Monday, March 18, 2013

CD Odyssey Disc 495: KISS

On my way to work today I ended up matching the movement (and pace) of a curb sweeper vehicle for about three blocks.  It seemed every little side road I went down, this guy went down as well.  In terms of listening to my album, this was like having someone vacuum the living room while you try to watch a football game.  I just shut the headphones off for half the walk.

Luckily, this minor setback did not prevent me from finishing my listen to this next kick ass record.

Disc 495 is… Love Gun
Artist: KISS

Year of Release: 1977

What’s up with the Cover?  Covers don’t get much cooler than this one.  A group of beautiful metal babes gather in the temple of KISS.  Presumably their prayers are answered when the entire pantheon appears between two pillars.  Even at the age of seven I knew I liked this cover, which captures rock and roll in all its majesty and ridiculousness.

How I Came To Know It:  At the same time as I bought KISS “Destroyer” at the tender age of six or seven (as noted back at my review of that album at Disc 210) my brother bought this album.  Looking back, it wouldn’t surprise me if he subtly influenced me to get “Destroyer”, so he could buy “Love Gun” and effectively get to listen to them both.  Even if such skullduggery was afoot, I have no complaints – I got to listen to them both too.

How It Stacks Up:  I have ten of KISS’ studio albums.  “Love Gun” is the pinnacle – number one with a love bullet, baby.

Rating:  5 stars.

Thirty-two minutes of pure, unadulterated seventies rock and roll; furious, fun, sexually scandalous and entirely unapologetic.  That is KISS’ “Love Gun.”

From Ace Frehley’s ballsy opening rock riff to “I Stole Your Love” all the way through to the final track, a remake of The Crystals’ 1963 hit “Then He Kissed Me,” this record is a love letter to rock and roll.

The last song on the record, remade as “The She Kissed Me” has the great melody of the original Phil Spector track, but infused with Ace Frehley’s bright power chords it is brilliantly updated to the seventies sound.  I expect the sound of Ace’s guitar on this album inspired a generation of kids that would go on to make power metal years after.

Moreover “Then She Kissed Me” and “Tomorrow and Tonight,” (a KISS original party song in the same vein as “Rock and Roll All Nite)” have a sunny upbeat rock sound that shows signs of the music the band grew up listening to.  No, these songs won’t give you any fresh insights into life (although it is always good to be reminded that you can both rock all day, AND roll all night – or at least there was a time when you could).

KISS is never afraid to be lascivious and inappropriate in an effort to shock their audiences, but I don’t think they’ve ever done it so consistently as on this record.  The title track leaves little to the imagination, as Paul advises the object of his affection that she ‘pulls the trigger of my…love gun” and “Plaster Caster,” the song in honour of the groupie who famously made plaster casts of rock musicians penises, is equally triumphant and creepy in a way that Alice Cooper would be proud of.  Best line:

“Plaster caster
Grab a hold of me faster
If you want to see my love
Just ask her.”

Of course, at the tender age of seven, I had no idea what any of these songs were about.  All I knew (instinctively) was they had great melodies and the guitar really really rocked (Ace has never been better than he is on “Love Gun”).  Also, the songs were really easy to sing along to.  In fact, one day walking home from school (I think I was in Grade One or Two) I was happily singing “Christine Sixteen.” I was blissfully unaware that this was a song about some creep infatuated with a teenager.  Fortunately, it was a warm and sunny day and my Mom, having the house’s windows open, heard me coming down the street (I suppose some neighbours did too, in retrospect).

Anyway, when I got in the house she forbade me to sing those lyrics ever again, all the while resolutely refusing to offer any reasons why there was anything wrong with them.  Of course, once puberty hit I needed no further explanation.

The album is full of tales of the weird, the awkward and the wasted, all dressed up in memorable rock arrangements for our amusement.  “Almost Human” features a Caliban-like character, who is like a thirties movie monster, in that you aren’t sure if he wants to seduce or devour the object of his affection.  

Hooligan” is about an underachieving punk who defines himself thusly:

“I got a thirty-five Chevy on a fifty-five frame
Can’t even spell my name
Dropped out of school when I was twenty-two
What can I do to satisfy you?”

And lest you think these lyrics were to have some negative effect on my young mind, I graduated high school just fine and University after that.  After all, it’s only rock and roll, not life advice.  The only lasting effect was my surviving love of hot rods, and I’m pretty sure that’s a good thing.

The musicianship on this record is the best KISS has to offer.  Stanley’s singing voice has a nice rock edge to it, but doesn’t lose its love-struck Starman quality when he needs to bring that side of it out.  Gene’s vocals hold up well, as do his tasty bass licks on “Almost Human.”  Even Peter Criss’ drumming is strong, even though his growing drug habit would soon derail his career.

The combination of lascivious vocals and power-chord, sixties-inspired rock comes together in a perfect storm on “Shock Me,” which surprisingly features Ace Frehley on both vocals and guitar.  From the roll of Criss’ drum intro to the crunchy and instantly recognizable guitar riff, this song is absolutely perfect.  Frehley’s guitar solo is brilliantly built, and the cooing of Paul’s background vocals is the perfect foil for Ace’s hints of sexual adventure.  Like the lyrics suggest, this song shocks you and makes you feel better.  So does this album.

Best tracks:  All tracks are awesome – sadly there are only ten.

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