Thursday, October 08, 2009

CD Review - KISS - Sonic Boom

KISS’s new Sonic Boom album, released two days ago, made me angry. Why? A few reasons:

1) I had to go to WalMart to buy it. Which started the whole thing off on the wrong foot. I felt dirty going in there and sure enough I wasn’t in the door more than 30 seconds when a lady driving a motorized shopping cart road raged someone who ‘cut her off.’ F bombs were dropped. She scooted off. I immediately wanted to bolt back out the door.

2) The WalMart KISS Korner is a joke. Aside from the CD, there were $6 bags of M&Ms with KISS faces on them, and throw blankets. That was it. Snoooore. In a completely other section, they had all the KISS remasters for $5 a pop, which further angered me as I bought many of them for much more than that when they first came out. Maybe they hadn’t fully stocked the KISS Korner yet, but even the paltry merch that was there just stank of another way for Gene and Paul to get richer.

3) The CD was $12, for the new 11-song disc, a second disc of old KISS songs re-recorded by the new lineup, and a DVD. This was the exact same format for the Journey Revelation WalMart-only release from last year. This didn’t make me angry. I thought the price was great for the package, which is very nicely put together. The artwork is pop-arty and fairly cool and there is a book with all the lyrics in case you couldn’t decipher Gene singing about pussy or Paul signing about living life to the fullest because you are the boss and KISS rocks for you…

4) Popped the CD on in the car. Modern Day Delilah comes on. Still sounds great. This is an absolute KISS classic. Next song – Russian Roulette. Gene tune. Sounds pretty good but yeah he is singing about ‘loaded guns,’ ‘pulling triggers,’ etc and I am not nearly as OK with Gene singing about humping chicks at age 60 than on the 1970s albums when he was actually supposed to be getting lots of tail. Then it was the 1970s and he was about 30 – good man. Now it’s just kinda gross.

5) I wanted every song to be as good as Modern Day Delilah and it wasn’t happening. The songs are catchy, rocking and very well-performed. The new lineup is much tighter than the original band, but this CD is breaking no new ground. Every Tommy Thayer solo sounds like Ace from Alive! He has this down so well that he sounds more like Ace than Ace does. I get angry again and then feel bad for Tommy Thayer because he is just doing his job.

6) Then song 7 comes on and it’s Eric Singer singing, and he sounds gravelly – yeah just like Peter Criss. I get very angry. It made me realize that I am annoyed more than I thought that Paul and Gene replaced Ace and Peter with guys who dress, perform and act just like them. It’s bogus. I do not want to hear Eric Singer sing a song like Peter Criss, even if it is very anthemic and catchy, which it is.

7) Then just as I am calming down song 10 comes on and Tommy Thayer is signing. Thankfully he doesn’t sound like Ace but then I think – this now doesn’t even sound like KISS. What the hell is this crap?

8) The CD winds up with a song called “Say Yeah,” which is another Paul Stanley arena-pleaser. The sum total of the experience is that I want to turn off Sonic Boom and listen to Ace’s album again. Ace broke new ground on his album. He sang about his struggles. He kicked out some killer instrumentals. He took some chances and sang some stuff that was way outside of what you’d expect. Sonic Boom, while for sure is a return to form for KISS, breaks zero new ground. It’s just 11 more catchy KISS songs done by half the original band about the same old crap.

9) OK I know this is harsh – read between the lines here. The songs are good KISS tunes. There is loads of KISS-level passion, meaning Paul Stanley signs the shit out of everything he touches and the band for sure believes in itself on this CD. But it just made me pine for the original band. Shit, I even tolerated Psycho Circus because I could at least pretend that Ace was playing the leads, although it probably was Tommy Thayer!

10) The next day (yesterday), I ran into a guy I talk with at the music store and he too got Sonic Boom, but he loved it. He said I should keep listening and give it another chance. Now that the smoke has cleared from my day one rant, I am indeed liking Sonic Boom better and am appreciating it for what it is, as opposed to what I want it to be. In fact the Paul Stanley song "Never Enough" is growing on me in a big way - excellent chorus in particular...But I thought it would be far more interesting to share my first impressions, which were certainly tainted by my ‘shopping experience.’ Anyway, any thoughts from the peanut gallery? Those who have heard both Sonic Boom and Ace’s Anomaly CDs, which do you like better?


Dr. John said...

Interesting to me that the cover looks like the cover to "Rock and Roll Over", the only KISS album I ever owned way back when I was a wee lad in 3rd grade. Guess they could not come up with any new ideas for album covers either.

I guess some musicians are successful because the innovate and break new ground (e.g. The Beatles), and others are successful because they do the same thing over and over again.

Barbara(aka Layla) said...

I can see how it made you mad. I'm not a big KISS fan so didn't have to endure Walmart :0

harmolodic said...

I'm having a hard time getting past the fact that "Modern Day Delilah" sounds like a mashup of Pearl Jam's "Even Flow" (the rhythm guitar) and Black Sabbath's "N.I.B." (every time Paul shouts "oh yeah!").

Anonymous said...

I guess I liked this album more than you did! I got it over two weeks early and have been listening to it alot!

