Review Summary: "Super KISS" my @ss!
1979 was a strange year for KISS. After unsurmountable tensions led to a split-up for the making of solo albums, the utter box-office failure of said solo albums dictated a hasty return – after all, the money-making machine couldn’t stop, and when four individual albums sell substantially less than your last group effort, the only thing to do is to swallow your pride and get the hell back together. However, things got a little more complicated after drummer Peter Criss got in a car accident, leading to his replacement by long-time studio associate Anton Fig. Making matters worse was a motion picture reviled by the very bandmembers themselves, as well as Gene Simmons’ renewed interest in disco music…
The result of this conjunction of factors is well audible on Dynasty
, an album which suffers from a severe lack of direction, inspiration and all-around spark. The irony was that, for the tour, a new, more ambitious concept was debuted: “Super KISS”, inspired by comic-book super-heroes and by Gene Simmons’ monstrous ego. Pyrotechnics went away up, lightning bolts and fiery guitars became even more commonplace, an itinerant theme park
was built and taken on tour…and in the midst of it all, the substantial decrease in musical quality was successfully masked.
However, listening to Dynasty
without all the contextual brouhaha, one can see how this record clearly marks the beginning of KISS’s downfall. Half of the time, the musicians’ heart seem to be someplace else, and the vast majority of the compositions is either half-baked or just plain awful. Take I Was Made For Lovin’ You
, for example: as well-known and liked as this song is, “execrable” is about the most flattering adjective I can use with relation to it. Disco influences on this track are blatant and unabashed, especially in what concerns the drum line, and the chorus is just ridiculous.
Things get a lot better with the second track. 2000 Man
is, unsurprisingly, a cover by a much better band than KISS, in this case the Rolling Stones. With its hard-rocking riffs and beats, it quickly asserts itself as the best moment on the album, which is somewhat worrisome: it says something about the overall quality of an album when its best song is a cover…
After 2000 Man
, however, things go back to the status quo. Songs like Dirty Livin’
and X-Ray Eyes
are the very definition of “forgettable”, while Magic Touch
is plodding and dull and Sure Know Something
brings back the disco influences to – again – very poor effect. It would seem like this album is beyond salvation, but then…two songs appear to – barely – raise it above “Very Poor” status. These songs are Hard Times
, a surprisingly deep and insightful autobiographic lyric lost in a minor song, in a minor album, and Charisma
, which redeems its run-of-the-mill verse with one of the catchiest choruses KISS had produced until then. Together with the surprisingly speedy drum pattern on the chorus of Save Your Love
, these tracks make up the only part of Dynasty
worth listening to.
A more in-depth analysis brings up another interesting fact: all the standouts, apart from Charisma
, had some degree of involvement from Ace Frehley. And this comes as no surprise, seeing as how – musically – Ace is once again the high point of a KISS album. Just like in 1976’s Rock and Roll Over
, the guitarist contributes to nearly every track with blistering, agressively tecchy solos, which sometimes constitute the only noteworthy aspect of the otherwise bland songs. As for his peers, Fig/Criss rarely stand out, the exception being Save Your Love
, with its bombast breaks; Paul Stanley is seldom given the space to rock out, but when he is, he contributes with heavy, inviting riffs; and Gene Simmons is…well, Gene Simmons, even though his bass technique seems to be improving with each passing album.
On the whole, however, Dynasty
is the first KISS album , solo efforts notwithstanding, to place itself firmly below average. The pressure and the problems seemed to be affecting the band, and their new-found influences didn’t mesh to well with the old ones (The Beatles on X-Ray Eyes
). The result is an unfocused album which it is a chore to listen to. “Super KISS” my @ss!