One Star Music Presents…Kiss: The Middle Years
In 1980, Kiss finally told the kids their favorite cat, Peter Criss, had run away. While a replacement pet was found (fox Eric Carr), the band overcompensated to the young’uns by releasing a practically prepubescent rock opera masterminded by Bob Ezrin. Humiliated by that neutered nonsense (which only connected with prudes and contrarian critics), guitarist/astronomer Ace Frehley soon blasted off the line-up himself.
With their sidemen off to make the hard rock equivalents of Dark Horse and Ringo The 4th, Gene and Paul undoubtedly wondered if they should get started on their Some Time In New York City and Red Rose Speedway. When the unapologetic Creatures Of The Night restored some of their lusty luster (thanks in part to the uncredited Ankh Warrior Vinnie Vincent), it must have been tempting to end the group on that relative high note.
And in a sense, they did. Despite the rise of MTV, the group daringly traded their clown/kabuki make-up for more subtle, traditionally feminine cosmetics. No longer isolating themselves from the rest of the music industry, Gene and Paul dropped all sci-fi pretensions, outing themselves as veteran hard rockers as horny and hard-hitting as any young men in the game (and nothing more).
It was a bold, ballsy move, leading to an era of unprecedented consistency. Lick It Up, Animalize, Asylum, Crazy Nights and Hot In The Shade were audibly Kiss, but also of their moment, serving the metal crowd on a more musical level and soon earning Gene and Paul the position of reliable elder statesmen. A top ten single in 1989 was a sign of their remarkable endurance, as was surviving the tragic loss of Carr and the return of Bob Ezrin on 1992’s Revenge.
Where most of their peers spent the ’90s crying bitterly about Nirvana on Where Are They Now? shows, Kiss showed grungies just how MTV Unplugged specials were done, with Peter Criss and Ace Frehley joining in on that victory lap (sadly unavailable on Spotify). Their chemistry reaffirmed, the original foursome decided to give the kids a history lesson, reapplying the make-up and issuing a reunion album, Psycho Circus. Impressively, the album sounds almost nothing like their early work, ignoring matters of the flesh to focus on their emotional relationship with their fanbase. If any audience had earned such a move, it was theirs.
Graciously accepting their redundancy, Ace and Peter returned to their solo careers, though Paul and Gene continue to wear the classic make-up as humble tribute to their collective legacy. While 2009’s Sonic Boom and the upcoming Monster may well be equal to the albums celebrated here, they represent a chapter the band has only begun to (aww)write!
Full Spotify Playlist
Individual tracks on YouTube:
- Keep Me Comin’ *&
- Danger *&
- Exciter *
- And On The 8th Day *
- Burn Bitch Burn *&
- Under The Gun *&
- King Of The Mountain &
- Love’s A Deadly Weapon &
- Bang Bang You *
- Turn On The Night *
- Read My Body *
- Cadillac Dreams *
- Tough Love &
- Spit &
- We Are One &
- You Wanted The Best &
*from albums panned in the Rolling Stone Album Guide (1992)
&from albums panned in the New Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004)