Album Review: KISS ‘Monster’

It feels like I should be talking about how long it has been since this band took up the charge of heavy, epic rock music, but they have technically been back for a while now, with 2009’s Sonic Boom being a slightly glossier attempt at a rebirth. I listened to that record, but don’t ask me for the name of a song or to hum a riff, because I have absolutely no idea what the hell that album was all about aside from an educated guess that it was at least in part about Hell. The risk that Monster runs is to be just as forgettable.

It’s an album of thumping and wailing, knuckle-dragging songs about sex and machismo, and about the only thing that separates it from the resounding shrug of Sonic Boom is that they chose to go with analog equipment this time around, and that really does make a palpable difference.

I had to ask my girlfriend if it was Paul Stanley singing on the opening track (to which she replied that she has no idea who Paul Stanley is, for all the help that offers), but I realized that it really doesn’t matter and that I wasn’t going to get anywhere in trying to dissect this music. The only thing that matters when you’re listening to a KISS record is whether or not it makes you want to set your house on fire with the friction between your legs, and a girl need not know the name of a single member of the band to be very thankful for them.

‘Wall of Sound’ features some of the most ridiculously generic lyrics possible, but it’s a fun enough track to have on in the background. It’s a contest between “You wanna take a shot / so give me all you’ve got” and “When it all goes wrong / you’ve gotta be strong” for the worst, but again, it doesn’t matter, because so long as you are still absolutely sure that Gene Simmons has had more sex than you the music is working.

This type of rock, in that borderland between classic rock and hair metal, is strictly about an image, and with or without face paint a band has to focus almost exclusively on convincing the listener that they are immortal sex demons, if not gods. The platitudes and power chords that get them there cannot be taken out of context without risking a fuller understanding of exactly how silly it all is.

The album is at least decent, and it gets better as it plays. I’m not entirely sure that this means the latter half is superior or if it just means that I had forgotten to be jaded about it by the midway point. Certainly, the final track on the record, ‘Last Chance’, is the strongest, showcasing every strength of the band in one glorious finale, intent to send the statement that they are and will always be the lords of this one street corner in the city of rock n’ roll.

Ultimately Monster is nearly indistinguishable from the rest of the band’s catalog, and you can feel free to treat that as a positive or a negative. It certainly proves that they haven’t lost it–that unidentifiable “it” that most older guys seem to have left in a cocaine-laced penthouse in 1987–and all of the soaring, screeching riffs and growls are there to satisfy your most primal needs as a music fan.

On the other hand, since it sounds so very much like a KISS record, most people would be right to ignore it as they have very likely already heard all of these sounds before. It’s a throwback and a fanservice, so if you’re a big fan you are going to love it, but it’s absolutely nothing more than that.

Release Date: October 9, 2012
Image Courtesy of UMe

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