Review Summary: If this is – as allmusic.com calls it – “undoubtedly KISS’s best non-makeup album”, I’m not sure I want to hear the rest of them.
Fun fact: in the KISS history I’m reading, which inspired me to do this discography and which goes to absurd detail, nearly every KISS album gets a semi-detailed description of the sound and a mention of some of the song titles. All, but this one. For Lick It Up
, the only mention made is of the single and the overall sales figures, stating that it was an improvement over the last few albums, and that the removal of makeup, devised by Paul Stanley in late 1982, had worked to the band’s advantage.
Now, usually I’d find this strange, but with Lick It Up
, it’s only natural; this album is as unremarkable as it gets. Other than the “look, no makeup!” gimmick, the compositions and overall sound of KISS’s 1983 opus are just as bland and unmemorable as anything the band put out during their desperation years.
In fact, KISS albums from the no-makeup phase followed a predictable and very simple pattern: they had a single, another couple of decent-to-good track, and the rest was filler. Lick It Up
is no different. Here is your single (Lick It Up
), here are your two not-terrible tracks (Dance All Over Your Face
and And On The Eighth Day
) and here’s the filler (pretty much everything else). I guess the instrumentation on Fits Like A Glove
could be construed as bonus goodness, but it is immediately offset by the fact that the song has no chorus whatsoever. So in the end, the pattern is well and truly established for the next few recordings.
Other than debuting the “unmasked” KISS – pun intended - Lick It Up
also marks the full-time debut of Vinnie Vincent as a KISS guitarist. Ace Frehley’s replacement, who had already contributed to the previous album, Creatures Of The Night
, once again brings his murky riffs and slightly shredding solos to the mix, clashing a little with Eric Carr’s over-produced drums and Gene and Paul’s sugar-coated vocals. The result is akin to an 80’s hair-metal band with lighter-than-average rhythms, but heavier-than-average guitars. In a word, ill-fitting.
To give KISS some credit, though, they finally tried to stop jumping on bandwagons, at least sonically (visually, as the photos attest, it was another story). On this album, the band hits all bases, from the Mötörheadian riff of Gimme More
to the straight-out metal of Fits Like a Glove
, to the typical KISS sound on Exciter
, through the sugary pop-metal of the rest of the album. However, they fail to do any of these genres consistently or retain any sort of permanent interest from the listener.
In fact, the songs on this album are so unmemorable, that I won’t even quote all their names. Those of you who read my reviews know that I usually touch upon every song on a release, especially when there aren’t that many of them. Not so here. Here, I will just convey the sense of boredom I got from the album by stating that I didn’t know what half the songs were called until I looked at my mp3 on the fourth or so listen. They’re that
Still, not all is bad. As noted, the riff and solo on Fits Like a Glove
are pretty wicked, although the song as a whole is poor. Similarly, Lick It Up
works well as a single, being an overtly commercial, somewhat sugary song that flew predictably well during the spandex-and-hairspray MTV era. Other highlights include Dance All Over Your Face
, an all-around fun boogie with a great chorus and nice drum work from Carr, and And On The Eighth Day
, another fun throwaway track which suffers from a little too much sugar in the chorus, but manages to bounce back in style. Everything else is either horrid or – like Not For The Innocent
and All Hell Is Breaking Loose
with its awful spoken-word verses– starts off sounding like a standout, but loses steam with repeat listens.
Now prepare yourself for a shock: out of the three aforementioned good tracks, two are Gene Simmons compositions. Now, on previous albums, all the good songs were usually Paul Stanley’s (or, alternatively, Ace Frehley’s). To know that Gene
, of all people, is writing the best stuff on this album is baffling. As for Stanley, the best he can conjure up is the halfway-decent single, but everything else ranges from insipid to outright bad.
That’s it. Not much more to say about this album. It’s boring, it’s bland, it’s bad, and if this is – as allmusic.com calls it – “undoubtedly KISS’s best non-makeup album”, I’m not sure I want to hear the rest of them.
Lick It Up
Dance All Over Your Face
On The Eighth Day