You can be dumb, but not dumb and lazy. That’s my take on things because if you look at my music collection, you’ll find a lot of stuff that’s dumb, childish, perhaps lacking ambition or anything remotely similar to it. But when an artist serves up something and expects you to eat it just because they slapped their name on it, that’s when I get angry. One can be viewed as not taxing the audience too much while the other is disrespectful.
Kiss has danced on that line between the two for the better part of their existence. The closest they have ever come to true poignancy was with the song “Beth” which they have self-admitted a dislike for. There are tons of reasons they can attribute it to (Bob Ezrin forced it on them, estranged drummer Peter Criss sang on it and wound up scoring their biggest hit, and so on), but they have never been lyrically edifying. Yet they have brought some honest intensity to their catalogue on more than one occasion, even as they plied the usual fire/desire-can’t run/can’t hide horse puckey in lieu of words that actually took some sort of effort.
That was what made me so angry about the assumed “return to form” album Sonic Boom. It was dumb, but I could live with it if they were adding some passion to it, but they didn’t. It was a goo fart. So I was not expecting anything from Monster than more of the same dumb, lazy, disrespectful bowel-blop. But guess what? Monster‘s actually kinda fun.
I know, I know. I needed to take a couple extra aspirin tablets after that statement, just to make sure the blood’s actually flowing to the brain, but here’s the thing. All the stuff they promised from Sonic Boom, the stuff about it being like their earlier records, gets marginally delivered on Monster. Paul Stanley sounds raspier than he used to and Gene sounds like Gene, but they still sound pretty solid. Eric Singer plays the drums with a meaty, satisfying thwack and doesn’t skimp on that most ’70s of percussives, the cowbell. Tommy Thayer should finally get some credit for being a fine hard rock guitarist rather than getting flack for not being Ace Frehley.
All that having been confessed, you must approach the disc with the knowledge that songs like “Eat Your Heart Out,” “Take Me Down Below,” and “Shout Mercy” are not paeans to respect between the sexes, not subtle, and not all that surprising coming from a band that built a career on glorifying hedonism. These aren’t poems, and if they are, they’re not the poems that pay the bills. But at least on this go-round the results feel like the band gave a damn.
If you didn’t like Kiss before, you’re not going to like them now. If you did and were swayed by the P.R. for Sonic Boom, only to feel utterly duped, then cheer up. The band finally arrived and they sound like the Kiss you remembered..a little dumb but certainly not lazy.
Monster is available from Amazon.com.