Sunday, October 11, 2009

Kiss - Sonic Boom

Kiss has released their first album of new material in 11 years, Sonic Boom. With a lineup that is quite different from their last studio recording, Kiss is being challenged to come up with some great songs that fans are going to love and crave. So, did Kiss hit the mark with Sonic Boom? Did they deliver great songs that fans are going to want to own? Let’s spin the disc and find out.

Sonic Boom opens with the exceptional track, Modern Day Delilah. The lead vocals are handled by Paul Stanley and this song is fantastic right out of the gate. It is an excellent way to lead off an album. With a ripping bass line, hard and heavy guitars, and Paul Stanley’s signature voice crashing in over the music, Modern Day Delilah is a modern day hit.

Russian Roulette is next, with Gene Simmons on lead vocals. The first thing noticeable on this track is the bass line. There’s actual bass guitar playing happening in this song, and a lot of it. His band must have challenged Gene to go above and beyond for this record, and this is one of the songs where it shows. Gene’s voice is starting to sound his age (hey the guy is 60), but he tries to sing this song, instead of growling it. On first listen, that didn’t sound like the best idea, but after a few more spins, it was a fine way to go. Russian Roulette is one of the finest songs on Sonic Boom.

Never Enough follows after, and it’s back to Paul Stanley on vocals. This song sounds like it would have fit perfectly on Paul’s solo album, Live To Win. A happy, quick, upbeat tune, Never Enough is classic Paul Stanley. This song would have been right at home on any 80s KISS record out there. Paul’s voice sounds incredible and Tommy’s solo in the middle of this number is insane!

What really makes Sonic Boom better than most Kiss releases is Tommy Thayer’s guitar playing. His style is all over this record and his guitar work is phenomenal. I don’t know what Thayer has been doing during his days off from touring, but it’s obvious that practicing guitar is part of his daily regimen. His ability with the ax is astounding! Thayer may have had something to prove with this album, and without a doubt, he’s proven it. He can hold his own with any other KISS guitarist that’s ever been in the band.

Yes I Know (Nobody’s Perfect) is a self-serving, egotistical, Gene Simmons song that should be on his solo album, Asshole, which is not a good thing. With lyrics such as “nobody’s perfect but baby I come close, so take off your clothes” Gene is showing that he still hasn’t fully grown as a musician, and has actually digressed. Tommy’s guitar saves this song and turns into a decent tune, but the juvenile, self-centered lyrics, stop it from being anything more.

Paul and Gene share a duet on the next song, Stand, which may be the best song on Sonic Boom. A classic KISS, shout along song, with a beautiful chorus, chants that the live crowd will be able to get into, and Gene and Paul trading verses. There is not much else that can be asked from in a perfect KISS song.

Hot and Cold puts Gene back behind the microphone for lead vocal duty. This is easily the worst song on the record. There is nothing exciting about this track, very basic and it actually hurts Sonic Boom. KISS would have been better served leaving this song off the record and putting it out as a B-Side.

All For The Glory corrects the errors of the previous song immediately and features Eric Singer taking over lead vocal duties for the first time ever on a KISS studio album. His voice sounds very Peter Criss –like, with the rasp and growl of classic Criss tunes. Eric does an excellent job behind the microphone and the drum work on this song stands out as well. Once again, Tommy Thayer puts an amazing guitar solo in the middle of the song that just escalates it to the next level.

Danger Us puts Paul at the lead vocals. This song has a dark feel to it, with a 90s grunge Kiss type of sound. It would have fit in on Revenge. It’s a decent song with some punch and enjoyment. Paul’s voice is strong for this number, and Gene’s bass playing abilities turn up once again. We find him playing the bass guitar with more complexity than we used to. That’s a good thing.

I’m An Animal starts off with a heavy bass line and is another song that has the 90s KISS feel to it. Gene sings lead on this song and his voice sounds great. It’s the closest he’s come to sounding like a young Gene on this entire album. I’m An Animal is a great song buried deep on Sonic Boom, so it may be easy to overlook. Don’t. This is one of the better tracks and definitely one of the best Gene sung songs.

When Lightning Strikes is next, and it opens with an immediate clonk, clonk, clonk of the cowbell. This song marks Tommy Thayer’s big debut on lead vocals, which makes him the 7th member of Kiss to sing lead vocals on an album. Tommy has a unique voice that is unmistakably his. There is no one to compare it to. His voice is not exceptional, but it works. His guitar solos are off the charts and I really hope that KISS decide to play this one live at some point during their current tour. When Lighting Strikes is an excellent song that should get a lot of recognition.
Paul takes back the vocals for the record’s final song, Say Yeah. A solid tune to close the album, Say Yeah has a mid-80s KISS feel to it. This song could be an Animalize leftover. Paul’s voice is strong and the melodic tempo and basic structure of Say Yeah is what gives it charm. There are no complex solos or musical segues, just straight up rock and roll. It’s a great way to close out one of the better KISS albums to come along in more than 2 decades.

KISS wasn’t happy just giving the fans a new record. For Sonic Boom, they went above and beyond, delivering the new disc with some extra goodies. Included in this package is a disc of 15 KISS Klassics. What makes the classics disc unique though is the fact that the band went back into the studio to re-record these 15 songs. It’s like hearing a live in the studio version of old favorites. Each song was re-recorded note for note and howl for howl, to sound like a modern version of exceptional KISS classic songs.

This works out well for some songs, but not so much for others. With the re-recording, some classic songs sound off while others sound just awful. Gene’s voice doesn’t carry the power that it did back in the 70s. Now those classic songs we’ve grown up on sound like our grandfather singing them. And I thought that Rock and Roll All Nite was always a duet. On this recording, Gene sings the entire song himself.

And finally, KISS gives us a 3rd disc of goodies. As if a new CD and a CD of re-recorded classics wasn’t enough, KISS also threw in a live DVD recorded in Argentina during their Alive 35 tour. 6 songs were filmed live and presented here for the first time ever.

For $12, that is quite the package. A new CD, a CD of 15 classics, and a live DVD of the masters in concert. What are you waiting for? Get to WalMart and get this collection.

Ryo’s Rating on Sonic Boom: 9 out of 10

Sonic Boom Track Listing
Modern Day Delilah
Russian Roulette
Never Enough
Yes I Know (Nobody’s Perfect)
Hot and Cold
All For The Glory
Danger Us
I’m An Animal
When Lightning Strikes
Say Yeah

Klassics Track Listing
Detroit Rock City
Shout It Out Loud
Hotter Than Hell
Calling Dr. Love
Love Gun
I Was Made For Lovin’ You
Heaven’s On Fire
Lick It Up
I Love It Loud
Christine Sixteen
Do You Love Me
Black Diamond
Rock and Roll All Nite

Live DVD Track Listing
Hotter Than Hell
C’mon And Love Me
Watchin’ You
100,000 Years
Rock And Roll All Nite

No comments: