Review Summary: A step up in songwriting, a step down in musicianship.
By 1977, KISS’s flow of two albums per year, average, was well into place. After the extravaganza of 1976’s Destroyer
, the band had reverted back to their older, simpler sound with unremarkable follow-up, Rock and Roll Over
. The following year, Love Gun
was released, an album which share a few similarities with its predecessor, as well as with the band’s earlier albums.
After Rock and Roll Over
had presented some amazing guitar work from Ace Frehley, Love Gun
sees the guitarist revert back to his usual template of simple riffs and even simpler solos. Frehley and rhythmist Paul Stanley continue to make a cohesive, if technically unremarkable, double-axe tandem. As for Peter Criss, the increasingly dissatisfied drummer still shows very little of note, basically limiting himself to keeping time behind the rest of the band.
The main technical prowess here, then, belongs to Gene Simmons. I never thought I’d say this, but the bass player is undoubtedly the great musical standout of this album. After countless records, he has finally learned to keep a beat, and he shows it abundantly on tracks like I Stole Your Love
or Plaster Caster
. Hell, he even opens the latter in solo mode, and there is nary a mistake in sight! Overall, while still far from the bass-toting elite, Simmons takes a huge step forward on Love Gun
But what of the songwriting" Well, no surprises there. It’s still the same simple, straightfoward, partying hard rock, infused with 50’s boogie and shades of psychedelia. The lyrics are still simple, and focus on the same topics as always: Love Gun
is another moronically obvious metaphor for the male penis, Christine Sixteen
and Plaster Caster
are more depictions of cavorting with underage girls, and Hooligan
proudly proclaims: ”I’m a Hooligan/Won’t go to school again”
, all the while referencing how the singer ”can’t even spell his name”
but still has a great car. As you can see, very little has changed in the world of KISS. What minor changes there were have to do with somewhat more complex/complete lyrics in some songs.
As for standouts, those are easy to find. I Stole Your Love
opens with a catchily repetitive rhythm, in a song that, while not as boisterous as the rest of the group’s material, nevertheless asserts itself as a standout. Follow-up Christine Sixteen
is one of the best songs on the album, a piano-infused and absolutely irresistible classic-rock ditty. Further standouts are delayed until halfway through the album, when Tomorrow and Tonight
explodes as the best song on the album, complete with gospel backings and those 50’s throwback licks that make KISS boogies stand out head and shoulders above the rest of their material. The fourth and final standout comes in the form of And Then She Kissed Me
, a cover of girl-group song that the group manage to make, at once, ironic, earnest, tongue-in-cheek and wink-and-nudge malicious.
As noted, then, the standouts on Love Gun
are pretty strong. The problem is that the rest of the songs vary between the decent (Love Gun
, the most memorable chorus on the album, but nowhere near a standout, or Shock Me
) and the piss-poor (Almost Human
, another addition to the list of those god-awful stompers the band insists on making). Mostly, they’re rather throwaway, a word that’s always been sinonymous with KISS and which continues to ail them on this album. Coupled with the lack of technical prowess, this conspires to bring Love Gun
down a couple of notches in comparison to, say, Dressed To Kill
At the end of the day, then, this album places itself firmly on the same level as Rock and Roll Over
. While the first one is technically superior – mostly thanks to Frehley – this one boasts more focused songwriting and a larger number of memorable choruses. While it doesn’t reach the standard of Dressed To Kill
, much less Destroyer
, this album is still a worthy addition to the KISS fan’s discography. Unfortunately, it would be all downhill from here…
I Stole Your Love
Tomorrow and Tonight
And Then She Kissed Me