on December 27, 2009
I picked up this album, mostly to keep my collection going. I have all of the other ones. But my hopes weren't that high after "Psycho Circus" which was dreadful.
On "Sonic Boom" KISS do as they have done much of their career, just when you think they're done after a bad album or two, they produce a great album again.
I think part of the genius of this album is that they did away with all of the outside songwriters, and went back to Paul, and Gene as the primary songwriters with current members Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer also co-writing some. This has the album sounding much more like 'Classic' KISS - the 'Dressed To Kill' through 'Love Gun' period.
One of the earlier reviewers compared this album to what AC/DC does, basically put out records that sound exactly like what you would expect AC/DC to sound like, but still doing a very good job of it. That's kind of what KISS has done here. No significant innovations or surprises. Just great KISS music, like you would expect out of KISS.
Some of my favorites are: Modern Day Delilah, Never Enough, Yes I Know (Nobody's Perfect), All For The Glory, and When Lightning Strikes.
Hopefully, they'll put out another album, just as good, in four of five years, maybe?
If you liked KISS, circa 1975-1978, go out and get this one.
on July 14, 2011
I was a little bit skeptical going into this album, the band had talked about going back to their 1970s style, they had talked about producing it to sound like a classic record, they had talked about using old guitars and amps. Still, in all honesty, I didn't think they'd be able to recapture the feel of their 70s output, or if they did, it would be a sad nostalgia fest that wouldn't be good, despite being the style that I wanted.
Luckily, Sonic Boom is a great album. The band have managed to do the impossible and create an album in 2009 that is both fresh, relevant and also containing a classic 70s feel. The thing is, despite the style and the production, the songs are just plain good again, and that is what makes the difference. It could've sounded like the glory days and still been a collection of poor songs, but it good in and of itself.
Its been two years that I've lived with this, and still I keep coming back so this isn't hype, not release day excitement. Sonic Boom is just a great album, with enduring quality. Full of good songs like the explosive single 'Modern Day Delilah,' the Thayer featuring 'When Lightning Strikes,' and the furiously catchy 'All For The Glory.'
Like all the best Kiss albums, the album mixes a good ratio of Stanely to Simmons vocals, and Thayer even gets about as much of a slot as Ace would've back in the day. This, mixed with the fact that there are no guest writers, no over-sweet ballads and just a solid collection of vital, enjoyable rock music help Sonic Boom honestly be one of the best Kiss albums. How many bands from the 70s, in all honesty, can actually say that an album they made these days is as good as something from their hey day ? Not many.
Sonic Boom is a seriously good album and you should definitely overcome your cynicism and give it a try, you won't forget it.
on October 28, 2009
I needed to get this off my chest, as I've been dwelling on it for too long now. Let me start off by assuring you of my credentials for this review: Kiss has been my favorite band for over 30 years, since I first heard Alive back in 1975, and I proudly stuck with them all the way up through the farewell tour in 2000. I'm as hardcore a fan as you'll ever find, and know every note on every album. The band's credibility has been called into question many times throughout their career, but whether it was a disco song, a concept album, line-up changes, or image changes, I could accept (and convincingly defend) all of that.
The one thing I can't accept are celebrity impersonators.
With their 2000 farewell tour, Kiss appeared to close the book on one of the greatest (in my opinion, THE greatest) rock'n'roll bands of all-time. The band was dead and buried, and then Paul and Gene decided to dig up the corpse and start screwing it - perhaps because necrophilia was the only part of Alice Cooper's career that they hadn't tried yet (hey, all great artists steal from other great artists). I was appalled at the idea of them hiring clones to imitate Ace and Peter. I didn't like it, accept it, or support it, but I learned to live with its existence. I mean, all they'd really done was become their own tribute band - sad, but harmless. "Kiss" was now just a ghost, and so-called Kiss concerts were nothing more than glorified séances for hardcore fans who want visitations from the dead and casual fans who don't know the difference (I'd rather see a real Kiss tribute band in a club - not only will you get a longer show for a lower price, I guarantee you'll get a more interesting set list). It was an unnecessary epilogue to an otherwise outstanding book, and as such, it was relatively easy to ignore.
