by Pedro B. USER (303 Reviews)
January 1st, 2010 | 12 replies | 12,212 views

Release Date: 1980 | Tracklist

Review Summary: KISS bring back the balls to their rock.

3 of 3 thought this review was well written

When it comes to KISS, I’m having to swallow my pride. You see, I used to think they were a crappy band, living off their literally fiery show and their reputation as lovemakers. And, to an extent, this is true. However, as dumb as their brand of hard rock may be, it’s undeniable that they can write some hella catchy tunes. When I started this discography, I thought I would keep a pair of their albums, at best; however, since then, I have burned at least half a dozen. And I’m about to do it again, with their 1980 opus, Unmasked.

Despite the lying title – the group would keep their makeup on for another two years – and the internal convulsions tearing through the group – Peter Criss appears on the cover, but plays nothing on the record, the drums being handled by long-time session man Anton Fig - Unmasked is an undeniably strong set of hard rock tunes, that recover the spark so sorely lacking from the group’s previous effort, Dynasty. Where that album was KISS’s attempt at “going disco”, this one can be construed as their attempt at “going pop”. Most of the songs have undeniably radio-friendly leanings, but who cares when they’re this good!? The opening with Is That You tells the tale, being the group’s best song in at least three years, if not four. The fact that the following songs fail to follow suit is disappointing at first, but repeat listens bring out the inherent qualities in most of them.

Still, make no mistake: for every good song (Is That You, Talk To Me, One Of A Kind) there is a stinker like Shandi, where the only inkling of guitar is an opening solo, the god-awful Naked City or the nondescript Easy As It Seems. However, each song will elicit a reaction from the listener: you will either love it or hate it, but you will not be left indifferent. The type of throwaway track so prominent in previous KISS outings is all but absent here, with the sole exception being closer You’re All That I Want.

As far as standouts go, they are clear from the first few listens. Is That You is by far the best song on here, but the irresistibly silly She’s So European, with its cheesy synths comes in at a close second. Torpedo Girl, on the other hand, is a disco/funk experiment that by all accounts should be an epic fail on the vein of I Was Made For Lovin’ You, yet somehow works beautifully. At times, it almost sounds like a cover of another band, but a quick Wiki consultation tells us it is an original, written by Gene Simmons and Vini Poncia.

The remaining songs work well, even if at times they feel a little dumb (Two Sides Of The Coin. Tomorrow comes “yea” close to standout status, but ranks in an honourable fourth place, with Talk To Me hot on its heels. Two Sides Of The Coin and What Makes The World Go ‘Round don’t compromise, either, and round up a strong set of songs.

Musically, there has also been a progression. Gene Simmons is now capable of carrying a rhythmic line without fumbling, while Ace Frehley, though not as blistering as on Dynasty, continues to contribute with pretty awesome solos and appealing lead-vocal performances. Anton Fig is perhaps a little too basic as a drummer, and Paul Stanley never particularly shines, but overall things are looking pretty good. Lyrically, however, not much has changed, as the lyrics continue to veer between the insincere (”all I want is a little conversation”, really?) to the randomly silly (”she’s so European/she’s one of a kind”) through the puerile (Two Sides Of A Coin as a whole). Most of the songs are insincere professions of love whose only purpose seems to be to get as many girls as possible into the members’ beds.

Still, all of this ends up not mattering in the big picture. What does drag the album down are the awful attempts at pop, best represented by Shandi and Naked City. The former sounds like a bad 80’s pop song (which it is), while the second sounds like the backing track for a road-trip montage in an 80’s B-movie. However, repeat listens will make you go over these bumps to appreciate the album as a whole.

Overall, then, Unmasked is a huge progression in comparison to the previous album. In the overall scheme of KISS albums, it comes in firmly behind Destroyer and Dressed To Kill, but miles above Dynasty or Hotter Than Hell and slightly above Love Gun or Rock And Roll Over. It is about on a par with the debut, although with a bigger recurrence of weakish songs. The perfect rating would have been about a 3.7 or 3.8, but since Sputnik does not allow this rating, we will have to go with a 4. Damn, but I like this album!

Recommended Tracks
Is That You
She’s So European
Torpedo Girl

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Ctippell (4)
Near forgotten and unloved album. Criminal but true....

Comments:Add a Comment 
January 1st 2010



Digging: Gal Costa - Gal Costa

January 1st 2010


Album Rating: 3.0

Funny, because Shandi was a big hit. And it's actually a pretty cool song. Album cover for this is spectacular in such a terrible way. You also mention that Kiss bring the balls back to their rock, but then say almost immediately afterwards that they jumped on the pop boat in an attempt to hit radioland.

January 1st 2010


kiss are horrible.

January 1st 2010


Album Rating: 4.0

RE: Shandi. It's the kind of horrible radio-pop track that caused the 80's to be so mocked nowadays. And yet its chorus is the one that sticks in your head the most afterwards. OF COURSE!

Re: pop boat. Yes, I knew that, and you can tell by listening to the record. But at least there are balls-out hard rock riffs, which is more than you can say for Dynasty.

January 1st 2010


But Dynasty had I Was Made For Lovin' You.

January 1st 2010


Album Rating: 3.5

...Naked City is my favorite here.

Album does have a nice charm to it though. Not really good but there's some fun tunes.

August 4th 2010


Album Rating: 2.0

Once again thanks to ace for having the best material.As a full on kiss effort the rest of the material is borderline OK to sometimes being pretty horrible even dynasty had more power,gut and glory compared to this.

July 13th 2011


Album Rating: 1.5

Shandi is one of the ten worst songs ever written.

September 4th 2011



September 4th 2011


Don't know this one

January 31st 2013


I don't like the song Shandi either. But the funny thing is, it doesn't sound like a bad song until he starts singing, the guitar work in the intro sounds pretty good. Just wish the rest of the of song was more in line with that feel.

January 5th 2014


Album Rating: 3.5

"Is That You is by far the best song on here"

lol no way is prob the worst one

good review aside from this statement

Digging: Marillion - Misplaced Childhood

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