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Kiss: Sonic Boom (2009)

Kiss Sonic Boom cover

–KISS: Sonic Boom (2009)

“Give me life for the taking/ Give me love till I’m shaking/ Give me rules just for breaking/ Because it’s never enough/ Never enough/ Never enough”

On track 3 of Sonic Boom, Paul Stanley succinctly summarizes the KISS philosophy. Here it is in a nutshell, all contained in one chorus: embrace life, live it to the fullest, love passionately and be an individual. That has always been at the crux of the rock’n’roll attitude, the artistic mindset and the KISS Army battle cry. Here, more than 35 years after KISS began saying “It’s never enough,” Sonic Boom pounds an emphatic stamp on that inspiring legacy. Yes, KISS is back, they’re doing the things they want, the way they want to do them, and they want YOU along for the ride.

Sonic Boom is a surprise on multiple levels. Of course, it’s almost shocking that there is a new KISS record at all, given that the band has been on recorded hiatus since 1998’s universally-maligned Psycho Circus, the last to feature the original lineup (in theory anyway, given that Ace Frehley and Peter Criss barely played on the album). Since then, the original core of Gene Simmons and Stanley have released the cult-favorite flick Detroit Rock City, toured sporadically with guitarist Tommy Thayer and former/returned replacement drummer Eric Singer and participated in various reality TV entertainment endeavors. But the fact that Sonic Boom is such a solid, invigorating and inspirational record in the classic KISS style is refreshing and not just a little bit awesome. Is it the best KISS record ever made? Probably not. Is it perfectly fit to have followed monsters like Love Gun or Creatures of The Night in the KISS catalog? Absolutely. And that’s more than enough for this dedicated KISS soldier.

Those looking for gushy love ballads or dismal and depressing modern dirge-rock garbage won’t find it on Sonic Boom. No, this is uplifting, melodic, motivational, anthemic, hard-rocking music, nothing more or less. Gene, Paul, and the new guys Thayer and Singer want the listener to grab life by the cajones and enjoy every single moment of it. The lyrics reflect that positive tone, whether it be the rampant sexual bravado run amuck (“Russian Roulette,” “Yes I Know (Nobody’s Perfect),” “Hot and Cold”) or the anthemic, never-say-die theme of tunes like “Never Enough,” “Stand” and “Say Yeah.” These latter three tracks are my favorites from the album, all featuring uplifting lyrics and infectious choruses. In “Stand,” Stanley promises “Stand by my side–I’ll be next to you/Stand by my side and we’ll make it through,” while “All for the Glory” heralds the legions of KISS Army members and good people everywhere that “We’re all for one and we’re all for the glory.” On “I’m An Animal” Simmons takes a different tack, reprising the old “God of Thunder” primordial macho persona and monstrous riffing but also delivering a motivational call to his supporters to take their own reins in life: “Let others take the road that leads nowhere/Stand up, raise your fist up in the air.”

Musically, Sonic Boom is mostly a solid, powerful collection of classic-sounding KISS tunes. Although the production values are decidedly modern, this is definitely old-school KISS in the songwriting and riff department. The guitar riffs are typical crunchy rock’n’roll, and several times while listening I raised my head perplexed as to which ‘70s KISS song a certain new riff sounds like. This disc is an approximate re-creation of the sultry grooves and snaking riffs on Destroyer or Love Gun, with Simmons’ propulsive, dynamic bass lines often stealing the show on tracks like “Russian Roulette” and “Yes I Know (Nobody’s Perfect).” Surprisingly, Thayer’s guitar leads are nearly an exact Frehley facsimile, complete with Ace’s trademark bluesy string bends and tasty melodic licks. If anything, what Sonic Boom lacks is better vocal melodies and hooks in the choruses on some tracks. The record does not leave the sort of commanding instant impression of Frehley’s new Anomaly, but perhaps that could have been remedied with some catchier hooks on tunes like “When Lightning Strikes” and first single “Modern Day Delilah.”

Make no mistake, though. You wanted the best, and with Sonic Boom we’ve got the best of KISS circa 2009. Buy it and crank it! The album is a three-disc set, which includes a 15-track bonus CD of re-recorded KISS classics and a mini-live DVD from Buenos Aires, Argentina.

–Tracklisting: 1. Modern Day Delilah 2.) Russian Roulette 3.) Never Enough 4.) Yes I Know (Nobody’s Perfect) 5.) Stand 6.) Hot and Cold 7.) All for the Glory 8.) Danger Us 9.) I’m an Animal 10.) When Lightning Strikes 11.) Say Yeah

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~ by jonnyboyrocker on October 10, 2009.

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