Since my all-time favorite band KISS is releasing their first studio album in 11 years, I couldn’t help but review it. Look for this to be published Saturday in the comics section of the Norwalk Reflector:
If your head doesn’t start banging once you play “Modern Day Delilah,” the first track and single from KISS’ new CD “Sonic Boom,” something is either wrong with your neck or your internal groove mechanism. (Go to Kissonline.com for a listen to the single.)
Just how good is “Sonic Boom?” I haven’t taken it out of my car’s CD player since I got my copy. I can’t stop listening to it.
In other words, if you’re an estranged member of the KISS Army, it’s time to re-enlist.
First, a disclaimer: I thought the idea of KISS calling it quits after the 2000-2001 “Farewell Tour” was a wise one. It would have been a classy way for the self-touted “hottest band in the land” — not to mention the reunited original line-up — to go out on top.
But co-founders Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons couldn’t let the beast known as KISS die.
The current drummer is the tremendously talented Eric Singer, who quit the band in 1996 when he saw the writing on the wall for the “Reunion Tour.” After replacing Peter Criss for the last legs of the 2001 “Farewell Tour,” Singer rejoined KISS (again) after Criss quit after the 2003 tour. Lead guitarist and long-time KISS video producer Tommy Thayer, who portrayed Ace Frehley in the KISS tribute band Cold Gin, replaced the real thing in 2002.
I’ve been long past ready for KISS to fade off into the sunset — unless the band recorded a new studio album.
“Sonic Boom” is exactly what KISS should have done with its last studio outing, 1998’s “Psycho Circus,” on which Frehley and Criss played very few tracks. What is the secret to its success? Stanley was in charge of the vision for “Sonic Boom,” produced it, didn’t include any ballads and only the band members played on and wrote all the tracks.
The result is the hard rock equivalent of a kick in the pants — and that’s a beautiful thing.
My biggest test of a great KISS album is how catchy the tunes are. “Sonic Boom” has memorable melodies and contagious guitar licks in spades; I could sing along with many of the songs during my first listen. “Hot and Cold” has one of the catchiest choruses Simmons has ever written.
Another personal litmus test for the quality of any veteran rock act is how well the current material stands up against the older songs. Stanley said years ago KISS wasn’t willing to do another album because fans would essentially say, “That’s great — now play ‘Detroit Rock City.’”
The entire vibe of “Sonic Boom” sounds like material that could have descended from the originals’ arguably best albums, “Love Gun” and “Rock and Roll Over.” While I hoped to hear Thayer open up on lead guitar, his in-your-face solos sound modern, but vaguely like Frehley would have played them now.
The new songs are a great addition to the vast KISS catalog. Stanley’s hard-driving “Danger Us” could have been t home on the 1984 “Animalize” album. Simmons brings his A-game by channeling his “Dr. Love” and “Demon” personas throughout “Sonic Boom.”
My only disappointment — and it’s a small one — is with the production of Singer’s drums. I wish Stanley had given them a bigger sound like the late Eric Carr’s in “Creatures of the Night,” since that’s how Singer’s playing sounds in concert.
“Sonic Boom” is a CD KISS fans will find themselves playing — and enjoying — time and time again. It ultimately passes my biggest test, meaning it will be an album I will blast in my car stereo for years to come.
I only hope we’ll see more material like this — soon. “Sonic Boom” comes exclusively to Walmart on Oct. 6. Grade: A-
Now for your comments: Any other KISS fans out there? What do you think of "Sonic Boom?" What about the Thayer-Singer line-up? Are you going to see KISS in Cleveland on Monday? What's your favorite line-up? Album? Tour? Costumes? Why?