Review Summary: What happens when Gene Simmons is given free reign for his megalomania? Predictably, he botches it.
In 1979, KISS were basically on the verge of breakup. Personal problems were eating at the members’ interpersonal relationships and threatened to get in the way of the ever-important success. So someone came up with an idea: the four members were to go their separate ways and record one solo album each, which they would use to purge inner demons and quench any desires to experiment outside of the KISS sound. The theory was that this would provide a way to maybe diminish the tensions within the group; and of course, being KISS, the group didn’t balk at the chance to get into a few more teenage girls’ pants and into a few more teenage girls’ parents’ wallets. Thus, the self-titled albums were born.
But while the suggestion of a four-way split had been very therapeutical, there was still the question of what each member would do with their new-found freedom. Away from the constraint of Simmons and Stanley, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss made honest, but rather atypical, albums, flirting with, respectively, proto-heavy metal and 50’s pop music. Paul Stanley chose to press on with a relatively similar sound, unknowingly laying the red carpet for what would become 80’s-era KISS. And Simmons…well, Simmons wallowed in his own megalomania.
Seriously, what did you expect?! With a delusional egomania which would make Sid Vicious appear only slightly overconfident, and an anti-Midas touch to rival the best of them, the man with the twelve-inch tongue was given free reign to play God to his own little aural kingdom. The result is a trainwreck of an album, which overshoots its mark by miles and constantly bites off more than it can chew.
The beginning is actually not so bad – Radioactive
is the type of nonsensical fluff that had made KISS’s success during the 1970s, and it’s actually a pretty groovy little song, that could and should have been in any of the group’s earliest offerings. Simmons has a decent, if unspectacular voice, and he seems to be a slightly better guitarist than he is a bassist. So far, it looks like KISS’s co-leader is taking the Paul Stanley route and making a mere offshoot of KISS.
Our hopes, however, come crumbling down on the second track. When a gruff “one..two..three..four” is not followed by a huge guitar-riff, we start to sense something is very wrong. And, in fact, Burning Up With Fever
introduces the bane of this solo album: soul music influences. The track is absolutely bathed in soulful female vocals, which undercut and overpower the still-present, still-heavy guitar riffs. This will become a common trait throughout the album, which is absolutely swamped in chirpy gospel singers. These singers sometimes contribute to ruin songs which started off promisingly, such as Tunnel Of Love
. And the few songs that don’t feature them are sure to have Lennon and McCartney running after Simmons asking for royalties, since they amount to little more than Beatles outtakes (Man of 1.000 Faces
, a sort of God of Thunder
-meets-latter-day-Beatles, or Mr. Make Believe
, where the vocal harmonies are nothing if not telling). And did I mention there are two re-recorded songs here? That’s right, See You In Your Dreams
gets the Gospel Treatment – and is worse off for it – while track three is a straight re-recording of Hard Luck Wo…
oh wait, no, actually it’s an original song titled See You Tonite
. I honestly couldn’t tell the difference.
What’s worse, every single song on here features the classic, crappy Simmons tropes. Absurdly ***ty lyrics? Check (”living in sin/at the Holiday Inn”
is bad enough once, but Simmons tortures us with it 400.000 times in the space of four minutes). Structurally messy songs and chorus overusage? Check. (Most numbers on here amount to little more than gospel-fueled chorus repetitions of variable lenghts). Childish bravado? Check. (Once again, Living in Sin
is a prime example, as well as the worst song in the bunch). Rampant ego and megalomania? Check. (Sure, Gene, sure
your voice can carry When You Wish Upon A Star
…). Even those god-awful bass pops often heard in KISS records make an appearance eventually.
The final impression ranges between absolute apathy (Always Near You/Nowhere To Hide, Tunnel Of Love
, most of the others) and derisive disbelief at what heights one man’s monomania can reach. The effect is the total opposite of Paul Stanley’s album: where there we were left pleased and regretting the short duration, here we just want it to end already! Still, not everything is bad: as noted, Radioactive
is pretty groovy and, if you can ignore the obvious ripoffism, See You Tonite
is not bad, either. Even the cover of When You Wish Upon A Star
manages not to be as ridiculous or disastrous as one might have justifiably expected, even though it’s not, you know, good
. Still, make no mistake: once again, Gene Simmons bit off more than he could chew, and once again the results were less than stellar. As if we needed further confirmation of who contributed to make KISS so abysmal at times…
See You Tonite