>Interesting to me that the cover looks like the cover to "Rock and Roll Over"

That's because the same artist did those two covers.
I did two interviews with him:

Steve W said...

Greate review. I don't really care for many of the songs myself. I've been a Kiss Kadet since I was 4 back in the 70's and have seen them numerous times. When I saw them in 2004 with what is now the current lineup, it just wasn't the same. At least when Peter was with the band in 2003 it still had just enough of the KISS escence to make it work. I have to admit I am going to see them in Dallas in December and I'm sure it'll be great, but not as great as the original band could be.

Sir Pent said...

I agree with just about every one of your assessments. A lot of it made me angry, including having to go to WalMart.
I don't care what KISS or any other person says, Peter Criss completes the KISS sound. Sure he might not be Neil Peart but at least he doesn't sound like every other generic studio drummer in the world!

Chris said...

I love the record more with each listen. I haven't missed Peter since the day he left, frankly, and they were a shadow of their former selves the two times I saw them after he rejoined the band. That shadow was still a dark awesomeness obscuring most other rock outfits, but a shadow nonetheless.

I think this record really shows they love what they do and have a great time doing it. It takes too much work to do something like this record, and the promotion of it, and not have it look obvious if you are phoning it in. These guys phoned it in for a good chunk of the 80s, perhaps, but they aren't now.

As for your question, Paul, I like Sonic Boom better than Anomaly, though I love the Frehley record too. There are a couple tracks on there that after a couple listens I was already skipping past. That is not the case with the KISS record.

Anyway, here's my take on the whole thing, if you're interested:

Isorski said...

I have to say, I am liking it better with each listen. I too have tickets to see them in November, so my 10 year old can finally get to see them. After that, I might be done with KISS. Unless they get in the R&R Hall of Fame and the original four get together again, even for just one night.

Duke said...

For those of you wishing for the original line up, consider a few things: While have I been listening to Kiss since '76, I still greatly appreciate the new album and the "new" members (if you want to call guys who have been around 10 years as "new".) The old days werent as good as what your memories are. Ace was a drunk who mailed his tracks in from wherever he was, and Peter had constant issues over the amount of money he wanted. Both wanted more light shining on themselves than they did on the band as a whole. For Pete's sake, Tommy had to re-teach Ace his own guitar solos for the reunion tour! The current line up is more talented musically and vocally than the original line-up ever was. Kiss fans, like Paul and Gene, had to endure alot of crap from two guys who didnt really give a damn. Which WAS a sad thing for all fans to see. The new album is one of their best, and while it has an early Kiss vibe,it IS new ground in the level of the harmonies and instrumentation. If you want to look for uninteresting and unapealing material...check out most of their material from the '80-'85 period. The new album is great.

Anonymous said...

I hated going to Wal-Mart too but was mostly pleased with Sonic Boom. It's a good record, albeit with some issues throughout.

I had already heard Delilah about 20 times on, but having lived through kick ass opening tracks in albums past and filler the rest of the way, I was prepared for a let down. Instead I got catchy song after catchy song.

The best song in the record IMO is This I Know (Nobody's Perfect) because it's the only song that makes me laugh, or at least draw a smile on every listen. I crank it up in my car and like to scream the BGVs.

I HATE Never Enough because the verses are a direct rip-off of Nothin' But a Good Time from Poison.

Loved Russian Roulette with the cool intro, outro.

While Gene offers unlimited sexual metaphors, I didn't like the obvious attempts to conjure the past (compare Calling Dr. Love lyrics to this album's).

I liked the vocal interplay on Stand. I love it when bands put forth a great effort to create an epic song.

I actually prefer When Lightning Strikes over any Ace Kiss song except for Rocket Ride. I'd buy a Thayer solo record in a new york minute.

While "Glory" offers the best solo in the record, it is a direct rip-off of Frehley.

The worst song on the album is Danger Us. Paul tries to sing like Gene with an overdone rasp and it doesn't work; he's straining too much. He should've sang it clean. Also, if you study the main guitar riff (after the picked intro), it's really the God of Thunder riff played faster with a slight modification. Kiss should be better than that type of self-plagiarism.

I like Say Yeah, except I just heard the live version in Atlanta (posted on and they can't pull off the chorus. The guys are off key.

Overall I've heard Sonic Boom 50+ times by now, but I still like it even with the issues. I must be a Kiss fan or something...

however, being a fan has its limits. That second CD with the re-recorded tracks SUCKS!!! everything sounds off, the original energy is gone, things are missing, the whole thing is weak, weak weak. The only song that I liked redone in the studio was Do You Love Me. Maybe Black Diamond too. The rest was crap.

I liked the DVD though...but it only has 5 tunes so I haven't seen it but once.

Isorski said...

Duke, you make great points and after seeing the band this week live, I am turned around about the "new" lineup. They actually made me forget about the original KISS and really embrace what is happening now. Sonic Boom in general has grown on me.

Anon, thanks for your thoughts. I agree Danger Us is the weakest tune. The one I have started to really like a lot is I'm An Animal. They really ought to do that song live. They'd kill it.