Wednesday, September 18, 2013

KISS - Lick It Up

Thirty years ago today, KISS did the impossible and made a correction to their downward trajectory by releasing an album where the members appeared without their makeup.

Hard to believe, but the record buying public was swindled once again by viewing such an event as an important artistic endeavor, rather than rightly hearing that Lick It Up was anything more than par-for-the-course bullshit, this time featuring “newest” member, guitarist Vinnie Vincent.

I’m already getting mad at the band again by writing this, and I haven’t even gotten to the actual review of the record yet.

You see, Vincent had already contributed to their last album, Creatures Of The Night, a surprisingly decent effort that continued to feature original guitarist Ace Frehley on the cover (and subsequent video for the lead-off single, “I Love It Loud”) even when he was nowhere on the recording.

Vincent was hired to be a reliable songwriter and contributor after Ace became disillusioned with the band’s nonsense, while the remaining creative core of Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley refused to provide Frehley’s replacement with any contract, naming him as an official member.

Now, you would think that such an arrangement would have caused Vincent to balk at any additional work with Simmons and Stanley, but the dumbass continued along with them, including a stint as a full-fledged makeup-wearing member going by the name of “The Ankh Warrior.”

The makeup thing clearly wasn’t working for them any longer, so Simmons and Stanley pressed on sans makeup, and they suckered Vincent into working with them again for Lick It Up.

Here’s the thing, the idea of KISS doing a record without their makeup was still a huge deal thirty years ago, even though they had released an album entitled Unmasked three years before Lick It Up. As fans discovered, Unmasked was a ruse to sell more records; none of the members actually ditched their makeup as the title suggested.

Lick It Up was different as KISS actually swindled MTV into giving them airtime for the big “reveal,” although they let the second least popular VJ, JJ Jackson (Nina Blackwood was first because they gave her the graveyard shift while “Triple J” got evenings) host the event. Jackson did a good job of hyping the proceedings, but if you were like me (yes, I watched it), the moment you saw the member’s true faces, you screamed at the television screen for them to put it back on.

The members of KISS are not the most visually stunning specimens in rock music.

Thirty years later, nobody gives a shit about what the members of KISS look like, and all we have left is the recorded evidence of Lick It Up, 10 songs of frustratingly mediocre arrangements and an endless parade of embarrassing sexuality that goes beyond the norms of traditional rock and roll juvenilia.

The title track was everywhere, or at least it seemed. Despite having MTV on board and placing the post-apocalyptic video which featured thralls of women thrusting themselves at the makeup-free band members, the actual single never made it into the Top 40 Billboard charts, leaving “Beth” as the lone hit single (at that time) for these pathetic creatures of the night.

Again, the 10 songs featured on Lick It Up were the direct result of Vinnie Vincent’s involvement with the band, and while he fought tooth and nail to suggest that his contributions were the reason for the band’s resurgence-adding to his suggestion that he should become a full, card-carrying member of the band-there is nothing on this album to warrant any amount of pride or credit.

If anything, Vinnie Vincent would have done better to hide his involvement, telling anyone who feigned interest on his career that he was a session player for Happy Days or the tambourine player for Dan Hartman.
“Lick It Up” is essentially two chords and a suggestive lyric, which doubles as a sexual innuendo for eating sperm and is remarkably not even close to the most patently offensive article on the album.
For that, you have to (once again) rely on Gene Simmons, who pens an ode to anal sex (“Fits Like A Glove”) as well as one to skull fucking (“Dance All Over Your Face”). Simmons dwells on the opposite sex and the act of intercourse with such a notable amount of disdain that you wonder if all of his conquests were mentally challenged enough to legally consent.

And after viewing his face on the cover, you also tend to wonder if he was still “masked” for the acts themselves.

All of this sounds like sour grapes, I realize, but when you hear Lick It Up you immediately ponder “What’s the big deal?” and “Why was this even notable?” These are the musical equivalents of conversations in the locker room after 8th grade football practice or the musings of some schmuck who has never seen the female form outside of his dad’s Playboy collection. To understand that this was the work of men past the age of 30 is an embarrassment, and the lack of creative musicality on Lick It Up is a slight to the rock and roll genre.

Ironically, Paul Stanley later nailed it on when he declared that Lick It Up was a sub-par effort, one in which fans purchased it because “people were listening with their eyes and not their ears.” Had they been using both of their senses, it be should have been clear that KISS were a very ugly band with very ugly intentions.


Cousin J said...

You might be thinking to yourself at this point, "They couldn't possibly release anything more mediocre or sexually retarded than Lick ItUp could they?" But yes, they were far from the bottom of the barrel at this point. The hugely successful Animalize, Asylum, Crazy Nights & Hot In The Shade were soon to follow.

Todd Totale said...

I should note that I don't have any star files for below 1 star. I'm thinking about Animalize next-because there is a personal history in the same sense of Lick It Up. The others that you've mentioned, I'm scared. For real. Lick It Up was far worse than I remembered it.

Cousin J said...

As bad as you think each 80's release is, they get progressively worse all the way up to Revenge. This groundbreaking series could potentially grind to a halt or be put on hiatus after you spin Asylum.

Kiko Jones said...

Kiss fans are the very definition of "listening with their eyes and not their ears." Ugh.

Anonymous said...

A wise man once said: It ain't a crime to be good to yourself.