But now we get Sonic Boom, a transparent attempt to legitimize this bastardization of the band, and I can't ignore it (much as I may want to), if for no other reason that from now on, any Kiss discography I see will end with Sonic Boom (or whatever other nonsense they may follow it with). As opposed as I was to it, my emotional attachment to the band is so strong that I felt I needed to at least give it a chance. Maybe, if they came up with a sincere album that truly was a step forward like their other "comeback" albums Creatures Of The Night and Revenge, I might be able to support them again. Maybe, just maybe, I could look past Eric and Tommy dressing up as Peter and Ace, as long as they didn't copy Peter and Ace's playing, too.
No such luck.
Needless to say, I'm not a big fan of this album, but as you may've noticed, I did give it two stars instead of just one. Paul and Gene are guilty of many things, but poor songwriting usually isn't one of them, and objectively I must admit there are a few good moments here. Modern Day Delilah was a wise choice for the first track and single, as it's particularly strong. So is the second number, Russian Roulette. I thought both Danger Us and I'm An Animal are above average as well, though I've only heard those songs once (more on that in a minute). There are a few clunkers, but overall the album is consistent, and often legitimately good.
So why don't I like it?
Well, I've tried listening to it several times. I managed to get all the way to the end once, but every subsequent attempt has resulted in me turning it off about halfway through, because it makes me react the exact opposite way it intends to. As I listen to how calculated, how... "perfect" everything is, it doesn't put a smile on my face and make me happy, the way almost every other Kiss album has.
Instead, it makes me angry.
It's usually around Stand (if I make it that far) that my hands have balled into fists and it's all I can do to keep from tearing the disc out of the player and smashing it to bits. Everything about this album strikes me as incredibly phony, especially Tommy's shamelessly Ace-sounding solos. If I want to hear Ace, I'll listen to Ace (and his new solo album Anomaly is exceptionally good; I'd recommend it to any Kiss fan who still cares about integrity). Since all Tommy ever does is mimic Ace, I have no opinion of him as a guitarist because he's given me nothing to base an opinion on. In Geoff Barton's review in Classic Rock magazine, he writes that he doesn't miss Ace and Peter on this album. Well of course you don't, Geoff, because the album is filled with near-perfect impressions of them! Eric occasionally lets his own style shine through but mostly sticks to emulating Peter (who was a much better drummer than he seems to get credit for - listen to the live version of Parasite from Alive). If you really want to hear what Eric can do with a drum kit, check out his work with Alice. The exciting thing about line-up changes in the past was that whoever joined the band always brought something new to the table that would add another dimension to the Kiss sound. Bruce never tried to copy Ace, and the late great Eric Carr certainly never imitated Peter's drumming style. When Eric Singer joined the first time, he was allowed to be himself, even keeping his hair blonde. And yes, I know they've had others try to copy Ace in the past, like Vinnie on Creatures or Bob Kulick on the Alive II studio stuff, but in each case they were just studio musicians and never passed off as members (of course, Vinnie became a member later, but compare his Ace-mimicry on Creatures to his playing on Lick It Up and it's night and day). No matter what line-up, Kiss always presented itself as four individuals. It sickens me to know that's no longer the case. The four original members had onstage personas that were honest reflections of who they were. Now we simply have actors playing the roles of those personas like they're fictional characters. That's not a band, that's a cabaret act. Kiss has become like a sports team, where the uniform is more important than the players.
Take, for example, All For The Glory, one of the aforementioned clunkers. Despite a decent vocal from Eric, with its "gang mentality" lyric, it sounds like it was written to be the theme to Monday night football, which goes against everything I always felt Kiss represented. To me, Kiss was a band for people who didn't fit in, a band that celebrated the individual. Look back at the lyrics to anything from Getaway to Trial By Fire and you'll see what I mean. It wasn't WE Will Rock You, it was I Wanna Rock And Roll All Night, I Want You, I Stole Your Love... hell, they even have a song just called I. Kiss exemplified individuality and sincerity, yet neither quality is apparent on Sonic Boom. They've become everything their detractors always accused them of being. In 1976, critic Patrick MacDonald wrote, "They could have several groups traveling the country doing the Kiss routine, because it doesn't really matter who the guys are." I guess that's true now. I wonder if they'll put THAT quote on t-shirts now like they did his "Kiss won't be around long" quote from 1974 on some of the farewell tour shirts.
