Monday, October 04, 2010

Rocktober Album #2: Kiss – Kiss (1974)

In a time when Kiss coffins and Kiss condoms are at our fingertips, it's hard to imagine a time before Kiss. I'm not sure there's ever been a better-marketed band. Say what you will about Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, but they are nothing if not marketing geniuses. So anyway, imagine you're a teenager or pre-teen in 1974, when their self-titled debut album came out. You're in the record store – that's what they called them back then – and right after you browse through The Kinks' catalog, you come across some new band, four guys dressed in black with some demonic kabuki make-up on. I mean, look at this album cover. What in holy hell is that all about? It immediately draws you in. That's the genius of Kiss. They created a mystery that was bigger than their music. I'm not saying their isn't great – it is – but without four guys wearing face paint and platform boots, and breathing fire, spitting blood, and spewing sparks from a guitar, it's just another good rock band. Add that other stuff in, and you have one of the most famous bands in rock history.

When I was a toddler, I was terrified of Kiss because I thought they were clowns, and clowns are not to be trusted. Much like gypsies, clowns can steal your soul. At least that's what my grandma told me. Eventually, my neighbor (who was a couple years older than me) helped me get over my fear by painting my face with a black marker to look like Peter Criss. I looked at myself in the mirror and was no longer scared. Since then, I've liked Kiss. Hell, I was Ace Frehley for Halloween a couple years ago, or so I'm told.

It is an absolute travesty that Kiss is not yet in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It is also an absolute travesty that not every song is on

1. Strutter
With the first song on their first album, you find out pretty quickly what Kiss is all about: simple, straightforward, catchy rock and roll.

2. Nothin' to Lose
"Nothin' to Lose" starts off with another solid riff. Apparently, this song is about a dude trying to convince a chick to go two-hole. I'm not kidding.

3. Firehouse
I like this song because it's got everything a great rock song should have: great guitars, a plodding beat, a cowbell, and a fire engine horn. And to top it off, it gave Gene a reason to breathe fire during concerts (not that he needed one).

4. Cold Gin
This is an Ace Frehley-penned song, and it's exactly what you'd expect from Ace – gritty, a little dirty, a great riff, and centered about booze. It's about a guy whose heater breaks, so he declares it to be "cold gin time again." After all, it's the only thing that keeps us together. What a terrifying relationship.

5. Let Me Know
Kiss definitely had some pop sensibilities, and this song shows that. It's a catchy, relatively tame tune, but it still has a nice little guitar solo.

6. Kissin' Time
This is a Bobby Rydell cover that the band's record label made the band add to the album to spur slow sales a few months after the album was released. While the band didn't want it on the album, in a way, it announced to the world the dawning of a new era.

7. Deuce
This is a Kiss classic, as it should be. It has a driving riff that carries the song, and a wicked guitar solo. Also, according to Gene (who wrote the song), the lyrics have no meaning, although perhaps not coincidentally, "deuce" was slang for a $20 hummer back in the '70s. Therefore, the chorus "Baby if you're feelin' good / Baby if you're feelin' nice / You know your man is working hard / He's worth a deuce" might mean "Honey, I had a shitty day at work, so if it wouldn't be too much trouble, I could really use a BJ. To sweeten the deal, I'll throw in twenty dollars."

8. Love Theme From Kiss
This is an instrumental, and it's pretty solid. It has a bluesy feel to it, and it could definitely be the theme for a movie about Kiss – at least for the scenes where there's love makin'.

9. 100,000 Years
Another solid rock song. This one starts off with a bass solo because that was the style back then.

10. Black Diamond
This is the first song where Peter Criss is takes the lead on vocals (after Paul sings the first acoustic verse), and he wails on it. It's a dark, brooding song that slowly loses tempo and fades out with creepy guitars courtesy of Ace. The Replacements have a nice cover of this song on their Let It Be album.

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