Review Summary: Peter Criss tries to make his own Dynasty, and fail miserably.A KISS Away: Peter Criss Solo – Part One
In 1979, just as KISS were bigger than ever, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley decided to make their discontent public. The two members felt they weren’t being given their due importance, both salary-wise and decision-wise, and started to drift away from leaders Simmons and Stanley. And while Frehley would stick around for a couple more years, Criss found himself being replaced with session man Anton Fig as early as 1978, eventually leaving in 1980, right before the recording of Unmasked
. His goal? To launch a solo career and finally express his own voice.
To achieve his ends, he took profit of the contract celebrated with KISS’s recording company when the band released their ‘solo’ outings in 1979. A clause in said contract stipulated that Criss was actually signing on for two
solo albums, and the cat drummer took full advantage of it. Thus, in 1980, Out Of Control
was released to a small amount of buzz from KISS fanatics. However, as quickly as it had appeared, the album plummeted out of sight, resulting in a commercial failure unheard of when it came to KISS. And there was good reason for it: the album sucked
Now, Criss’s 1979 solo effort had by no means been high art, but it had made for a pleasant listen, with its 50’s rock’n’roll nuances and soul backing vocals. Out Of Control
, on the other hand, is an album that tries to overstep its boundaries and predictably ends up falling into the moat. It wouldn’t be hard for Criss to repeat the formula of his first album and make another unassuming, laid-back record; instead, he tried – and failed – to emulate the sound his former bandmates had explored on the previous year’s Dynasty
. And we all know what a great album Dynasty
was, don’t we?
The beginning of the album makes Criss’s intentions perfectly clear, as the first lyrics sung by the catman are ”by myself/starting over again/by myself/guess that this time I’m/on my own/starting over again”
. A further barb included right at the end of the record (the famous ”a kiss is still a kiss”
quote from Casablanca
) shows Peter held a grudge against his former allies in KISS. But then why is he trying to emulate their sound?
Frustratingly, the first few songs aren’t all that bad. By Myself
is a totally anti-climactic opener, being an acoustic softie, but second track In Trouble Again
packs a punch, with a riff straight out of Cinderella’s first album and an overall sound that strays close to fellow KISSer Paul Stanley’s solo album. Together, these two tracks raise our hopes up for the rest of the album, which is why what follows is such a large bucket of cold water.
Quite simply, after the first two tracks, the album’s quality decreases drastically. Each song explores a different genre, making it difficult to categorize Criss’s musical style, but the closest match would be with KISS’s own Dynasty
or with artists like (early) Bon Jovi, Survivor or Rick Derringer. In fact, scratch that – the overall sound of this album is so unabashedly poppy it would make Survivor feel macho. Basically, the remaining eight songs veer between piss-poor radio pop typical of the period, insufferably sappy ballads, like the interminable Feel Like Letting Go
, unwelcome disco influences (certainly brought over from KISS) and a few timid stabs at the retro sound of Criss’s first solo outing. The closest this section comes to a good song is There’s Nothing Better
, a 50’s-style boogie boosted by horn sections and a blistering guitar solo, but half-ruined by a grating vocal performance. The rest is so trite, it would make Gene Simmons blush.
And speaking of Simmons, after a few listens, a realisation dawns on you: Criss is trying to be Gene Simmons
. The bandwagon-jumping, the occasionally clunky lyrics, the raspy, sub-par vocals – everything points to it. Which raises the question: why
want to be Gene Simmons? The answer will remain unknown, but the similarities are definitely there, as evidenced by the cringe-worthily clumsy intro to You Better Run
, which equates to being hit over and over again with a particularly sturdy brick.
In conclusion, this is a very, very
poor record. Peter Criss tried to make his own Dynasty
, and failed miserably – this album is even worse than that one. Heck, it’s even worse than Animalize, Gene Simmons
or Carnival Of Souls
, and just edges out The Elder
as the worst thing ever done by a KISS member. Legendarily awful.
In Trouble Again