Friday, November 21, 2008

Focus On... KISS Army Time

Without the absorbing power of make up KISS unleashes buckets of sweat. "Tears Are Falling" indeed.

Sometimes a mood just strikes me to listen to a certain artist. About mid week I just felt like listening to some KISS. So I put a KISS Cd in my car and listened to their rocking jams with zeal. Though they were more famous in the '70's and I originally wanted to hear a lot of Detroit Rock City, I found I really wanted to hear the 80's stuff. I know, I know...what a surprise.

KISS was one of the most dominant bands in the '70's, they turned rock music into a theatrical carny smorgasbord. Flame throwing demons, sensitive cats, space aces and star childs gave millions a dream to aspire to. And Rock and Roll still had some rebel cred left, enough to have the mainstream culture brand them as Satanists (Knights In Satan's Service was the popular supposed acronym). While I was aware of KISS at that time, I wasn't really a fan of them or any other rock band. So other than KISS meets the Phantom (I think that's what the TV special was called) and Rock and Roll All Nite I didn't think much of them at all.

It wasn't until the make up came off in 1983 that I found KISS songs I liked whole heartedly. Removing the make up was a big deal because without the kabuki face paint and ornate costumes they seemed so ordinary. Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley's mugs definitely looked fancier with the make up and it seemed like they had made a mistake. Their long guarded mystique was gone. And yet that was when I finally heard a song by KISS that I flat out loved. Their first make up free video, "Lick It Up". The strutting energy of that tune is awesome and the song was nice and dirty even without any sexual connotation (back then I thought the song was about licking the ground). Is it me or without makeup do they look more like street walkers than the women in the clip?

With no distractions, KISS's music was pushed to the forefront and revealed what a nasty little band they were. Meanwhile, some of my friends got into KISS and reveled in the sounds of their Animalize album. Copying the tape gave me the next KISS song that kicked ass, "Heavens On Fire". I've been cranking that gem up all week long. Also I have warm memories from reminiscing about my friends being pissed that the local radio station wouldn't play "Burn B*tch Burn" at their request. They thought the radio station were wusses for not putting that song on and went on about it for weeks. You just don't live in reality if you think a radio station is going to play that one. At least back then, now it would probably be tame enough for a fast food commercial.

I lost track of KISS again after that though I recall hearing Crazy Crazy Nights a bit. The next song to catch my ear was the power ballad "Forever". A quintessential flick your bic lighter ballad, KISS got all sensitive courtesy of Michael Bolton himself. As much as I would like to bash on Bolton, I can't bash on this song. For-Ev-Ahhh!

Though I'm not religious, I thought "God Gave Rock and Roll To You Pt. II" from the Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey movie was outstanding. Epic and cheesy in all the right ways as the hair band era drew to a close. Also a little amusing when you think about how much they've been accused of devil worship that they would do a song like this. Not that it's an incredibly religious song or anything, but still its a little ironic. A few years later KISS would bring back the original members and the classic face paint resulting in a huge reunion tour that went on for...I think it kinda still goes on even though Peter Criss and Ace Frehley aren't there again.

The last jam of KISS to blow my mind was a song I hadn't heard until last year even though it was released in 1982. It was from the last record to have the make up, "I Love It Loud". A muscular rock anthem, the song emphasizes the powerful drumming of the late, great Eric Carr. Carr was a dynamic and fluid drummer who sadly passed away at just 41 years old. He died the same day Freddie Mercury of Queen passed on, November 24, 1991. In the case of both, it was a great loss to music.

Even though they have good songs from their hey day, I guess I think more of KISS' visual style and showmanship from their swingin' 70's period. Once the make up went back on in the 90's I found I felt the same way again effectively closing the door for me on the part of their career I enjoyed the most. While I was never a die hard fan (I think Animalize was the only music I had of theirs until the 90's), KISS has given me enough great hard rock moments to make me want to shout it out loud!

No comments: