Kiss' New Album Sonic Boom Reviewed Track-By-Track
, August 19th, 2009 08:44
The Quietus' Hibernian salmon wrangler Mark Eglinton gets stuck into Sonic Boom, the first Kiss album in over a decade
Modern Day Delilah
Given the eleven years since their last barely passable studio album – 1998's Psycho Circus it seemed unlikely that Kiss would ever release another album of new material. Seemingly invigorated by a huge recent upsurge in interest in their hefty back catalogue by the younger generation of rock listeners into the studio they went, and six weeks later emerged armed with Sonic Boom. However, we didn't expect them to knock one out of the park this early with this heaving, sweating lump of fabulous groove straight from 1975. "Yeah yeah" are the first words to exit Stanley's mouth and immediately our ears are pricked to what is not stylistically a typical Kiss track, a circular, bass heavy riff driving everything along. The net result is your immediate desire to renew that direct debit to the' Kiss army' while arranging to graft eight or more inches of surplus off your backside on to your tongue—it really is that good.
The first of Gene Simmons's vocal contributions and as they go, this isn't at all bad. In fact the years have been pretty kind to the 'god of thunder', and his voice has actually developed more than a semblance of melody. It's raw, punchy and lyrically the usual innuendo ridden stuff "this is Russian roulette—one pull of the trigger is all you're gonna get" etc, which we've heard often before but here's it's done with a freshness of attitude that's been absent for a long, long time.
Classic Kiss and this could easily fit into their live set without being noticed as a brand new track. Paul Stanley seems to have done some kind of 'Benjamin Button' reverse ageing thing with his vocals because he sounds every bit as energetic as he did back in their 70's heyday. Tommy Thayer too has slotted in nicely as an Ace Frehley replacement but without all the 'space' and its associated discordant rambling solos. This is obvious single material, if such things exist anymore, and is Kiss at their best. They've remarkably managed to summon the best attributes of their past without sounding dated, while at the same time making it all sound relevant to now—brilliant.
Yes I know (Nobody's Perfect)
Simmons's rumbling bass drives this fairly standard Kiss number along in a way that it hasn't for years (apparently he was really motivated in the studio) Not just that, he sings too, and tunefully does it. Chunky and not overly overdriven guitar combined with that satisfying emphasis on bass give this a solid feel with some more good-time, tail chasing lyrics, as you'd expect...
This one will completely divide opinions. Initially a straight-ahead rocker in the vein of the classic 'Strutter' which at no time threatens to dissolve into a 'Crazy Nights' or 'God gave Rock 'n' Roll To You' type anthem; until it does exactly that with a cheesy, cheesy chorus which no other band on the planet would get away with. Not content with that, it even dives into a multi-vocal layered mid section before returning to the huge stadium rock chorus which you could imagine appearing in some awful teen movie. Though it works, it's probably one of the lone stray chunks of rock 'n' roll fromage on here and probably the closest relative to some of their late 80s and early 90s howlers.
Hot And Cold
Cowbell-accented drums and more classroom innuendo punctuate this chunk of typical Kiss fodder (think 'Calling Dr Love'). It all sounds very live and not in any way over-produced (seemingly no Pro-Tools were used anywhere on the record). "Baby feel my tower of power" should give you some idea of what Gene's referring to and the song's easily good enough to forgive him such childishly dated folly.
All For The Glory
Drummer Eric Singer, who has assuredly hammered out rock-solid backing thus far, lends a hand on vocal duties with fabulous result. This is absolutely solid gold stuff reminiscent of Destroyer era Kiss, but with the nastier edge of later incarnations like Creatures of the Night. Tommy's solo is absolutely killer too - what talent he's brought to the band.
"Danger you, danger me, danger us!"— terrible, terrible lyrics but again the track bails itself out of the mire in grand style. Starting with a quietly picked guitar intro before fading satisfyingly (why do bands not fade-in much these days?) Aerosmith like riff and Stanley's most effective vocal outing on the record. You get the impression that they're all really enjoying this stuff and again Simmons's sonorous bass rumble is very much in evidence, aidded by Stanley's own intentionally Spartan studio production.
I'm An Animal
A huge, lumbering riff of Zeppelin-esque ('Dazed and Confused' springs to mind) proportions and another Simmons vocal characterise this beast of a track bristling with stalker menace. Similar in nature to let's say 'War Machine' off Creatures of the Night it stomps emphatically all over some of the tedious filler of recent albums. "I'm an animal, and I'm free" Gene divulges, and who the hell are we to argue. This is fast becoming Simmons's showpiece and surely his richest vein of contribution in their history.
When Lightning Strikes
'Musical singers' continues with guitarist Tommy Thayer wrestling control of the mic this time around. He in no way disappoints, dialling in a pretty effective vocal effort that many more established singers would die for. More cowbells and a riff that's been done before give way to a straight-forward bridge/chorus. The closest you'd get to 'stock' material but in the context of the quality of the album generally that's probably being overly critical.
When we expect filler we get utter killer, and if you're not singing this in the car or the bath you've no business whatsoever reading this review. Again, Stanley's vocals are a revelation – wielding an insanely addictive hook reminiscent of 'Tears are Falling' from the Asylum era but much, much better. Thayer's solo is brilliant too and resembles a lot of the stuff Bruce Kulick (surely their most underrated axe-man) came up with; fitting the song brilliantly and carrying no excess fret flab whatsoever. The Kiss of 2009 have left the building, and what a way to sign off...