Thursday, 11 January 2018
Hot In The Shade - Kiss
Review: This is rancid even by Kiss' standards. No mucking around this week with some convoluted preamble about how Bruce Kulick got me dumped or whatever, I'm going straight in on this abomination. I realise now that at the time I should've taken one look at that dorky sphinx and spent my money on a can of Pepsi.
I've been suckered by Kiss before now. I got their Double Platinum greatest hits collection as a teenager, which is bulging with catchy, if clunky, nuggets of escapist rock 'n' roll. A band that can come up with glorious trainwrecks like 'Detroit Rock City' and 'Black Diamond' had to be worth a deeper dive, right?
Eh, perhaps not. Certainly not, on the basis of Hot In The Shade (ooh, look, when you make an acronym of the title it spells 'hits' - clever boys! It's also an anagram of 'shit').
Now, even thought Hot In The Shade is an absolute goat rodeo for the most part, there are a couple of songs that aren't as unlistenable as the rest. The opener - 'Rise To It' - is serviceable single-entendre stadium fodder (the gag is that Paul Stanley can maintain an erection) and 'Hide Your Heart' is a hysterical slice of melodrama with a lyric that would embarrass a pre-verbal child, but gets by on conviction and a chorus. That's it. And those are tracks number one and three on a fifteen song slalom down Mt. Shitass. It's January, I've got the heating on low but this album has got me sweating like I'm allergic to it.
Speed up the opening riff to 'Black Diamond', tack on a terrible chorus and complain about paying taxes and you've got the essence of 'Betrayed'. I suppose it would be passable if you've never heard rock music before, or indeed, any music, ever. Try to imagine a song considered too dumb for ZZ Top's Recycler but have Gene Simmons sing it instead, and voila! You've conjured up 'Prisoner of Love'. Can it get worse? Yes. If you've ever wondered what Kiss what sound like if they did a cover of Def Leppard's 'Pour Some Sugar On Me', but somehow made that wretched ditty even more pathetic, then look no further than 'Read My Body'.
It goes on. Hitherto I've been running down the tracks in order, but really once you're past the relative highlight of 'Hide Your Heart' you can pick a song at random and I guarantee you that it'll be so bad that you will feel your IQ dropping in real time. 'Boomerang'? 'Cadillac Dreams'? 'Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell'? 'The Street Giveth and the Street Taketh Away' (yes, really)? This is the kind of music that drives people otherwise disposed towards guitar or drums to rediscover the lost art of mime.
It's not as if Kiss ever did anything revolutionary in their career - musically speaking, that is. 'I Was Made For Loving You' was a bit of a curio as a disco-rock fusion that actually works, but the real genius of Kiss lay in their onstage presentation and the way this was subsequently monetised. Chalk that up to the naked avarice of Gene Simmons and the sheer bloody-mindedness of Paul Stanley, the combination of which ensures Kiss chug on profitably to this day. Yet even though their paleo-rock of the 1970s was derivative and silly, it was distinctive. Probably the biggest crime of Hot In The Shade is that Kiss stopped playing Kiss songs and instead churned out bad parodies of songs whose formulae had proved successful for other bands. I've already mentioned Def Leppard and ZZ Top, but 'Love's A Slap In The Face' could be a Ratt outtake and 'Forever' is, ahem, "inspired" by Cheap Trick's 'The Flame'.
Alright, I've had enough. If I'm going to be charitable, I didn't cringe too much at 'Little Caesar' and whilst 'Silver Spoon' is mostly bobbins I cracked a smile at the "whoa-oh-a-whoah" chorus. If earlier in the decade (Hot In The Shade came out in 1989) Kiss revived flagging interest in their career by unmasking, this is the album that should've seen them committed to a witness protection scheme. Hot In The Shade saw Kiss trying to play catch-up with the hairspray crowd - a mob that they could legitimately claim to have inspired - and failing miserably, depressingly. Alice Cooper pulled off this ruse (and pretty much everything else, come to think of it) much better. Utterly charmless.