Growing up in Mahopac, N.Y. in 1970s, my best friend and I were KISS fanatics.
It started with Destroyerâ€”an all-time legendary album with an all-time legendary cover. I vividly recall sitting in my living room, listening to Detroit Rock City while staring at the image of Gene, Paul, Ace and Peter walking atop a burnt-out city. The music got me. The imagery got me. The videos of Gene spitting blood … of Ace playing a fiery guitar … it got me, too. Hell, Gary Miller, my next-door neighbor and childhood best friend, still laugh over the time when we got in a fight while playing KISS in my living room. Gary wanted to be both Gene and Paul, which I thought was unfair. Tensions escalated, and it ended with one of us falling through a glass door.
It goes unsaid that I have a certain place in my heart for KISS. So it also must go unsaid that, in 2009, KISS makes me want to vomit. A band that has always preached fan loyalty has completely betrayed that trustâ€”times 1,000. Sure, they’ve sold us every plastic piece of s%$# with their images on it for marked-up prices. Sure, they’ve put out some tragically horrific albums. But most members of the KISS Army could accept those transgressions. What they can’t acceptâ€”or shouldn’t acceptâ€”is what the band is doing now. Or, better said, what they have become.
For any die-hard rock fans, KISS is Geneâ€”the demon; Paulâ€”the star child; Aceâ€”the space cadet; and Peterâ€”the cat. Yet, in order to keep the sales a comin’, KISS has replaced Ace and Paul … while keeping their face paint. Their current guitarist is Tommy Thayer, a former studio musician unworthy of wearing Ace’s paint. And while Eric Singer, the drummer, replaced Eric Carr when he died (and is, in his own right, a top-notch musician), he has no business being dressed as the cat. It’s disrespectful, crass andâ€”most of allâ€”wrong. To the ex-members, sure. But primarily to the fans. To us.
Now KISS is releasing its first new studio album (on sale only in Wal-Mart) since Psycho Circus came out 10 years ago. The members are praising it as their best work since Destroyer, which is a friggin’ joke. KISS hasn’t played with heart and gusto in years. They’re old, tired andâ€”to be honestâ€”annoying.
When it comes to my music, I happen to be a loyalist. I hate Hall without Oates. I think Styx, sans Dennis DeYoung, doesn’t work. I would never go to a Fugees concert without Lauryn Hill, and if Tribe Called Quest ever replaced Phife, well, they’d lose me. Blind Melon, one of my all-time favorite bands, came out last year with a new CDâ€”led by a singer named Travis Warren. It didn’t work.
But what KISS has done is completely revolutionary. The biggest sell-outs have sold out bigger than ever.
What a joke.