TMS Music: KISS - Sonic Boom

October 06, 2009 | Comments (0) | by Chaim Witz

Things That Make You Go Boom

Release Date: October 6th - Wal Mart exclusive (gross, I know)

Nearly 11 years have passed since the release of the last KISS studio album, the generally underwhelming Psycho Circus. Since then, the band has experienced breakups, makeups, Farewell Tours, Kaskets, Kondoms, embarrassing reality shows, Peter Criss solo albums, and of course, 9/11. Now they are back with Sonic Boom, purported to be the best KISS album since Abbey Road or the four 1978 solo albums, I can't remember which.

A self professed KISS geek*, I admittedly haven't been this excited for an album since...well, probably Psycho Circus. For the last month I've been frequenting KISSONLINE like The Hundley frequents those chat rooms you always hear about on Dateline. KISS message boards, rumor mills, song samples...honestly, I've really been shirking my impending duties as a expectant father in favor of the the Hottest Band in the World. Help pick out a primary color for the nursery? But wait, did you see Tommy Thayer's new boots?

This time around, gone are lead guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss in favor of Eric Singer (who used to be in the band back in the one non-makeup era where they actually were kind of badass) and Tommy Thayer. Some fans cry foul that Tommy and Eric are wearing Ace and Peter's makeup, but to me it's a moot point. Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley own the rights to the designs (after Peter and Ace sold those rights), and at this point I've resigned myself to the fact that KISS is more of a brand than a band anyway, so in that regard, it makes sense. Besides, Eric Singer is a much better drummer than Creaky Pete, and while I miss Ace's drunken charisma, Tommy can play Ace's old solos better than even Ace could towards the end of his run.

Anyway, back to the music, the one aspect of KISS that they are probably least known for (or most reviled for by monocle-sporting music snobs). Produced by frontman Paul Stanley, using no outside writers, Sonic Boom represents a return to form of sorts for a band whose form has been 'flabby at best' for close to 30 years. That isn't to say that the album is a strict return to their 1970's sound per se...instead it represents the first time in a long time that the band hasn't tried to chase trends or cling to delusions of mainstream relevance. Instead, they've gotten back to basics. Good, catchy, and most importantly, fun rock tunes befitting of a band that wears white pancake makeup, high heels and more leather than a combination Rob Halford/Sturgis Motorcycle Rally-themed cocktail party (my God, what a random and wholly unsettling image that is. But I bet it would be fun, no?)

Make no mistake about it, this isn't music that will make you ponder the deeper meaning of life or gaze down glumly at your shoes. There are no inner demons here, only the Demon. The riffs are crunchy, the lyrics are raunchy, the guitar solos crackle with a decidedly vintage feel (nods to old Ace solos abound) and Gene Simmons bass playing has never been so prominent and driving.

Let's put it this way. Sometimes I watch Top Chef and crave a pretentious meal of lambshanks, foie gras and chocolate foam. Other times (mostly after I've been drinking), I crave the NFL paired with a McDonald's Double Cheeseburger Meal and a large Coke. Sonic Boom is the latter, with extra cheese.

If you're still reading and haven't logged on to Pitchfork to cleanse your palette yet, let's move on to the song by song breakdown:

1. Modern Day Delilah - A raucous start to the album, this Paul Stanley penned rocker is probably the "heaviest" song on the album and recalls their Revenge era, where Gene actually looked cool and the band had a big-time leather fetish. Killer guitar solo. 9/10

2. Russian Roulette - Gene comes out of the gates with a bassline that will make your testicles drop and lyrics with more sexual innuendos than a David Letterman company mixer. 9/10

3. Never Enough - A catchy slice of the 80's from Paul. Think 'Nothing But a Good Time' meets 'Pledge of Allegiance To the State of Rock N Roll' (which, you probably haven't heard unless you own Psycho Circus. Like I said, you probably haven't heard it.) 7/10

4. Yes I Know (Nobody's Perfect) - You want your 70's KISS? Here you go. It's even got (more) cowbell. The bridge before the chorus will stick in your head like peanut butter. It becomes apparent early on that Gene Simmons is the MVP of the album. It almost (but not quite) makes you forgive him for that abomination of a reality show, his last solo album, causing Ace to drink, and running KISS into the ground. Like I said, almost. 10/10

5. Stand - Probably the track that will have the most love/hate among fans. It might be my least favorite for now, but its something I could see growing on me, like the time I had shingles. The whole vibe reminds me of 'God Gave Rock N Roll II You'. 6/10

6. Hot and Cold - Another 70's style rocker from Gene Simmon's Wig, with a killer Frehley-esque geeeetah solo from Tommy. The lyrics are cliche and trite, but this is KISS after all, not a Thom Yorke solo album. 8/10

7. All For the Glory - Eric Singer takes the lead on the vocals with this straight ahead rocker that makes you want to drive fast and possibly buy a used Camaro if the price is right. 7/10

8. Danger Us - This is probably my second favorite Paul Stanley song on the album. Nice 70's riff with a cheese-tastic sing along chorus 'Danger you, danger me, danger us!' 9/10

9. I'm An Animal - Gene's obligatory "scary Demon" song. 'Within' meets 'God of Thunder'. Kind of has a 'Dazed and Confused' (Zeppelin) riff. Awesome old school metal scream at the end. 7/10

10. When Lightning Strikes - Tommy Thayer on vocals. This one sounds pretty 80's, and at first I really resented kind of reminded me of something that would fit on the Karate Kid soundtrack. But after a few listens I'm really digging it. I'd upgrade it to the Roadhouse soundtrack instead. More cowbell! 7/10

11. Say Yeah - My early favorite track on the album. The perfect blend of old KISS with new KISS. What a great album closer and classic anthem. Say YEAH! 10/10

Overall Rating: 4 Vinnie Vincent Lawsuits Out of 5

*One of these days I will chronicle how I, the pretentious bastard of the group, became so smitten with a band that is so decidedly low-brow. It may take me around 11 years, but I've got the mullet pictures to prove it. (Fun fact: A mullet automatically gets you assigned Sergeant in the KISS Army.)