Friday, January 18, 2008

It's only right, now.

It's high time I went public with it: I dig '80s KISS. Not all of their work, mind you, but I'm sick and tired of their '80s tracks getting trashed in favor of their '70s heyday. Yes, they were better in the '70s; they rocked harder in the '70s. That's undeniable. But there's plenty of fun to found in their '80s pop-metal years, when they were (gasp) following the pack rather than leading it. (Case in point: 1988's so-bad-it's-good "Let's Put the X in Sex" wants to be Aerosmith's "Rag Doll" so badly you can almost smell the desperation on the mixing board.)

"Lick It Up" is of course the title track from their first post-makeup album. It's a pretty good, solid rocker (no pop here, really) that crucially reminds us that "it ain't a crime to be good to yourself." 1984's "Heaven's on Fire" is great trash - I mean, come on now - best for it's "I'm gettin' closer, baby, hear me breathe," followed by the sounds of Paul Stanley loudly exhaling. That's camp at its inadvertent best. "Tears Are Falling," from 1985's crap Asylum (even Paul and Gene think so, apparently), is a marvel, however. Written solely by Paul, this is an extremely well-crafted pop-metal nugget featuring strong playing and, on the chorus, fine vocal harmonies. Lyrically it's a bit messy, but then again it is a Paul Stanley composition, and lyrics haven't traditionally been, shall we say, his strongest suit.

Those are really the three totems (four, if you include the kinda-hilarious "X in Sex": "Then I saw those black lace panties and I knew that it was you," Paul does his damndest to sell), so perhaps saying "I dig '80s KISS" is a bit of overstatement. I dig some of their big videos/singles from the years after they took off the makeup - is that fairer/more clear?

Let me interject something, just so it's clear: you do NOT need a copy of KISS's last top 10 hit, 1989's "Forever" (co-written by Michael Bolton!) in your life. You just don't. To put a finer point on it: it's a KISS ballad that's not titled "Beth." If that doesn't help you, then I just can't help.

1988's Smashes, Thrashes & Hits conveniently collects the aforementioned quartet of t(h)rashy goodness alongside their biggest '70s singles (you know which ones) and ties them up in one easy package. Unless you're a big fan, apart from one of the good-to-great live records (I'll vouch for Alive II), it's basically all the KISS you need. And you do need some: there's always a time and place for "Love Gun." Or "Tears Are Falling."

Better even than "Let's Put the X..." is the other new track from Smashes, Thrashes & Hits--"You Make Me Rock Hard." It's got such a magnificent bridge, I'll frequent track backwards once the chorus arrives just so I can listen to the bridge again.
And it's co-written by Diane Warren!
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