In the last year, I've seen both AC/DC and Metallica in concert, two legendary decades-old bands who could easily just coast on their back catalog now if they wanted to, but AC/DC did five songs off their latest album and Metallica did six off theirs. Conversely, Kiss has only been doing one or two new songs from Sonic Boom on their current tour, which speaks volumes about both their laziness and their lack of faith in the new material, despite all they've said in the press to the contrary. I remember when I saw them on the Animalize tour in 1984, they played more songs off Creatures, a two-years-old album that had sold poorly, than they did off Animalize, the current album that was a solid hit. Their attitude seemed to be, "You may not know these songs, but we're gonna play 'em because we love 'em and you SHOULD know 'em." They clearly don't have that kind of integrity anymore. Tommy has been doing a lead vocal in some of the shows, but is it When Lightning Strikes, his own song from the new album? Nope, it's Shock Me, Ace's signature song. I don't know if it's to continue fooling casual fans into thinking they're seeing Ace, or if it's just because it's easier to do songs they can play in their sleep than it is to actually rehearse the new stuff. Probably a little of both. Thanks, but I saw the farewell tour multiple times, and I don't need to see it again with two imposters.
If you look closely at the back cover of the booklet in Sonic Boom, you'll see the S and B of the album's logo repeated in a circle. However, the way the letters are arranged, it looks suspiciously more like it says "B.S." over and over. Maybe Paul and Gene are trying to tell us something?
Someday I might be able to enjoy this album (maybe the band can still somehow redeem themselves so that I'd want to). I'm not gonna hold my breath. To sum up, listening to Sonic Boom is like listening to a speech by a politician who wants your vote: it sounds great because it's everything you want to hear, but once you consider the source, you know it's just a self-serving lie. Apparently that's good enough for many Kiss fans, but I feel a lie is still a lie, regardless of how well it's told. I'll always love the Real Kiss (1973-2000), but this is simply a carbon copy. A better name would've been Sonic Betrayal.
Yeah, yeah, I know... "It's Only Rock'n'Roll," right? For most other bands, I'd agree, but with Kiss, I expect more, because that's what they always gave.
on August 24, 2010
Well, after several years of cursing Paul and Gene for turning Ace and Peter into mere characters they could interchange with anyone, I finally have come to terms with it. I may not like how they got here (words like desecration, blasphemy and towering rage come to mind), but it has resulted in the best KISS album since the mid 80s. And it evokes the pure, classic KISS sound like nothing I've heard since 'Love Gun', with a great deal of their heavier 80s stuff sound gracing many songs (I freaking LOVE their heavy 80s albums, Creatures to Asylum). I hate Tommy Thayer for his mere existence, as I am a HUGE fan of Ace Frehley. I also despise what they've done to Eric Singer, even dying his hair black to be a Peter Criss look-alike that seemingly is part of a tribute band or some cruel joke, or both.
But I listened to this album and it works. It just plain works! So I had to come to terms with my cynical self making snide comments about Tommy merely aping Ace (and poorly). I have finally concluded that if this is what Paul and Gene needed to do to find the magic again, if this line-up has the chemistry they needed to take it all back 30-35 years to the glory sound that they rode to the top, then so be it. It was NOT easy for me to do. I still look at the pictures of them in the unfolded CD and want to spit on Tommy and Eric for nothing short of desecration, but I love this album. I can't get enough of it! It's damn near perfect! I like every song on it. It evokes the great party rock riffs of 'Dressed To Kill' and songs like 'I Stole Your Love' crossed with the heaviness level of 'Asylum'. Gene has a few 'Creatures of the Night' moments, too. It's got everything in there that I've always liked about KISS, and I've been a fan for 28 years! I am also a purist, so for ME to be able to get over the Tommy/Ace and Eric/Peter stuff long enough to just enjoy the music, man, that's saying something. Sure I could rage and moan, but then I'd be missing the forest for the trees. I will still wear my custom-made THERE IS ONLY ONE ACE FREHLEY t-shirt to the concert as a message of ideological protest, but I will still be there to have a good time. It's what rock'n'roll and KISS is all about!