Thursday, May 1, 2014

Peter Criss - Let Me Rock You

There was a bit on controversy when the original line-up of KISS could not play nice and dish out a few songs together during the band's induction ceremony into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And while the decision not to perform was petty and a slap to the face of many KISS fans, Paul Stanley or Gene Simmons could have easily pointed out  Peter Criss' solo albums as the reason why they would never want to perform with the Cat Man ever again.

If you're keeping track, we're only up to the third Criss solo record (the second since his departure from KISS) and already there is a huge pattern emerging. Criss had ample time-and one would assume, ample resources-to piece together a coherent ensemble of musicians and songs in his slow pace of solo releases.

Coming off two years since his abysmal Out Of Control release, Let Me Rock You finally shows Peter without any hint of his KISS past on the cover, but within the grooves it finds him to be continually haunted by his past while having no plan as to how he can escape it and no clue of how what kind of artist he'd like us to view him ass.

Instead, Criss teams up once again with producer Vini Poncia, an enabler of rock drummers (see Ringo Starr) and the man who is also complicit in reducing KISS into disco-chasing poseurs who completely disregard the impact it would have on the band's overall credibility. With his help, he demonstrated how far the band was willing to go in terms of sacrificing their wobbly credibility for the sake of a chart topper.

Poncia was Criss' suggestion, so it's not as if there isn't plenty of blame to go around here. But what's interesting is how Criss continues to use Vini even after he's logged some pretty disastrous results previously. Even stranger, Poncia was hired back by KISS for  some additional shit-flinging in the studio later on during the 80's, hinting that the band's camp is pretty limited on networking and even suggests how willing they are to tolerate mediocrity over someone who would come in an challenge the band and compete with their egos.

The thing is, there should be no ego left in Criss at this point. By 1982, he was largely forgotten, except for the ever-present KISS fans, and he rewards this diminishing base with songs that alternate between  half-assed hard rock songs devoid of any bite right next to Criss' and Poncia's history of Brill Building devotion. It's a mess of competing styles and lazy execution, seemingly suggesting that it is our responsibility to find the  hooks within this clusterfuck and credit Criss for being more talented than he actually is.

The Cat Man only contributes to the creation of 2 of Let Me Rock You's 10 selections, and he utilizes a pair of session drummers for the proceedings too, all of which begs the question: "So what did Peter Criss actually do for this solo record?"

Evidently, not much. With no drumming, no character in his vocal abilities and no actual songs that have any sort of personal relevance, Let Me Rock You is, at best, contractual obligation, serving no purpose other than to continue his former band's penchant for socking it to the wallets of their fans and further damaging Criss' reputation by forcing these schmucks to eat  his shit.

The irony of allowing the Gene Simmons song "Feels Like Heaven" into his third record is a great example of how little Criss really cares about his own quality control. He even lets Russ Ballard (again, another KISS enabler) add a few tracks to the cause and even a young kid named Steve Stevens (of Billy Idol fame) gets a shot and showing off his own shiny turds with one of the worst tracks on the release, "First Day In The Rain."

But the absolute worst is Criss cover of John Lennon's "Jealous Guy," which is riddled with an abundance of echo that try to cover up Peter's lack of vocal abilities and which are delivered at such an awkward pace that you'd be forgiven if you questioned the man's ability to keep tempo.

Let Me Rock You is Criss' third dud in a row, so pathetic that it makes Gene and Paul seem brilliant in their hiring of the tiny lapdog known as Eric Carr. It also provides some legitimacy in the notion that KISS fans will buy nearly anything related to the band and how Gene and Paul may have had the right idea in keeping Criss away from the reunion proceedings over thirty years after this hairball was first released.


Kiko Jones said...

"Vini Poncia...the man who is also complicit in reducing KISS into a disco-chasing poseurs who completely disregard the impact it would have on the band's overall credibility."

But since, according to Gene Simmons, they don't care for credibility...

Todd Totale said...

Which was particularly evident with Dynasty. I believe that KISS would have had a much better shot at gaining entry into the RRHOF quicker if they would have ended their recording career with Rock & Roll Over. But that was what I was trying to point out: even with all of the nonsense leading up to this point (the made for TV movie, the solo records, the Mego dolls), the band has carved out a bit of legitimacy. But the moment they began fingerbanging disco (a complete no-no in hard rock circles at the time) was the moment they began to distance themselves from credibility, without Gene waxing on like it was intentional. While I would agree that Gene and Paul were blessed with incredible marketing savvy that looked to the future, their music beginning with Dynasty became very reactionary. They began to ape the music to sell records instead of working hard at the music itself.