#4 - KISS
Now, where were we?
Wikipedia is helpful in learning about the first three albums reviewed here, but it really hits it out of the park with this one. Whoever wrote it is either very knowledgeable or a great liar. Who cares which?
KISS, released in 1974 and now featuring a song that wasn't on there then, is the best studio record the band produced in the 70s. Not that the other ones aren't good, because some of them are. Not all of them, oh, no. But some of them.
The best story about this album on Wikipedia is this:
According to Criss, photographer Joel Brodsky thought Kiss were literally clowns, and wanted to place balloons behind the group for the shoot. Brodsky, however, has denied this, chalking it up to imagination.
"Strutter," a song originally called "Stanley the Parrot" and written by Gene Simmons before he ever met the real Stanley the Parrot, is quite a first track in a band's career. Loud, aggressive, streetwise and somehow still as feminine as the subject of the song, "Strutter" is a fine piece of early 70s rock and roll. When you think of some of the crap that still gets played from this period, it's amazing it wasn't ever a hit.
Please, if you are in any way a KISS fan, find the demos for the first album. "Strutter" is worth the price of admission and may be the best version of this song.
"Nothin' to Lose" is KISS at its most playful and fun. Sure, Gene is singing about what he always sings about, but this time it's almost like a hard-R rated version of a 60s beach song.
"Firehouse" is the inspiration for North Carolina based band "FireHouse." It features a loud siren.
"Cold Gin" is a KISS classic written by Ace Frehley, LEAD GUI-TAWH. Frehley was too nervous about his voice to sing it himself. Time would show that he was right. It's funny, because this song, not written by Simmons, along with "Dr. Love," became Gene's signature songs.
"Let Me Know" is an underrated song. Its tacked-on coda is preserved as the tacked-on coda to "She" in concert. Either way, it's a good coda.
"Kissin' Time" is the late addition to the album. Hoo boy, the throwback pop mention above turns ominous. The label made them do this one, and it shows. The vocal harmonies are all wrong. The whole thing is all wrong. Gene would never let anyone but himself exploit him this way again.
"Deuce," like "Cold Gin" and "She," written in the same era, are all KISS live staples. Which means they've played them so many times that it's hard to tell whether they are good or not. Gene says he doesn't know what the lyrics mean, which puts him in the same boat as everyone else, except the odd henpecked husband who has for years thought of himself as "Old Jim."
"Love Theme from Kiss" is a kiss instrumental. Yup. Not a rocker, either. And not interesting.
"100,000 Years" is pretty great, although the lyrics are difficult to understand. "I'm just about to ooh yeah" makes perfect sense, but the rest doesn't. A light drum solo here, especially compared to the 7-minute monster on Alive!
"Black Diamond" on KISS is gargantuan. 5:12 and half made up of an extended train-sound fadeout, the song is really cool for a 70s rock record. Again, the demo is more energetic and more exciting. Please download it.
Some people might be forgiven for always having thought that the second line was "bitch has only begun," until they heard the drummer from Superchunk say it on the radio right after playing it on an airhorn. By the way, Peter Criss sounds like he sings, which is a strange thing. He also sounds a little like what a cat might sound like if it sang.
This one's good. There are a few more that are more good than bad, and a couple that are equally good and bad, and then a couple that have some good songs, and then two that have to be listened to for the first time in decades to determine just how bad they are.