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Music Review: Kiss – Sonic Boom

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It was sort of like when you're a kid, trying to buy condoms for the first time: Time magazine, brown shoelaces, Trojans, Doublemint gum. Try to look casual. They won't notice, right? Instead, Tuesday night at the Walmart checkout: Colgate toothpaste, 3 pairs of socks, Sonic Boom by Kiss, Toms of Maine toothpaste.

The big exception is that I'm not really embarrassed about the Kiss CD. Sure, it's been some 30-plus years since I bought my first Kiss record (which I think was Rock and Roll Over), and some folks say that they're more a brand/corporate entity than band. Yes, it's not the original lineup (with guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer replacing Ace and Peter), but I have to say that Sonic Boom packs a more cohesive punch than anything Kiss has put out since Love Gun.

I'm not embarrassed? Let me make a list first: the comic book with real Kiss blood in the ink, a full-grown man dressed like a demon-lizard who spews blood, Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park, the Kiss Army application form, Kiss Kaskets (one of the weirdest pieces of merch in all of rock). Isn't that brief list enough?

I suppose it should be but I've never really felt the need to reject things just because I enjoyed them in my youth. Do I listen to much hair metal anymore? No, but the reason for that has more to do with how homogeneous it all was — not because I think I shouldn't be listening. Screw that. Life's too short to let external forces make musical choices for me.

Which is why me and TheWife™ (who just might have been a little embarrassed) were at that checkout. I'm still sort of ambivalent about these exclusivity deals but every so often I'll whore myself out for the big rock buzz.

And that is exactly what this album delivers. Sonic Boom is packed with hooks, overdriven amplifiers, pounding drums, snarling bass lines ("Russian Roulette" is a standout), anthemic choruses, and a lifetime supply of sexual innuendo. Yep, it's all pretty obvious and lacking in subtlety…and it's freaking glorious. While so many of the songs made me remember what it was like to be 16, cruising down the street with the car stereo playing at obscene volumes, it's not pure nostalgia that gets me going here. No, it's that overdriven guitar sound. It never gets old. It's fun to do. It's why I learned how to play guitar. Construct the right tunes with it and you arrive at the reason this stuff attracted you in the first place: sweaty, adrenaline-filled fun.

'Fun' is definitely the key word here. After listening to songs like "When Lightning Strikes" (Oh man, they found cowbell from "Ladies Room"), "Hot And Cold," and "Yes I Know (Nobody's Perfect)," it's clear to me that they're feeling it too. They sound like a band again.

Yeah, in the timespan between "Detroit Rock City" and the recent purchase of my new Subaru (an 'adult' activity if there ever was one), my tastes have expanded in so many ways (another short list: jazz, free jazz, traditional country, Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski, Kurt Vonnegut). That doesn't mean that I can't have a little (OK, a lot) fun every so often.

Now, where'd I put that Doublemint gum?

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About Mark Saleski

  • Kanadian_Kiss_Fan

    After listening to this cd 3 times already it has gotten progressively worse. Unimaginative, repetitive, formulated and of course “branded”.

    It sounds more like a Def Leppard album, no disrespect to them however as they are an entirely different genre. I’ve been a fan of the original KISS lineup since their first album and can’t believe that I spent money on this. Elder and Dynasty and dare I say Hot in the Shade sound better than this monopolized collection of music geared at fans (that will purchase anything with a KISS logo on it).

    Shameful and distasteful. When KISS comes to Winnipeg next month I will not be there. I refuse to support a cover band that sells out arenas with guys pretending to be a ‘character’.

    If you want true musical genius with actual harmony, melody and rhythm in 4/4 time then go and purchase the new Ace Frehley Anomaly cd.

    Sonic Boom: ** stars
    Anomaly **** stars

  • Scott From Los Angeles

    Obviously a bitter Ace fan there. This album rocks. The band is really tight and the guitar solos are old-school killer. Better than most of the new rock out there. Kiss was overdue with this one. Nice job Paul Stanley.

  • Rene

    1. KISS has never been the real KISS since Ace and Peter left and never will be. 70’s
    2. Unmasked KISS was a different Band. Not even close to the original but some catchy songs came out of them. 80’s and 90’s
    3. Half Kiss – Today’s Kiss is a fraud, It’s still fun to see the great shows and hear the old songs but in my heart there is something missing. 00’s
    4. Quarter Kiss – I was at the show 2 years ago, where Paul was rushed to the hospital and Gene, Tommy and Eric did the show without him. That was different!
    5. Sonic Boom has a few good songs I like. Never Enough, Nobody’s Perfect, and When Lightening Strikes. Tommy’s “When Lightening Strikes” sure sounds like an Ace song, rip off!
    6. Ace’s Album, Anomaly, is like I told-ya! kick’s Sonic Boom’s ASS!!!. Outer Space so totally rocks dude! I got to hear Outer Space, Sister and Space Bear in a concert at the Viper Room the weekend before his album was released. Pain in the Neck, Foxy and Free, Too Many Faces, A Little Below The Angels, and cover of Fox on the Run are all classic Ace!!!

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Ya had to do it Mark. You had to pull all the KISS weirdos out of the wood work, didn’t ya?

    “and you arrive at the reason this stuff attracted you in the first place: sweaty, adrenaline-filled fun.”

    Well, actually, back then it was great because it was new to my ears. BUT, I have to give’em credit. This album sounds fairly authentic considering their age. Honestly, I think they should shit can Paul,let Gene do all the vocals and keep the bass riffs heavy.

  • Paul Roy

    I’d love to go see this tour, but they are playing like two days before AC/DC. Can only afford so much.

  • Isorski

    I have to agree that Ace’s album is better. Ace took more chances and went into musical areas that were fairly surprising. Sonic Boom is kind of same old, same old. And I am not a fan of Eric Singer trying to sound like Peter Criss on vocals. Bogus. My review of Sonic Boom and Ace Frehley’s Anomaly. Check It.

  • Mike Hayes

    Wow..amazing how people have different opinions..I bought KISs and and Ace tonight at Walmart and there is no doubt KISS is hands down the best..I was really hoping Ace would come through..but seriously 19 years for that – give me a break. KISS started in March and it smokes..

  • Calliope Kurtz

    Never listened to a note of Kiss in the 70’s, had more “mature” noise to pursue. Now 50, I’m less interested in feeling older. Sonic Boom is the 1st Kiss album I’ve ever bought or heard. Lead guitar is my favorite element. Dumb songs, really fun. Humor me, humor you, humor us. Niche but quality.

  • John

    Anomaly ???? ROFLMAO….. Sonic Boom is actual collect of rock songs with top notch vocals, bass, drum, and guitar playing… Yes, the lyrics aren’t high on the intellectual scale, but true ROCK isn’t there to make you think….. It’s there to get the heart pumping and put a ^$^&$^&$(&^ smile on your face……

    I agree with the reviewer….. A bunch of great and fun tunes with a hauntingly brilliant ending….. The base line with the chugging rhythm and subtle lead is a great song……

    Those who look to history to be critical show their bitterness about being heart broken when Peter was booted and later Ace…..

    One other note… Ace can’t sing a LICK, never could…. Love his guitar style, but he needs to turn lead vocals over to someone who can carry a tune without the need for a bucket or digital sonic makeup…..

  • Ler

    No he’s not a good vocalist. It’s what he does with a Les Paul that made him who he is. But few can sing so poorly and still have as many fans as he does. I don’t think most mind listening to his voice. He never claimed to be good at it.

  • Ler

    The big commercial machine that is Kiss will sell more records but Ace made the better overall album bottom line (and I am a long time fan of both)

  • Michael

    Lame as usual. Moving on.