

KISS - Monster [album review]

Released in October

A few months prior to KISS celebrating their 40th anniversary, as happened last week, the band released Monster, their 20th studio album. The soulless Monster represents why I let my metaphorical membership in the KISS Army lapse (as stated in my other KISS reviews, I think it's relevant to mention that I was a hardcore fan of the group for almost 30 years before souring on just about everything they've done after about 2002). Monster is yet another empty vessel whose sheer reason for existing seems to be to act as more KISS product, while also qualifying as new music that deflects criticism of the group now being nothing more than a nostalgia act. Tied into the release of Monster is a book of the same name that is advertised as "Three feet tall and two and a half feet wide! As tall as a guitar!" and is so crazily expensive at $4,250 U.S. (!) that they actually offer low monthly payment plans for that undiscerning and unhealthily obsessive KISS fan who can't live without it. The band at least found it in the goodness of their hearts to offer free delivery on the tome.

Looking back on my review from 2009 for KISS' Sonic Boom album, most of the criticisms and observations from it could be cut and pasted onto this review. There's the embarrassing lyrics that are atrociously bad in many parts: I'll take you out of this world to the other side/On a midnight rocket 'til the morning light/Going up, going down, it's gonna be alright and You and me we're like TNT/Light the fuse that's inside of me (from "Outta This World"); I was just another child going wild in the city/Just gettin' by on a dream/I was thinking life was gonna be pretty/It was pretty mean (from "All For The Love Of Rock And Roll"); and I told her that I had a submarine/She said "I know exactly what you mean"/I told her that my ship was ready to ride/She touched my heart when she touched my thigh (from "Take Me Down Below"). I don't expect KISS to start writing songs about world peace and I'm also conscious of the fact that they and a handful of other classic hard rock bands are into uncharted waters as their careers carry on into decade number five, but there's something profoundly sad about a group whose two principle members (Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley) are now well into their 60s and churning out lyrics as lazily written, thimble deep, and icky as these. Also carrying over from Sonic Boom is the fact the only good song on the album is its first track and first single - last time around it was "Modern Day Delilah" and this time it's "Hell Or Hallelujah", both with Stanley on lead vocals. The song is an obvious attempt at capturing some of the songwriting and studio magic from the earlier days and succeeds, with a crunchy main guitar riff that feels and sounds like a sibling of the one from 1977's classic "I Stole Your Love". Monster's only other track worth listening to is the heavier "Shout Mercy", also with Stanley singing lead vocals. Aside from those two, it's one forgettable example of the band going through the motions after another, as the 70s formula of each band member taking their turns in the lead vocal slot is predictably executed.

It should be noted that KISS are in some pretty select company in terms of classic rock bands that are no longer capable of putting out a new album that qualifies as even merely adequate. Aerosmith, The Who, The Rolling Stones, and Heart are just some of the formerly prolific groups that can't write a good collection of songs any more to save their lives. It can be done, though, as demonstrated last year by inspired and stellar releases from the long-in-the-tooth Van Halen and Rush. Aside from a couple of instances, Monster just feels like a forgery of the far better music that KISS were able to make a long time ago, right down to them employing two guys (lead guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer) to look and musically sound like original KISS members Ace Frehley and Peter Criss. At this point in their career, you can include KISS as another deserving candidate for the "musical euthanasia" I wrote about here. No doubt, the low-hanging fruit fan base that Simmons and Stanley depend on have already shelled out for Monster, as these diehards continue to turn a willfully blind eye to the hollow sham this band, sadly, now is. 

Rating: D-

Related posts: my October review of KISS' Destroyer (Resurrected) album

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