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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Kiss

Sonic Boom

Review by Gary Hill

Sonic Boom is the latest album from Kiss. One aspect of this set really requires me to jump on my soap box for a short time. Kiss – like a few other artists recently – have decided to release this album as solely available at Walmart. I have a big problem with that fact. If you really look at the problems with the music industry one aspect of it – and again, it’s just one aspect – is that there is a limited variety of music out there. A lot of that has to do with the fact that if you want to buy physical copies of music in a brick and mortar stores, your only choices are really Walmart and other big box stores. With a few exceptions the small independent store (and even the big boy chains) have been forced out of business. And one of the reasons this has happened is that Walmart has exerted its marketing pressure helping to push them out of business (just like they’ve done with stores selling virtually every other type of merchandise). And one of the problems with that is that while an actual music store will stock say 20 or 30 thousand titles from thousands of artists – in most cases, full catalogs – Walmart and others like them will only stock four or five titles from the hottest couple hundred artists out there. And that means less selection for you, the music fan. So, by partnering with them Kiss are essentially supporting this kind of stranglehold that’s eliminated so many artists from the pool of brick and mortar availability. Then there’s also Walmart’s policy of not just requiring albums with swear words to be sold with a warning sticker, but banning them altogether unless it’s an edited version. And it’s not just foul language, but anything they find offensive. So, Kiss is basically supporting that type of censorship – and I’m betting that their song “Domino” wouldn’t make the cut.

Now, I’ll climb off my soapbox and get to the actual album. I’d consider this disc to be at the strong end of the middle Kiss discs – that is taken by itself – just CD 1. There are a lot of good songs and a couple that cross the border into great. There are no real surprises, but instead we’re given a new classic Kiss album. And that’s pretty cool. What really makes this shine, though is the value of the package. For a little over ten bucks you get the main CD and a full CD of classic Kiss songs and a DVD of six tracks recorded live by Kiss. That is what I call a lot of value for your hard earned money.

Overall, that means this is a strong Kiss album with an added value package. Unfortunately you’ll need to go to Walmart to get it – or look around for a used copy. It’s worth the trip, though.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1 - Sonic Boom
Modern Day Delilah

Hard edged and catchy, this is a pretty typical Kiss song. That said, it’s strong because really, the band does few songs that aren’t good.

Russian Roulette
This tune, co-penned by Simmons and Stanley, is less immediately accessible than the opener, but still a killer rocker. 

 

Never Enough

Feeling very much like a long lost Kiss classic, this is the most accessible song to this point. It’s definitely a highlight of the set.


Yes I Know (Nobody's Perfect)
This one reminds me musically of “Christine Sixteen.” It’s OK, but doesn’t really do that much for me.
Stand
If there’s a song here that doesn’t really have that classic Kiss sound that would be it. That said, it’s still recognizable as Kiss, but it seems to cross into more generic ground. It’s still catchy and has a tasty little combination of hard rock and ballad approaches. It feels a bit too much like 1980’s hair metal to me.
Hot And Cold
This one really alternates between both typical and atypical Kiss sounds. In a similar fashion it also contrasts mellow segments and harder rocking ones. It’s a good tune, but not really a standout.
All For The Glory
Pounding in quite heavy, this is one of the more metallic tunes on show here. It’s got some tasty guitar elements and really works well. I’d chalk this up as another highlight of the set.
Danger Us
Based on a killer riff, this is both one of the hardest rocking tracks and a definite contender for best song on the set. I like this one a lot. It’s got a definite classic Kiss sound.
I'm An Animal
Another heavy one, the opening riff on this reminds me a lot of something from Black Sabbath. There’s a definite stoner rock meets classic Kiss element to this piece.
When Lightning Strikes
We stay in metallic territory here with another hard edged rocker that’s got a definite classic Kiss feel to it.
Say Yeah
This hard rocker reminds me a lot of the music from Psycho Circus. There is one mellower interlude on this piece.  Overall, it’s another scorcher and probably the other contender for best track on the set. It definitely makes an excellent choice to close out the CD.
Disc 2 - Kiss Klassics
Deuce
This early Kiss stomper is hard rocking and cool and well deserving of the name “classic” – or should I say “klassic?” I can’t say that I’ve ever understood the lyrics, though.
Detroit Rock City
Always one of my favorites from Kiss, this is a great song that’s a bit more complex than some of their other music. For my money, the guitar solo on this one is one of the best I’ve ever heard in any song. Sure, it’s not exceptionally flashy or fast, but it’s oh so tasty.
Shout It Out Loud
This anthemic rocker is a bit over-produced and rather lightweight in some ways, but it’s also a killer and another classic.
Hotter Than Hell
Harder rocking and a little raw, this is catchy as hell – pun intended.
Calling Dr. Love
This is one of the band’s better known tracks, but obviously most of these are. It’s a good tune and does a nice job of balancing between hard rocking and catchy elements.
Love Gun
While this is still accessible, it has less of the pop influences of the previous track. The guitar sound and everything else is just about perfect here. This hard rocker has always been another of my favorite Kiss songs.
I Was Made For Lovin' You
Just about everyone jumped on the disco bandwagon one way or another. This was Kiss’ attempt and it’s really a tribute to the band that the cut is as strong as it is. Does it sound a little dated today? Yes. It’s not nearly so dated as some band’s attempts at disco are, though. I really like this song a lot.
Heaven's On Fire
Kiss also jumped on the glam metal band wagon. The thing is, perhaps in a way they created that school of music. This song comes from that period and for my money it’s not exceptional. It’s good, but just not all that.
Lick It Up
In some ways this track is from that glam era – but it’s stronger in my book than “Heaven’s On Fire.” I’ve always loved the hook on this one – and in fact the entire album that bears the name of this song is very strong.
I Love It Loud
An anthemic number, this was a hit when it was released. It still holds up nicely today.
Forever
If there’s one song I would have dumped from this set, this would be it. I don’t remember ever hearing this before, but it’s a schmaltzy glam metal styled anthemic ballad. It’s generic and not all that interesting.
Christine Sixteen
Bouncy and a bit lighter in tone, this is a good tune. You have to wonder about the apparent pedophilia in the lyrics, though. Although Simmons does say, “I don’t usually say things like this to girls your age.” That’s a good thing. 
Do You Love Me?
If there was a second song I’d replace here it would be this one. I’ve just never been crazy about the percussion dominated anthems like this – no matter who does them. When the arrangement fills out later the cut gets somewhat stronger.
Black Diamond
This old school Kiss tune has always been a favorite of mine. It’s a hard rocker with some killer textures. I love the way it alternates between mellower, dramatic tones and more hard rocking ones. The gradual increase in intensity is great, too. It’s just plain one of the best songs the band ever did.
Rock And Roll All Nite
If you’ve heard one song by Kiss – and only one – then this is probably the one. It’s an anthemic party tune and the thing is, despite being overplayed to death, it still works.
 
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