Kiss ~ Sonic Boom
Release date: October 6, 2009
2009 is proving to be a monster year for KISS, who are about to embark on a massive continuation of their 35th Anniversary Tour. They were also notified this week that after 10 years of eligibility, they are finally on the ballot for entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The fact that it took this long is a crime. Say what you will about their music, their impact and influence on hard rock and metal is undeniable. On top of all this KISS are set to release their 23rd full length studio album; their first in 11 years, since 1998’s reunion disc, Psycho Circus. The new album, Sonic Boom hits stores on October 6th, and features 11 new tracks.
I remember when I was in junior high, cutting out of class on a Tuesday afternoon in 1977 to sneak out and buy KISS Alive II the day it was released. I recall a year later, cashing my first paycheck ($110.19) from Village Inn pancake house, jumping on the bus downtown, getting hit by a car in the crosswalk racing to Odyssey Records to buy the band’s four solo records. Somewhere between the bus , the car and the running, the money slipped out of my pants. I was not to be dissuaded though, and for the first (and only) time in my life, I walked in, grabbed all four albums and walked out. (For the record, I went back two weeks later with my next check and paid for them). And in acknowledgement of my true geekdom (and love for KISS) I recall dancing around in my room with a tennis racket for a guitar, listening to Alive! and spitting ketchup all over a mock mic-stand I’d made. I’d perform entire concerts in my room back then. Those were among the memories that all came back to me when I heard the new album.
Sonic Boom was produced by co-founder/vocalist/guitarist Paul Stanley. The goal was to recapture their 70s style and sound, and get back to the basics. It’s just the four members of the band; no outside musicians or song writers, and no ballads. Straight up, in your face rock and roll. “Meat and potatoes,” as co-founder and bassist Gene $immons puts it. Even new members guitarist Tommy Thayer and long time drummer Eric Singer get a chance to sing on a track a piece. Just like classic KISS albums. It’s 80% Gene and Paul, with a song for each of the others.
Those who have heard the disc in its entirety seem to agree it’s their best album in at least 20 years. Though many feel the sound is more similar to their 80’s material than KISS‘ correlations to 1976’s Rock and Roll Over and 1977’s Love Gun. I have been listening to the new album for a few days and here is my take, track by track:
Modern Day Delilah ~ This is a Paul track, and the album’s first single. This song has already been released to various music sites. When I first heard it I was honestly lukewarm at first; in part because I’m not sure what I was expecting after the $immons hype machine. So I made a mix of 70s KISS songs and slipped this among them. Delilah fit right in, and has since become stuck in my head. If Paul was being honest with his early songwriting roots he hit the mark here, without losing his modern flavor. A great way to start this disc.
Russian Roulette ~ A Gene track, and this is pure mid-80s Gene. This track would have fit nicely on 1983’s Lick It Up. I’m admittedly more a fan of Paul’s songwriting, and Gene’s style seemed to change quite a bit in the 80s from what he did early on, which was much more melodic and memorable. The chorus however does take me back to 70s Gene, which is what saves it from mediocrity.
Never Enough ~ I love this song. Paul takes us all the way back to 1974’s self-titled album and 1975’s Dressed To Kill with the flavor on this one. I hear elements of “Getaway” and “Firehouse”, while still having a modern style. Eric’s roll away drums, and Gene’s bass fills are pure old school KISS.
Yes I Know (Nobody’s Perfect) ~ Gene finally finds his old school songwriting on this track. I can definitely hear this on any 70s KISS albums. This is classic Simmons (yes I left the dollar sign off, because this goes back to when Gene was not just about the money). Without a doubt one of the CD’s best tracks, and the best I think from Gene since “Domino”.
Stand ~ Much in the vein of KISS anthems “Rock and Roll All Nite” and “Shout It Out Loud”, “Stand” is a Paul and Gene vocal collaboration. While you can hear elements of 70s KISS here, this track is mostly 80s/90s in style. The bridge is reminiscent of “God Gave Rock and Roll To You”, the anthemic track from 1992’s Revenge.
Hot and Cold ~ Another Gene track. This combines his 80s material with 70s elements, I hear “Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em” in here, and a lyrical homage to “Dr. Love” with the line “You’ll be in misery…” The song starts with a 70s riff before jumping into 80s Gene, then back to classic Gene for the chorus. A nice solo from Tommy.
All For the Glory ~ After picking up the sticks for KISS after Eric Carr’s untimely death in 1991, Eric Singer finally gets his chance to sing lead. I’m hard pressed to identify the era this most fits for KISS, but I think it would have slid in on any KISS record over the years without sounding out of place. It’s a solid rocker, and Eric does a great job on it.
Danger Us ~ Paul again. The heart of this song is 70’s KISS, but the melody and chorus is pure 80s Animalize era. It’s an excellent track that shows Paul’s strong understanding of melody in a hard rock song.
I’m An Animal ~ Gene again. 80’s again, and perhaps the album’s weakest track. Love ya, Gene, but; yawn.
When Lightening Strikes ~ Definitely 70s KISS, and guitarist Tommy Thayer picks up the vocals on this one. Thayer grew up on KISS, and was heavily influenced by original guitarist Ace Frehley. That influence and respect for the traditional sound that Ace created for the band is evident throughout this CD. If one were to listen to Sonic Boom without knowing better, the inevitable conclusion is that Ace played on the album, which is the ultimate compliment to both guitarists.
Say Yeah ~ We end with a song that mixes all genre’s of KISS. Perhaps the perfect way to end the CD. This brings the whole package together and leaves you running for your KISS collection to start at the beginning of the legend. One thing that the make-up and costumes did for KISS was give them an edge and draw fans, but it also kept many people from really listening to the music and appreciating the songwriting skill. It may have been simple, but it was honest and pure rock and roll, and that’s what it’s all about. “Let me hear you say yeah!”
This album as a whole is, to my mind, the most complete and fluid album KISS has made since 1977’s Love Gun. The songwriting, Paul’s production, and Tommy’s perfect guitar playing, bring the album together to bring KISS back their roots. If you are a true KISS fan, you’ll love this CD. If you’re not a KISS fan you’ll simply ignore it. And of course we all know what the haters will say. But who cares? KISS made this album for us, the KISS Army. Less than two weeks and you can race out and get it.