Written by General Jabbo
After the release of his classic album, Trouble Walkin, Ace Frehley repeatedly promised fans its follow-up was imminent. Well, 20 years and one KISS reunion later, Anomaly is here, featuring all-new material, save for a rocking cover of Sweet’s “Fox on the Run” and “Sister,” a song that dates back to the mid 1990s that Frehley debuted on tour before reuniting with KISS.
The album starts strong with the driving “Foxy & Free,” referencing Hendrix, and “Outer Space,” which covers Frehley’s typical sci-fi themes. These are strong, heavy tunes that would be at home on Frehley’s 1978 solo album and both feature some excellent lead guitar work by Ace and drumming from Ace Frehley/ KISS/David Letterman show band alumni Anton Fig.
Ace channels his inner Zeppelin with the mostly instrumental “Genghis Khan,” whose bombastic drums and exotic tones recall “Kashmir,” while he reprises his “Fractured” series with the album-closing instrumental “Fractured Quantum.” The title of the instrumental, “Space Bear,” refers to the legendary The Tomorrow Show interview KISS did in 1979 where a very inebriated Frehley created a space bear by putting his KISS costume pieces on a teddy bear he found on the set, much to Gene Simmons’ chagrin.
That was the old Ace, however. In the last few years, Frehley has gotten sober and many of the lyrics reflect a more mature outlook on life. On the introspective “Change the World” he sings, “When I was young, I played. I had lots of fun, but now I can see it’s time for a change.” Frehley is more direct on the acoustic “A Little Below the Angels,” “Alcohol was a friend of mine. It almost got me dead. I crashed some cars, got into fights, some things I now regret.” The song features a somewhat cheesy spoken-word part, but this is a changed man baring his soul, and it’s obvious he is being sincere. Frehley celebrates his survival and sobriety on “It’s a Great Life,” a surprisingly groove-oriented song from the guitarist.
Anomaly does have a couple clunkers, most notably “Pain in the Neck” with its dissonant chorus and “Too Many Faces,” which seems disjointed. That’s disappointing news for fans waiting 20 years for this album, as it should be all killer, no filler. There’s plenty of killer though and Anomaly is definitely an album that gets better after repeated listens. Besides, it’s nice to hear Frehley taking chances, even if they don’t all work as well as he had hoped.
There are a few nods to Frehley’s 1978 solo album in the packaging — from the original artwork being used with new artwork on top of it to the back cover with its dedications. The inner packaging folds into a cool prism and harkens back to the days when KISS included fun extras in their releases. These touches, along with a number of rocking tracks, should please both Ace and KISS fans alike.