Review Summary: It's Kiss, what do you really expect?
Kiss, a band that’s been around since the early 70’s when they were known as “Wicked Lester,” is definitely an acquired taste. While some Kiss fans will always stand by their releases and praise the live performances, there’s an abundance of those that see the group as more of a gimmick than a band, consisting of businessmen who can play instruments rather than full fledged musicians. For instance, Gene Simmons isn’t that good a bassist or vocalist (he’s a better vocalist than bassist), though Paul Stanley is a very talented rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist. These two are the only remaining members of the original lineup of Kiss from the 70’s: anyone that plans on listening to this album know everything that’s gone on with Ace and Peter. Now there's Tommy Thayer at lead guitar and the reliable Eric Singer behind the kit. This is Singer’s first album since “Revenge” (not counting Carnival of Souls, but then again who does) and Thayer’s first as a member of Kiss. The last release by this band, “Psycho Circus”, was a decent album upon the first couple listens, but overall was just a boring, repetitive listen on most fronts.
Enter Sonic Boom: Kiss’ first album in 11 years, the longest span of time between any of their releases, and an overall good listen for anyone that’s wanted to hear something new from Kiss. The lead single off the album “Modern Day Delilah” is pretty indicative of the rest of the album; fairly catchy throughout, but once the chorus starts, it becomes apparent that Kiss are still having trouble churning out songs that are good in their entirety. Nevertheless, while the solo by Thayer isn’t anything groundbreaking, it's most certainly very good and indicates that he’s a more than competent replacement for Ace, though not nearly as good as Kulick. Simply listening to this song a couple of times will lead to the understanding that each song follows the same general format: a fairly heavy intro, pretty good verse, mediocre chorus, a solid solo, and more chorus, then the end of the song. Nonetheless, let's give some credit to Gene for laying down some solid bass lines in some of his songs. Russian Roulette, for example, has a groovy sounding bass that ultimately leads to the song being one of the best on the album, and definitely the best where he’s the lead vocalist.
Nevertheless, one aspect of Kiss that even diehard fans need to admit is that as lyricists, the guys fail miserably. This album is no different; while the lead single contains passable lyrics that can be forgiven for, if nothing else, their catchiness, a song like "Hot and Cold", with lyrics like “If it’s too hot/you’re too cold/ If it’s too loud/you’re too old/and if you let go/of what you can’t hold/you’re too hot and cold,” really makes one wonder why they don’t hire somebody that can actually write decent lyrics. The beginning of the chorus to "Danger Us" is catchy enough to make the song likeable, but the latter part of the chorus has the same major problem as Hot and Cold; the lyrics are terrible, and in this case they're a horribly corny play on words; and, it's very difficult to not cringe, thinking that the guys probably though they were being clever. Quite frankly, what Gene and Paul write on this album is sometimes just absurdly, laughably bad.
The musicianship is pretty standard for a Kiss album, and as mentioned previously, Gene does play a decent bass on the album, while Singer is very consistent on the drums, as usual. As is the case with all songs on this album, Thayer does lay down a pretty good solo after the chorus to save some of these songs from drowning in mediocrity, like the aforementioned Hot and Cold and songs like "Never Enough" and "I’m an Animal" that don’t really stand out after listening to the entirety of the album, the former trying to be an anthem type song that just sounds forced.
Overall, the album sounds like a combination of their 70's and 80's albums; they’re less poppy than some of the songs released in the 70’s and a bit on the heavier side, like the 80’s, but the solos and structure of the songs are definitely reminiscent of some of their earlier work.
As a whole, Sonic Boom is a good, listenable effort from a group that people either love or hate. Thayer has proven that he does match up to Ace in terms of playing ability, and Singer will always be a better drummer than Criss: period. I’ll always stand by Paul Stanley as a vocalist, though this album does at times demonstrate that his voice is strained after all these years of touring. Gene’s bass is more noticeable on this album than others, and that actually isn’t a bad thing. The only truly awful aspect of the album are the lyrics; if Kiss manages to release another album in the future, they either need to consult with someone or hire someone good to write for them.
Modern Day Delilah
When Lightning Strikes (featuring Tommy Thayer on lead vocals)