Friday, August 27, 2010

New CD Brings KISS Back To Life

Alan Sculley Post-Tribune correspondent

The previous Kiss studio CD, "Psycho Circus," did little to prove that the band still had creative life in it. The CD was billed as the return of the original KISS, since it came in the midst of the reunion of guitarist/singer Paul Stanley and bassist/singer Gene Simmons with the two other original members, guitarist Ace Frehley and drummer Peter Criss.

"Psycho Circus," though, ended up being a lackluster effort on a musical level and far less than advertised when it came to being called a triumphant return of the classic KISS lineup.

Instead, Frehley and Criss hardly played on that 1998 CD, with studio musicians stepping in to handle what ostensibly were their parts. The band also had several outside writers contribute to roughly half of the songs.

So KISS had something to prove when the band decided it wanted to make a new studio CD, "Sonic Boom." For one thing, this was a new lineup for KISS, with guitarist Tommy Thayer making his full-fledged debut and drummer Eric Singer, who since 1996 has been the band's drummer whenever Criss wasn't in the lineup, back on board.

Now a little more than a year later, the verdict on "Sonic Boom" is in, and it's been positive, with some critics even saying it's the best CD from the band since early career albums like "Dressed To Kill" and "Destroyer."

Thayer is pleased to have seen "Sonic Boom" win such support.

"I think on a lot of different levels, it has had impact," Thayer said in an early July phone interview. "First of all, just as far as the music and being a great KISS record, check that off the list. In terms of the band, the lineup, this incarnation of the band, a lot of people from a critical standpoint would say they're just kind of re-creating what's happened in the past. They're just out there playing the songs of the '70s and early '80s and things like that. And I think what has happened here has put that to rest, too, because suddenly it's a viable, creative unit that can put together a great record and go out on tour with a fresh new approach to songs and writing and things." Interestingly, the band decided if KISS was going to fail on "Sonic Boom," there would be no one to blame but the band members themselves, as Stanley took the reins on the project.

"We were lucky to have Paul kind of spearheading the project, taking charge and being the leader," Thayer said. "It's really important to have somebody doing that in the producer's role. In this case it was just important in laying a groundwork for what direction we're going in and it worked very well to have him doing that. Of course, nobody knows KISS better than Paul does."

The success of "Sonic Boom" represents a welcome turn of fortunes for Kiss, whose future looked cloudy only a few years ago.

The reunion tour of 1996/97 with the four original members was a major success as a live venture, but by the end of the decade, it appeared the band's days were numbered. In early 2000, the band announced it would do a farewell tour that would run from that summer into 2001. It turned out to be far from a final jaunt.