Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, depending on your personal perspective, are either arch realists or the most cynical duo in rock music history. For the best part of 11 years the tandem were unashamedly apathetic towards new music, telling both NME and Kerrang that nobody was interested in hearing new material from an old band. Least of all the stars themselves, who were staggeringly dismissive: “I could write the next Let It Be, and they would say ‘that’s great. Play Love Gun’ and we’re happy to do that”.
Whether Kiss are capable of writing the next Abbey Road or not is somewhat beside the point. As a band they are famous for rinsing every last penny from image rights by shamelessly lending their name to everything from caskets and condoms to lycra bicycle shorts and Christmas baubles – and yet, even for rock’s arch shills, a new studio album was a step too far. Kiss were content as a travelling glam-rock roadshow built on classic hits and preposterous pyrotechnics, pleasing fans the world over.
So what changed? The sceptical would say that the nostalgia bubble got too big to resist and a new album by a veteran band was a cash cow that Simmons and Stanley simply couldn’t pass up. However, no crowd-pleasing capitalist would kick out two beloved fan favourites (Peter Criss, Ace Frehley) for the sake of a lowly latter day LP. Kiss appeared legitimately motivated and 2009’s Sonic Boom was a minor triumph.
2012’s Monster is an even stranger proposition. Simmons and Stanley are no closer to writing the next “Let It Be” but they do appear intent on turning the clock back. Their new album recalls the band’s mid-70s heyday and makes little or no attempt to either update the band’s sound or to come to terms with their advancing years. It might sound like full-blown denial, but Kiss never feel sinister or embarrassing. Hearing and seeing Paul McCartney act like a sex-crazed teenager might invoke your gag reflex, but Kiss have so successfully divorced image from identity that they can play party starting hooligans at 60.
There are regrettable moments (“Take Me Down Below” is abhorrent) and at times Monster feels pedestrian and laboured, but luckily Kiss prove suitably self aware (“Back To The Stone Age, Back Where I Belong”), if entirely unapologetic. There are occasional breaks from the riff riding rock and hard partying. “All For The Love Of Rock & Roll” is built on boogie and the band’s latter-day knack for panoramic pop. It’s a stand out moment whose syrupy nature provides a thoughtful contrast to Monster’s crass and immediate thrills.
“Feel the rush and that’s all it’s about, I’m in for life, and there’s no getting out of the way”. There’s no changing Kiss. They know who they are and what they love. Original line up or not, this band can write buoyant rock music that mixes gravel and glitz without sounding forced, lethargic or insincere. Kiss sound like 20-year-olds at 60, and that’s no minor accomplishment. Monster doesn’t supplant or rival Destroyer or Love Gun, but it is a welcome addition for anyone remotely susceptible to Stanley and Simmons wonted charms.
Buy If:You’re in the mood for some hard partying low IQ rollicking rock.
Skip If:Kiss didn’t do it for you 40 years ago.
Best Track:“All For The Love Of Rock & Roll”
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