Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Kiss - Revenge

I’m very aware that I should despise Revenge, Kiss’ umpteenth attempt at reinvention, an attempt which borders on pandering if you’re ever lucky enough to watch some of the promotional clips during this time.

Let’s be honest here, Revenge is an album that completely contradicts itself and utterly puts Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley in the back seat-behind the Kiss image-and puts the music ahead of everything else.

Firstly, it was the era of grunge. You can probably find dozens of clips of Gene and Paul badmouthing grunge and the flannel-clad brethren, deeming them as awful showmen who not only didn’t bother getting dressed for the show, but didn’t even bother getting the show together before getting on stage.

These were the bands that Kiss were talking about on a nightly basis, the kind of bands that Paul would go on and on about with his “The next time you give your hard earned money to a band and you don’t get the show you paid for, you let them know about it! Because we do, people! We want to give you the greatest rock show in the world because you deserve it!” spiel.

You know, that kind of bullshit.

And then there is Gene, the ultimate rationalizer, the one who would have you believe that the music actually ranked lower than the spectacle, the merchandise, and the groupies.

So here’s Revenge, the album that finds Gene biting his tounge and Paul clenching his anus because they actually had to rehearse, get their chops back up, and become heavy again. It was only one album prior to Revenge where they’d call up their buddy Michael Fucking Bolton to pen a song, or have Desmond Fucking Child crap out some piece of shit ballad for them.

They understood that by calling Desmond Child, Michael Bolton, or any other butt nugget ex-member of the band Blackjack would be paramount to career suicide.
Instead, they grew their hair out (Gene even sported a beard around this time), called up the same producer who twiddled the knobs during the same era that grunge fans could relate to, and worked on a set of songs that ended up becoming the heaviest material since the late 70’s.

Here’s what blows my mind: to get to this point, the band ended up calling their arch-enemy, Vinnie Vincent, the same guy who was around at their last reinvention. What makes this amazing to me is that Vincent is a complete hack who did time with Dan Hartman before falling into Paul Stanley’s good graces before turning out to possess just as big of an ego as Gene and Paul.

Needless to say, he didn’t last very long in the Kiss camp, and neither did the Vinnie Vincent Invasion which pissed away so much of Chrysalis Record’s money that they took it away from Vinnie and gave it to Mark Slaughter, who then gave it to bassist Dana Strum, who then concocted the atrocious Slaughter, which was just the Vinnie Vincent Invasion without the weird looking old dude on guitar.

It goes without saying that Kiss, particularly Gene, hated Vinnie Vincent. So for them to even be in the same room together around this time means that Kiss was completely without any principles at this point and, more telling, completely out of ideas. They were scared, broke, and near extension.

Which makes why I tolerate Revenge puzzling.

Not as puzzling as how I’m able to recite all of this useless Kiss trivia straight from the dome, but I’m a weird guy and my head is full of ridiculously pointless trivia like this.

And again I declare: the only Kiss album that I own is Gene Simmons’ solo record from ’78 because the cover is hilarious and it was only two bucks used.

I brought Revenge home from the radio station at the time it was released. Mercury Records was pushing “Domino” as the lead-off track, and nobody expected the song or album to do anything. That’s just a nice way of saying that I had no intention of adding Revenge to the station’s playlist and wanted to listen to the album at home for a good laugh.

Admittedly, they looked pretty silly as grunge godfathers, all decked out in leather and jeans, so I was expecting an album worth of comedy gold with Revenge.
Talk to most Kiss fans and they’ll agree that Revenge is not a good Kiss album and is usually cited as a misstep.

Maybe that’s why I don’t mind it; it doesn’t sound like Kiss that much. The funny thing is, it sounded like the way Kiss should have sounded to me, if that makes any sense. Bob Ezrin punched the entire goddamn performance way up, so the thing is loud, annoying, and completely boisterous. That’s what I thought Kiss should have sounded like from day one, so when I began this dumb idea of reviewing every Kiss album ever made and found that most of their shit-particularly their early stuff-it blew my mind that a band so over-the-top managed to release some of the most tepid shit ever known to hard rock.

The drums are punched way up in the mix and the guitars have a bunch of bite. Stanley is still the most annoying fuck ever, but at least when everything else has balls, you can tolerate his nonsense like “Wave your panties in the air/Lick your lips and shake your hair.”

Ironically, Gene Simmons-usually the gold standard for stupid Kiss songs-ends up shining a bit on Revenge. The aforementioned “Domino” has a total AC/DC rip for a guitar lick and even showcases Simmons doing a raunchy vocal take. He repeats it again on “Thou Shalt Not” and the first song that finds him doing a little vocal scatting, “Spit.”

I didn’t say Revenge was smart or groundbreaking, I’m merely suggesting that it’s ok as far as big, dumb hard rock goes and it’s actually good in terms of Kiss’ normal fodder of all bark and no bite.

Aside from the embarrassing grunge imagredy, Revenge also suffers from that 90’s problem of being too long for its own good. There’s no reason that “Carr Jam ’81,” a pointless drum solo by the (then) recently departed drummer Eric Carr, needs tacked on to the end of the album. And at the risk of sounding heartless, the solo itself isn’t that good.

Then there’s “God Gave Rock & Roll To You,” the closest thing to a hit on Revenge, thanks to its placement on the Bill & Ted movie from that same year. It doesn’t have the same bite as the rest of the album and was obviously included to get buyers on the fence to shell out their $15 bucks on a Kiss album.

Which is exactly what Gene and Paul wanted people to do with this album, but when the initial success of Revenge proved to be very short lived, the pair shitcanned the Revenge hired guns and brought back Peter and Ace for a real money-making reunion.

Because playing rock and roll like Kiss briefly did on Revenge must have proven to be too much work for them to handle.


Cousin J said...

You know that I've got something to say here...From what I understand, the accompanying Revenge tour was their least successful ever with them playing to barely half full arenas in the US. By then, the Grunge movement was in full swing & even die hards were tired of the schtick. The tour was cut shourt and the infamous/rumored Kiss grunge album "Carnival of Souls" was recorded in yet another attempt at cashing in/trying to seem relevant. The album was rightly shelved for about five years until the Unplugged show on MTV & the Reunion was announced Gene & Paul obviously thought that they might be able to cash in on the groundswell of excitement that the announcement brought. These dudes are awesome marketers to say the least because the excitement over this mystery album created enough buzz to have it sell well for a week or two...long enough to pay for production costs but also long enough for bad word of mouth to get out and grind sales of this turd to a halt.

Luciano said...

Nice review with great insight... do you think that maybe the vinnie vincent songs were like outtakes from creatures/lick it up days? I find it hard to imagine paul and gene actually calling vinnie to write new songs... ain't it more likely that they found some old tape, found some nice vinnie riffs & ideas, decided to use it and just asked him how much would he want for them?